Earthbound Farms models organic practices done right

Most locals are aware of the presence of Earthbound Farms. From the small farmstand and restaurant off Carmel Valley Road to the boxes of pre-made salads on the produce shelves of various supermarkets, the Earthbound label has become a crucial part of our community, a symbol of organic foods done right.

From just these signs, it is hard to imagine that Earthbound Farm Organic is now the largest producer of all-organic products in the world, with almost 50,000 acres of land. Even harder to comprehend is that it all started here in Carmel Valley in 1984 with Drew and Myra Goodman, a young couple out of college, and a 2.5-acre raspberry farm.

“Initially, we were going to live on the farm for one year while I got ready to go to graduate school,” Myra Goodman says. “My husband and I are both from New York City, and after living here for that year, we fell in love with growing food, working outside and this beautiful area.”

What started out as only a way to fill a gap year soon became the fulltime calling for the Goodmans.

“The thought of going back to school to ultimately land a job in either New York City or DC kept getting less and less appealing,” Myra adds.

They never left. Not only did they keep farming for their own benefit, but after first encountering the chemical shed that came with the property, they made the decision that their “Earthbound Farm” would always be a model of purely organic practices.

A view from the front of the Earthbound Farm Stand, an all-organic market and restaurant.

A view from the front of the Earthbound Farm Stand, an all-organic market and restaurant.

“It was really just an instinct for self-preservation,” Myra explains. “The chemicals in the shed that we were supposed to use scared us. It didn’t make sense that it was safe to handle chemicals meant to kill insects and diseases, or that it would be healthy to eat food grown with them.”

But with the prevailing culture at the time of heavily using pesticides, herbicides and other non-organic farming methods, avoiding them was much easier said than done.

“Back then, it wasn’t as easy as it is today,” says Janna Jo Williams, the special event manager for Earthbound. “There [weren’t] a lot of resources. Their local ag extension…didn’t have any information on organic farming. The Internet wasn’t happening. So what you do is you basically go out and get the ‘Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Farming,’ and that’s your Bible.”

With the limited resources at hand, the budding farmers were able to succeed in their goal of going completely organic, an effort that later resulted in them creating an on-site building for processing their post-consumer recycled plastic salad boxes, according to Williams.

“Everything Earthbound is gonna be certified organic. Everything that’s got this on it sticks to the organic standards and the Earthbound Farm standards.”

However, getting their business to sell was a major difficulty at first, even at the local Safeway supermarket. It wasn’t until Costco, also a new company at the time, started selling their produce that Earthbound Farms truly caught on.

“Once Costco said yes, all of a sudden everybody wanted it,” Williams remarks.

Not only did the Goodmans’ humble hobby turn into the number-one distributor of certified organic foods, but according to Myra, they almost single-handedly started the trend of pre-packaged salads and baby greens—a craze that Williams compares to the current hype over kale.

Among other developments, Earthbound is now looking to expand their production outside of the usual salads into areas like frozen foods—while maintaining the organic label of course.

“You’ll start to see Earthbound in different departments of stores now,” Williams says. “We’re also working on things like juices and obviously salad dressings.”

Clearly, Earthbound Farms has globally been enormously important for all of the benevolent trends they have set. But their impact on a local scale is even greater, with the Earthbound Farm Stand in Carmel Valley hosting frequent special events and school field trips.

CHS teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin explains his reasoning for taking his AP Environmental Science classes on an annual field trip to the Farm Stand.

“The reason I think [Earthbound] is important to our local community is just the notion that we have what is now the world’s largest supplier of organic produce, [which] started a few miles from our school and now is this company that has pushed all of these other conventional agriculture companies to race to the organic market…. I mean, I would be talking about this company if they weren’t from Carmel Valley.”

-Ari Freedman