Earth Mothers of InventionFor these six women who launched successful organic businesses, every day is a labor of love. Warning: Their passion is so contagious, you just might want to change your own life next.
Field Of Greens
Myra Goodman, 48
Home Carmel Valley, CA
Organic Biz Cofounder (with husband Drew Goodman) of Earthbound Farm
Born and raised in New York City, Myra Goodman was headed for a career in international relations when she and her boyfriend (now her husband, Drew) stumbled upon the opportunity to run a small raspberry farm in California's Carmel Valley in 1984. The berries were being farmed conventionally at the time, and the owner gave Myra and Drew a 1-day tutorial on farm practices, including the application of pesticides. Call the couple naive, but until then, they had no idea how many toxic chemicals were routinely used in agriculture. The realization hit hard: "Oh my God, this food is grown with chemicals that you have to wear masks to handle--and it was going to be in our backyard!" says Myra, who was planning to live on the farm. The couple decided on the spot to farm organically. Never mind that they didn't know how. They bought Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening and taught themselves.
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Myra's experiment in country living might have ended as planned, after a year. But culinary changes were afoot in California, where Alice Waters, the formidable "mother of the organic movement," had started concocting delicious recipes with organic baby vegetables in her now-famous Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. The Goodmans began supplying organic baby lettuces to local markets--then decided business was good enough to start shipping them nationwide under the label Earthbound Farm.
Today, an operation that started as 2.5 acres of raspberries has grown to 40,000 acres on 150 separate farms. It sells $475 million worth of produce a year, from arugula to zucchini, to 75% of the nation's grocery stores. And Myra has even blossomed into a cookbook author. But her proudest achievement is summed up in a single figure--14 million pounds. That's the amount of synthetic chemicals she and her workers spare the planet every year by farming organically.
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Karen Stewart Brown, 41
Home Ventura, CA
Organic Biz Cofounder (with husband Howard Brown) of Stewart+Brown
Early in her career, Karen Stewart Brown designed clothes for Urban Outfitters and J. Crew. But for all her knowledge of fashion, color, and fabric, she never fully understood the environmental impact of conventional cotton production. That changed after she took a job at Patagonia in 1998. She and her husband, Howard, considered themselves eco-conscious; they loved to hike and spend time in the mountains. But in 2001, Patagonia took employees on a tour of cotton fields in California's Central Valley. "What I saw that day changed my life," she says.
As Karen describes it, the conventionally raised cotton was grown on acre upon acre of monocropped land that was devoid of wildlife, including birds. "We weren't allowed to leave the bus, and you couldn't even go on the tour if you were pregnant because of all the toxic chemicals," she says. By contrast, the next stop, an organic farm, was buzzing with life--sheep, goats, and children playing among the nearby fruit trees. It was like a Technicolor film after a black-and-white horror show. Karen vowed to herself, "I will pay double the price for a T-shirt if I know it's made with cotton from a farm like this." But would anyone else?
In 2002, Karen and Howard launched their own clothing line, Stewart+Brown, with tees and tops, dresses, and skirts made from fine organic cotton. In addition, they use linen and hemp fabric, since the flax and hemp plants are cultivated without the use of pesticides. And they import premium luxury cashmere from nomadic goat herders on the high plateau of Outer Mongolia. The USDA has no certification program for organic cashmere. But the nomads work as their ancestors have for generations--completely naturally. "There's no need for pesticides because it's such an inhospitable climate--too high, too cold, too harsh," says Karen. There's nothing rough about her designs, though. Totally hip, Stewart+Brown shows that eco-fashion is about not just doing good--but looking and feeling good too.
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