Nature's Bakery was born out of the co-op movement of the late 1960's. Whole Earth Grocery Co-op on East Johnson Street was started in 1969 as the first store in Madison to provide natural foods, and provided the community with environmentally and socially responsible products in the Whole Earth Catalog.
One of the originators of Nature's Bakery was Gini Lopez, who baked bread at home for sale at Whole Earth and around Madison. In September, 1970, she and two other people rented 1101 Williamson Street and founded Nature's Own Bakery. They began baking in a large oven donated by Edgewood College and Whole Earth, and the bakery became certified thanks in part to donations from the Sunflower Kitchen and Mifflin Street Co-op.
Nature's Bakery continued to thrive through the 1970's, adding a variety of specialized bakers to the roster, establishing regular delivery routes, and selling products at the Farmer's Market downtown (itself established in May, 1972). The business changed to a partnership in 1974, and in 1975 was incorporated as Nature's Bakery, Ltd. The bakery's current facility at 1019 Williamson Street was purchased about this time.
In 1978, Nature's Bakery took part in the first collective bakery conference, held in Ann Arbor, MI, from which the Cooperative Whole Grain Education Association (CWGEA) evolved. The conference produced the cookbook Uprisings, which features several Nature's Bakery original recipes. While the early 1980s saw the end of a number of Madison co-ops, Nature's went through a period of positive change: refining and specializing management areas among members; updating methods of keeping business records; and increasing the efficiency of shifts and scheduling; and enabling members to financially invest in the bakery. Essene bread and vegetarian burgers were added to the bakery's product offerings. Eventually, Nature's was re-incorporated in its present form as a workers' cooperative.
The 1990s saw Nature's updating equipment and our space at 1019 Williamson Street, and planning for the bakery's long-term economic health.
In the 2000s, Nature's went through many changes and shifts in striving to become a healthier work-place, to great effect and benefit of the owners and the business. In the 2010s, we are proud to be going strong as the bakery nears 50 years, and look forward to serving the Williamson Street and greater Madison and Midwest communities for many years to come. We are healthier than ever and growing!