From Roadside Stand to International Organic Company
Note: In honor of Social Venture Network’s 25-year anniversary, the network is inducting 25 of its most innovative and influential leaders into its hall of fame Nov. 13 at Gotham Hall in New York City. To recognize these sustainable business pioneers, SVN’s news program, ‘Sustainable Solutions,’ is interviewing the hall-of-famers to celebrate their accomplishments and learn what more needs to be done. Read the whole series here.
How did a two-and-a-half-acre heirloom raspberry farm and roadside stand blossom into the largest grower of organic produce in North America? Myra Goodman says it is “an accidental story.”
It started when Myra and her husband Drew moved to California for college from New York. When Myra was looking into graduate school, an opportunity arose for the couple to live a year on a raspberry farm where they could do improvements in exchange for rent.
“We just fell in love with living on this farm in Carmel Valley and ended up turning it into a real business,” says Myra, in a phone interview from the farm that’s still her home.
The Goodmans founded Earthbound Farm in 1984 with organic raspberries as their first crop. In 1986, the company became the first to successfully launch pre-washed salad packaged for retail sale. The success of the salads led to Earthbound Farm being credited with popularizing spring mix salads.
The company continued to grow, and in 1993 started selling its salad greens to major food retailers including Costco, Lucky, Safeway and Albertson’s.
Myra says they grew through partnering with conventional farmers who were interested in organic produce because it was a market opportunity, not because of a commitment to ecology. When they discovered it was financially successful, the farmers wanted to convert more acres to organic, she says.
Over time, when the farmers saw how much healthier the soil and environment was as a result of organic farming, they realized the benefits, she adds.
Earthbound Farm’s 200 farmers working on 40,000 acres of land saves the use of more than 14 million pounds of synthetic chemicals each year.
“That’s something I’m really proud of,” says Myra.
In addition, more than 457,000 pounds of toxic and persistent pesticides are avoided and an estimated 2.3 million gallons of petroleum is conserved because they are farming organically instead of conventionally.
Through the business, Earthbound Farm uses substantial cardboard and plastic to take their organic produce to market. Myra says because of the impact of the packaging, they hired someone who worked on greening their supply chain. Earthbound Farm became the first company to use 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic for its salad clamshell packaging.
The company also switched to use 100 per cent post-consumer recycled cardboard.
The change in plastic alone saves 74,165 gallons of water annually and keeps more than 1.4 million pounds of solid waste out of the landfill.
“I learned so much about how these shifts can have such a huge positive impact on the environment,” says Myra, noting when she wrote The Earthbound Cook she shared ways to lighten your impact on the environment through food choices and preparation habits.
She says when businesses make positive choices the impacts can be considerable and that knowledge can be used by consumers to make an even bigger change. Myra says its the consumers who have concerns about the long-term health of their own bodies and the planet that are seeding a lot of pressure for companies to save resources.
A large role for socially-responsible businesses is to ignite major change towards saving resources and being green, she adds.
Myra and Drew are among five “environmental evangelists” being inducted into the Social Venture Network’s Hall of Fame that is recognizing outstanding leaders who have transformed the way the world does business.
This article written by AxiomNews.ca is part of a Social Venture Network series featuring its Hall of Fame honorees.