Myra Goodman, with her husband Drew, founded Earthbound Farm on their 2 1/2-acre backyard in 1984. From an heirloom raspberry patch and roadside stand, Earthbound Farm has become the largest grower of organic produce in North America. I was lucky enough to chat with Myra recently and we talked about organic farming and her new cookbook Straight From the Earth.
Myra Goodman – Over the years, as I’ve learned what a huge positive impact switching to a more plant based diet has on our planet, as well as the horrors of most factory farmed animal products, I’ve wanted to lend my voice and passion to encouraging people to eat more plant based organic foods. Then, a few years ago, my daughter Marea was living in a vegetarian co-op while attending UC Berkeley, and she was cooking vegan dinners for about 60 people every Sunday night. Her recipes were original and mouth watering, and inspired me to want to collaborate with her on creating a vegan cookbook when she graduated. Our goal was to assemble irresistible “omnivore tested” recipes that everyone could enjoy. We want people know that eating vegan isn’t an exclusive club. Everyone is invited to the table.
CV –What are your favorite vegetables? How do you like to prepare them?
MG – I have to say that I love all vegetables, and my favorite way to eat them is in salads. I almost always eat a huge salad for lunch, and then have another with dinner. I use different types of lettuces, kale, arugula and baby spinach as a base. I love adding thinly sliced veggies like carrots, baby turnips, red cabbage and radishes, as well as artichoke hearts, hearts of palm and jicama. I often make a quick Dijon vinaigrette with crushed garlic, and top the salad with hemp seeds and sunflower seeds. Yum!
MG – There are so many recipes I love, but I think my Very Chocolaty Chocolate Brownies were my biggest success. My family can’t get enough of them, and swear that they are better than any brownies made with eggs and butter. I use whole-wheat pastry flour, lots of walnuts, coconut oil, and ground chia seeds as my egg substitute, so my husband is happy to call them a health food.
CV –You and your husband started Earthbound Farm in 1984. What inspired you to start growing organic produce?
MG – Drew and I were two young city kids from Manhattan when we landed on our little heirloom raspberry farm in 1984. Until the departing farmer gave us a tutorial in how to apply all the chemicals, we had no idea so many were routinely used to grow our food. We instinctively knew that chemicals meant to kill insects and weeds couldn’t be healthy to handle, couldn’t be healthy to eat, and couldn’t be healthy for this beautiful earth that supports us all. We were determined to figure out how to farm organically, in cooperation with nature.
MG – We never imagined we’d farm more than our 2-½ acres when we started. When we hired our 11th employee, our time card holder had 12 slots, and I told him he was going to be the second to last person we ever hired. I couldn’t imagine managing more than 12 employees. We never would have guessed that Earthbound would grow to become the largest grower of organic produce in North America. It still surprises us, but we’re so happy to have helped create a company that has converted tens of thousands of acres to organic, and avoids the use of about 19 million pounds of synthetic chemicals every year.
MG – Marea feels so lucky to have grown up on the land, gardening from when she was a toddler, and fed baby greens in her high chair. She loves fresh produce and can’t see the appeal of fast food or processed food. She’s happiest eating a fresh ear of raw corn right after it was pulled from the stalk.
CV –What advice would you give to someone who wants to eat more organic foods but is worried about the cost?
MG – Eating vegan is one of the very best ways to make eating organic more affordable. The higher up you go on the food chain, the bigger the price differential is between organic and conventionally produced foods. Organic grains and beans are generally not expensive, and if you buy organic produce in season, it’s much more affordable. We make jam in the summer to eat all year, and big batches of tomato sauce to store in our freezer. I think it’s a huge challenge for many people to balance their budgets, but I always believe making healthy food a top priority is one of the wisest things you can do.
MG – I am a big snacker. I get light headed quickly when I am hungry. I need a lot of protein to keep my blood sugar stable. I like to start the day with a slice of very dense whole grain bread topped with almond butter and then sprinkled with protein-rich hemp seeds. I like huge salads for lunch. I snack on fruit and nuts throughout the afternoon, and then my husband and I always cook a substantial dinner. Unlike me, Drew can eat lightly all day, but always wants a large dinner. It’s great that he was one of the omnivores approving all the dishes in Straight from the Earth, because now we have a list of vegan recipes to choose from that he loves.
CV –What is your favorite vegan indulgence?
MG – Homemade vegan coffee ice cream with big chucks of the vegan brownies mentioned above. (I make my ice cream with coconut milk, instant coffee, sugar, a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt)
MG – I hope I will be lucky enough to have some adorable grandchildren to enjoy. Drew and I were so crazy busy growing our business when our kids were young. I am eager to have the chance to leisurely cuddle and play with grandbabies, and also to cook them up some delicious organic vegan food to help them thrive!
Photos by Sara Remington