Founders of Earthbound Farm
Born Drew Goodman, c. 1961; son of James Goodman (an art dealer); married Myra, 1986; children: Marea, Jeffrey. Born Myra Rubin, c. 1964; daughter of Mendek (a jeweler) and Edith (a homemaker) Rubin; married Drew Goodman, 1986; children: Marea, Jeffrey. Education: Drew Goodman: University of California at Santa Cruz, B.A. in environmental studies, 1983. Myra Goodman: Graduated from the University of California at Berkeley.
Addresses: Home —Carmel Valley, CA. Office —Earthbound Farm, 1721 San Juan Highway, San Juan Bautista, CA 95045. Website —http://www.ebfarm.com.
Began growing and selling raspberries, 1984; founded Earthbound Farm.
Awards: Global Green USA's Corporate Environmental Leadership Award, 2003; California Department of Pesticide Regulation's Integrated Pest Management Innovator Award, 2004; California Governor's Environmental & Economic Leadership Award, 2005; International Fresh Cut Produce Association's Fresh Cut Produce Award, 2005.
In 1984, Manhattan natives Drew and Myra Goodman landed in Carmel Valley, California, and began farming a backyard plot of pesticide-free raspberries, which they sold at a roadside stand. Soon, they added lettuce to the mix and pioneered the process of supplying ready-to-eat salads in a bag. The product took off and 20 years later, the Goodmans found themselves at the top of the leafy green food empire. Their company, Earthbound Farm, processes about 30 million servings of salads a week and is the largest grower of organic produce in the United States. Earthbound Farm fruits and vegetables are found in 74 percent of the nation's supermarkets, leading to sales of $450 million in 2006.
"They changed the organic game," Organic Farming Research Foundation executive director Bob Scowcroft told Monterey County Herald writer Olivia Munoz. "You used to only be able to get fresh organic products in small stores supplied by an independent farmer. Earthbound ships train loads and plane loads."
The Goodmans hail from New York City. Drew Goodman was born around 1961. His father, James, was an art dealer. Myra Goodman was born around 1964. Her father, Mendek Rubin, was a jeweler and her mother, Edith, a homemaker. Drew and Myra grew up in the same Manhattan neighborhood—just blocks from each other—and attended the same high school, though they never met during their teen years. They met in California, in 1983, at a Grateful Dead concert and immediately hit it off. "We'd had the same teachers, read the same books and ate at the same delis," Myra Goodman told More magazine writer Laura Fraser. When they finally met, Myra was attending the University of California at Berkeley and Drew was a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
After college, they moved into a dilapidated farmhouse in Carmel Valley, California. The land came with some raspberry bushes. The Goodmans agreed to tend the raspberries in order to get their rent free, figuring they could support themselves in this manner until they went on to graduate school. The farmer who owned the place was happy to give them lessons on how to use fertilizers, sprays, and slug bait to keep the berries going. The Goodmans figured there must be a better way. "We didn't want to breathe chemical fumes," Drew Goodman told People , so they taught themselves organic farming.
Over the next few years, the Goodmans grew to appreciate farm life over the steel and concrete of the city. They woke at sunrise and enjoyed afternoon naps. "We kind of got seduced by the land and the rhythm of nature," Myra Goodman told the Monterey County Herald 's Dania Akkad. Eventually, they bought the farm and raised their two children there. After the Goodmans got a handle on growing raspberries, they expanded the operation to include a wholesome mix of lettuces one local chef desired. The Goodmans, however, found themselves so busy managing the farm that they had no time to cook, relying instead on pizza and fast food. Then one day, Myra Goodman had an idea. She started washing greens and placing them in plastic bags they could grab from their fridge for a fast salad each night. She discovered that the lettuce kept that fresh-picked look. One day, the chef who ordered the greens left town, sticking them with mounds of lettuce. Instead of panicking, the Goodmans bagged up the lettuce and sold it at local supermarkets.
Some grocers were skeptical at first, but customers loved the ingenuity. Demand for their pre-washed, bagged salad greens outpaced their expectations and the Goodmans could scarcely keep up with the amount of washing and spinning that needed to be done. Myra's father stepped in and developed a living room assembly line to streamline the process. By 1992, their home-based endeavor had turned into a $4 million business. In 1993, they forged a contract with Costco and worked to find organic growers who could help them meet the demand. Whole Foods later became a client.
By the mid-1990s, the company had opened a 25,000-square-foot production facility in San Juan Bautista, California, and was also producing artichokes, broccoli, celery, tomatoes, carrots, and citrus fruits. By 1998, the company was growing produce on 5,800 certified-organic acres, making it the largest U.S. producer of organic produce. Besides producing for its signature Earthbound Farm label, the company also packages for the Trader Joe's and Dole labels. Earthbound Farm's organic acres are spread out across the globe and cover farms in five Western states, as well as British Columbia, Mexico, New Zealand, and Chile. This is strategic—if a bug infestation or other weather phenomena destroys crops in one locale, it will not devastate the business.
By 2007, Earthbound Farm was harvesting its products on 34,000 acres farmed by 150 growers. Critics charged that the company had gotten so large it was hurting the environment just like other industrial farms because of the amount of petroleum used to ship its products across the country. The Goodmans, however, say they are still ahead of the game. By farming 34,000 acres organically, Earthbound Farm keeps 370,000 pounds of pesticides and 11.5 million pounds of synthetic fertilizers out of the environment each year.
In an interview with John Nichols on Iowa Public Television's Market to Market program, Myra Goodman discussed the phenomenal growth of their venture. "Our company seems to have a life of its own. We feel like we're going along for the ride. You know … they say, 'You could have a child, but you can't really determine exactly what their life is going to be like.' You know we sort of have this business, and we're helping guide it, but it seems to have a life of its own, and we just try and make smart decisions along the way."
Drew Goodman stayed in the fields until the mid-1990s, when running the company's business affairs turned into a full-time job. Myra Goodman has been busy with out-of-the-field endeavors as well. In 2006, she published Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook . The recipes showcase the company's organic products.
Monterey County Herald , February 4, 2006, p. E1; June 24, 2006, p. E1.
More , November 2006, pp. 166-176.
People , January 27, 2003.
San Francisco Chronicle , May 3, 2006, p. F4.
UC Santa Cruz Review , Fall 2004, p. 15.
"Earthbound Farm's Mission," Earthbound Farm, http://www.ebfarm.com/AboutUs/OurMission.html (April 19, 2007).
"Milestones in the Life and Times of Earthbound Farm," Earthbound Farm, http://www.ebfarm.com/AboutUs/Milestones.html (April 19, 2007).
"Organic market grows a booming business," Market to Market , May 19, 2000. Transcript available at http://www.iptv.org/mtom/archivedfeature.cfm?Fid=4 .