Drew Goodman is CEO and co-founder, with his wife, Myra, of Earthbound Farm, based in San Juan Bautista, California. Two years after its 1984 inception on 2.5 Carmel Valley acres, Earthbound became the first successful purveyor of pre-washed salads bagged for retail sale. The company now produces more than 100 varieties of certified organic salads, fruits, and vegetables on a total of about 33,000 acres, with individual farms ranging from five to 680 acres in California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Mexico, Canada, and Chile. Earthbound Farm currently distributes its products to more than seventy percent of all US supermarkets—among them Costco, Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Albertsons—and to some international markets.
In a single year, by Earthbound’s reckoning, organic production on this scale averts the use of more than 305,000 pounds of toxic and persistent pesticides and 10.3 million pounds of synthetic fertilizers, conserving about 1.6 million gallons of petroleum and significantly reducing the company’s carbon footprint. Through other conservation measures, Earthbound estimates that it also diverts more than a million pounds of solid waste from landfills annually, in addition to saving trees, water, and energy and avoiding thousands of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Drew and Myra Goodman grew up in the same Manhattan neighborhood, but made their first significant connection at a Grateful Dead concert while they were both attending college in California. Drew majored in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz, while Myra earned her bachelor’s degree in the political economy of industrialized societies at UC Berkeley. After graduating, the couple embarked on what they envisioned as a single year of farming in Carmel Valley—before moving on, or so they thought at the time, to other careers.
The story of the Goodmans’ whirlwind journey from novice backyard raspberry farmers to leaders of the world’s largest grower and shipper of organic produce has been widely reported. In this interview, conducted on April 22 (Earth Day), 2009, at Earthbound’s marketing and communications office in Carmel, California, Sarah Rabkin asked Drew Goodman to talk about some less publicized aspects of his career and philosophy, including his experiences at UC Santa Cruz and his thoughts about the benefits and drawbacks of large-scale organic production and distribution.