2014 marks Earthbound Farm’s 30th anniversary, and also signifies one of the biggest events in Earthbound’s history: becoming part of the WhiteWave Foods Company. This new chapter is a big transition for many of our employees, farmers, customers and partners, but it has special significance for my husband, Drew, and me.
Drew and I founded Earthbound Farm on our backyard heirloom raspberry farm three decades ago when I was just 20 and Drew, 24. We nurtured this company from its infancy. We stretched ourselves to learn every aspect of running the business so we could provide whatever it needed to grow and be successful.
We farmed the land, harvested the produce, and made sales calls and deliveries. Between the two of us we ran every department: HR, accounting, marketing, production, sales and operations.
Earthbound was a family business in every sense of the word. The salad packing lines were still in our living room when our firstborn was a baby, and we held her in our arms as we filled plastic bags with tiny lettuce leaves.
As the business grew, our kids came with us to trade shows and consumer events, where they handed out brochures and samples. At our kitchen table, our family was the core of our product development team. And our ads and brochures featured photos of our kids and their friends.
Our son and daughter even joined us in the boardroom to weigh in on what our new logo should be as we progressed from a salad green icon to a swirling sun.
And it wasn’t just our kids who were part of the Earthbound story. Until we moved our business to a “real” processing plant in Watsonville in 1992, our dogs hung out in the office with us every day.
When we were just starting out, neither Drew nor I could have ever predicted that our little farm would eventually become the largest grower of organic produce in North America, or that our idea to put pre-washed organic baby greens in a bag would become the largest segment of a multi-billion dollar pre-washed salad industry. We couldn’t have foreseen that Earthbound would convert tens of thousands of acres from conventional to organic farming practices, or that our company would make organic produce available to millions of people at their local supermarkets.
Early on, Drew and I recognized that we needed partners to help Earthbound expand and achieve our mission to bring the benefits of organic food to as many people as possible. Our first partners, the folks at Mission Ranches, joined us in 1995.
In addition to being our primary farmers, they developed the automatic spring mix harvesters that enabled us to produce our salads affordably enough to compete with conventional chopped iceberg and romaine blends in the supermarket.
Later, we partnered with other growers to increase our supply, and four years ago, we brought in a financial partner to help us expand our product offerings so we could branch out into other healthy food categories. When the opportunity to become part of WhiteWave presented itself at the end of 2013, all the owners of Earthbound Farm felt it was a perfect fit.
WhiteWave is a large public company whose brands include Horizon Organic dairy and Silk plant-based milk and food products. WhiteWave has the financial resources, talent and experience to help Earthbound grow and thrive beyond what we could accomplish as an independent company. They, like us, have a strong commitment to making the world’s food supply healthier and more sustainable. With their purchase of Earthbound Farm, they’ve evidenced their deep commitment to expanding organic food production, and make organic food more available to consumers than ever before.
Despite the sale of our company, Drew and I will always feel like the “parents” of Earthbound Farm. I always tell people that first we birthed Earthbound, then our daughter Marea, and then our son Jeffrey. Earthbound was born from our personal passion to protect the earth and provide the healthiest food possible. Now we have over 200 farmers and 1200 employees that work so hard to realize that same goal every single day.
We are so appreciative of all of them, as well as the customers who have supported us all these years. And now we are grateful, too, to the people at WhiteWave for embracing Earthbound Farm as part of their mission to “change how the world eats for the better.”
Drew and I have been warmly welcomed by the folks at WhiteWave, and we’ve accepted their invitation to continue to offer our guidance, advice, and ideas for new products. I’ll keep collaborating with our marketing, community relations, and farm stand teams, and I will also keep writing these blogs.
Drew and my intimate connection to Earthbound Farm will never go away. We plan to keep living on our original 2-½ acre farm right down the road from our farm stand, where we shop almost daily. We are grateful that our life’s work has been a vital part of the healthy food revolution, and that the little raspberry patch we nurtured so long ago has grown and thrived, and made such a positive impact. We are both happy to be able to support Earthbound in its new and exciting step forward as part of WhiteWave, and look forward to seeing what new surprises the future will bring.