OP: Over the years, what have been the
most important milestones in the growth of
Goodman: When we started, we sold organic raspberries on the side of the road
and neighbors would buy salad and
other products out of a fridge on our
porch and leave money in a drop box.
We grew to a $3 million business on that
little farm with a 600-square-foot house.
Then we started a seasonal farm stand
down the road, which became a year-round indoor farm stand and cafe with
one of the first certified organic kitchens
in the country.
We started with a lot of small customers and grew by having more small
One of our
biggest milestones, however, was in
buying from us.
At that point,
Costco was up
and as soon as
saw our product doing well at Costco, they wanted
our products, too.
Interestingly, at first Costco felt that
the “organic” label equated to lower
quality food that was overpriced. It was
the common perception in the early
days when the organic you would find in
stores was often spotted, wilted, smaller,
etc. Because of this, the buyer felt that
“organic” would not go over well with
consumers and actually asked us to take
it off the label. Deciding if we should sell
a nonorganic Earthbound product was a
really big decision for us. It actually
worked out, though. Costco was growing
so quickly, there was no way we could
have filled their orders and other retailers who wanted organic anyway. With the
three-year conversion to organic, we
were able to sell our transitional product
Earthbound was the first
to launch prewashed baby
lettuce salad mixes in
to Costco and convert tens of thousands of acres to organic at the
same time. It was serendipitous.
Sometimes I call it the “Costco
Catapult.” It took us to a whole
Then, in 1995, we partnered
with Mission Ranches, a big third-generation conventional farm in
the Salinas Valley that wanted to
grow organic. By the late ’90s, we
had enough acreage to grow a large
volume of organic, and by that point
Costco really wanted organic. At the
time, there was a lot of conventional
competition in the spring salad mix
category, so organic became our point of differentiation.
Costco is very committed to organic now, and working with them enabled us to
get a huge distribution into supermarkets and really grow before there was a high
demand for organic. It also set us up to have enough volume to be the biggest
grower of organic produce when there was demand.
According to the 2010 Organic Trade Association Manufacturers Survey, 4 percent of the food sold last year in this country was organic. However, in the baby
greens category, 48 percent of the sales are organic! There’s nothing else in the or-
Myra and Drew Goodman in the early days of Earthbound Farm.
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