SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, Calif. — The iconic organic brand Earthbound Farm turned 25 in July and the company’s executives are looking forward to bright future for organic food.

One major change the company recently announced was the buying in of a fourth partner, HM Capital Partners LLC, as an owner, and the dissolution of Natural Selection Foods, the company created when Mission Ranches, King City, Calif., purchased an ownership stake in Earthbound Farm in 1995.

Tanimura & Antle, Salinas, Calif., also holds an ownership stake in Earthbound Farm.

Earthbound Farm’s origin story is well-known — a company founded by Drew and Myra Goodman, started on 2 ½ acres in Carmel Valley and now grows in more than 30,000 acres for its range of organic produce — and remains key to distinguishing the Earthbound Farm brand from a crowded market, Myra Goodman, co-founder and executive vice president, said.

Earthbound Farm turns 25, sees organic remaining strong
Earthbound Farm turns 25, sees organic remaining strong

File Photo

In 1999, Drew Goodman, (left), president of Natural Selection Foods LLC (now Earthbound Farm), talks with Rick Antle, president of Tanimura & Antle Inc., Salinas, Calif. That year, Tanimura & Antle became a one-third partner in Natural Selection Foods.

“If I look back, the biggest accomplishment is that we were some of the first people to show that organic farming really is viable on a large scale,” Goodman said.

From its launch in the 1980s of pre-washed salad mix to its partnership with Mission Ranches and Tanimura & Antle, the company has grown as the demand and popularity of organic food has surged.

Roberta Cook, marketing economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California-Davis, said Earthbound deserves a lot of the credit for pioneering the bagged salad category and can attribute much of its success to keeping prices competitive with conventionally produced value-added salads.

“They were the first major player in the marketplace and were key in developing the market for organic mixed green salads,” Cook said.

Earthbound Farm turns 25, sees organic remaining strong

File Photo

In 2000, Myra Goodman, executive vice president of Natural Selection Foods LLC (now Earthbound Farm), checks a display of Indian corn at the Earthbound Farm Stand in Carmel Valley.

Despite being the focal point for the 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to Dole-brand spinach that Natural Selection Foods processed and bagged, the company rebounded and overhauled its entire food safety program. It enjoys continued growth in demand for its all organic line of more than 100 items.

“Now that we are three years beyond that, it’s almost always hard to go back and put our mind where it was in 2005 and 2006 because we know so much more today than we knew then,” said Charles Sweat, president.

What has remained important to the company since its founding is reducing its environmental effect, Goodman said. The company continues to reduce petroleum and water use, which will be critical to staying competitive and attracting more customers, Goodman said.

“We’re really trying to increase direct contact with consumers to really tell them our original story,” Goodman said.

The future is going to be about managing resources, Sweat said, especially growing practices and water use as California endures what will likely be a prolonged drought.