Co-op Spotlight: Nature’s Bakery

Nature’s Bakery Cooperative is located in the historic Wil-Mar neighborhood on the near east side of Madison. It has been organized as a worker’s collective since it was founded in 1970. Even now, we remain a beacon of both the food movement and alternative business models in Madison.

At the bakery, we use organic whole grains, because we are committed to providing our customers with healthy, nutritious baked goods at a reasonable price. The grains we use contain no harmful pesticides or herbicides and none of the bleaches or chemical additives that are in many conventional grains. For sweeteners, we use pure honey, barley malt, real maple syrup, and blackstrap molasses – all natural, unprocessed, and in full possession of their nutritive benefits. All of our products are vegetarian- or vegan-friendly, and are made on site, by hand. The bakery’s staple products are sliced bread loaves, Vegetarian and Tofu-Walnut burgers, and our granolas. We also make Essene bread, made of 100% organic sprouted wheat berries, four varieties of cookies, and a spinach- and cheese-filled calzone.

Meg, the Personnel Manager, and Becca, the Production Manager. All photos by Nature’s Bakery.

As celebrated our 40th anni­ver­sary last year, it has been exciting to look back at our own history. In September, 1970, three women rented 1101 Williamson Street (presently Mother Fools) and founded Nature’s Own Bakery. The women began baking in a large oven donated by Edgewood College and Whole Earth, the bakery’s in-home predecessor, and the bakery became certified thanks in part to donations from the Sunflower Kitchen and Mifflin Street Co-op. 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. In the early 1980s, 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.

Nate, the author, and Marketing Coodinator of Nature’s Bakery.

Presently, Nature’s is managed by seven full-time member-owners, each of whom is responsible for one area of business management. We operate on a consensus model, meaning no major decisions are made without the approval of every full-time member. Each of us also spends the majority of our week in the production facility, baking and mixing, and cleaning and packaging, using the remainder of the week to do work in our management area. We also deliver our own products. We believe that Nature’s is more sustainable than a traditional top-down business model because we collaborate on big projects, and are able to collectively work for the betterment of the bakery, ourselves, and our customers at once.

The front door of Nature’s Bakery, at 1019 Williamson Street.

Nature’s Bakery Cooperative is proud to be celebrating its 40th year in business, and we look forward to serving the Williamson Street, greater Madison and Midwest communities for many years to come.  As Madison’s local, organic whole grain bakery, we continue to lovingly serve and provide our customers and communities with affordable, nutritious baked goods.

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