Used to be the most exotic lettuce you could find was romaine. Spring mix, arugula and mâche were unheard of. Fortunately for salad eaters, two “city kids” from Manhattan headed west. In 1984, Myra Rubin and Drew Goodman, fresh out of college, moved to the idyllic Carmel Valley, just 11 miles from the California coast. There, the couple agreed to restore a 2 1/2-acre farm in exchange for rent and whatever they grew.
They began working their backyard farmland and selling organic raspberries at a roadside stand. “The property had fruit trees, almonds, figs, grapes and blackberries, and we would sell the raspberries within 24 hours of picking them,” Myra reminisces. She explains that when they began bagging greens every Sunday to create quick, healthful meals to eat all week, they never envisioned how this simple idea would blossom into Earthbound Farm, a company that’s become the largest grower and shipper of organic produce in North America.
Organic was the only option for Drew and Myra. “We didn’t want to eat fruits and vegetables grown with potentially toxic chemicals, and we felt that other people would feel the same,” said Myra. They started small by supplying local specialty grocery stores with the pre-washed bagged salads of gourmet greens. Soon the “city kids” teamed up with the “farm boys” as the demand went through the roof and they needed to find ways to farm organically on a larger scale.
Myra’s father also played an important role in the early days. “My dad is a natural inventor, so when we had no equipment, he figured out ways to wash and pack efficiently and taught us how to set up an assembly line,” says Myra. Drew and Myra ended up getting married, purchasing the farm and raising their family there. Myra attributes their success as a couple and as business partners to their combination being more than the sum of the parts. “Drew is much calmer than I am-I tend to be excitable; but I think our chemistry has definitely helped our success,” she says.
Two decades later, Earthbound Farm is sitting pretty with more than 100 varieties of certified organic salads, fruits and vegetables that can be found in the aisles of nearly every neighborhood supermarket. “We were instrumental in popularizing mixed baby greens (also called spring mix or mesclun),” says Myra, “And now we sell 22 million servings of salad each week.” That’s a lot of greens.
By Charyn Pfeuffer, a writer in Monterey, Calif.