This feature and others appeared in the annual “Pride & Promise” section with Tuesday’s Free Lance. Pick up a copy today.
Earthbound Farm, an organic producer and distributor based in San Juan Bautista, got its start on a small 2.5-acre farm in the Carmel Valley that held enough promise for its owners that they gave up on other dreams.
Myra and Andrew Goodman moved to California from New York City with plans to take a year off before applying for graduate school programs. Once they got a look at the raspberries located on their farm, they decided to sell them from a small farm stand on their property.
“We fell in love with the lifestyle and the whole graduate school thing started to seem a little less urgent,” Myra Goodman said. “We just wanted to find enough money to keep living there.”
They started to grow salad greens and were the first company to introduce pre-washed greens in 1986. They included mixed baby greens, baby spinach salad, Asian salad mix and more, which are still available for purchase in local grocery stores today.
Though they have had a decades-long relationship with some local growers, the business moved into San Benito County in 1996 when the Goodmans moved their company headquarters and processing plant to a 25,000 square-foot facility in San Juan Bautista. The business continues to expand as the company is in the process of rolling out frozen organic vegetables and fruits and herb purees.
The Goodmans’ commitment to organic farming and the environment is most evident in Myra Goodman’s latest cookbook, “The Earthbound Cook: 250 Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet.”
“I think it all started for me with being an organic farmer,” she said. “It first started with farming organically 28 years ago. It was really instinctive. We just didn’t want to use (chemicals.) Over the years, there has been a lot of research to really confirm how so much healthier (organic farming is,) and all the environmental effects – on the environment and waterways.”
The cookbook is filled with bright-colored photos of recipes developed by Goodman and two chefs who tested out each item to make sure it was perfect before publishing it. Pamela McKinstry and Sarah LaCasse, both chefs, helped with developing the recipes while Ronni Sweet, a writer, helped with research on the eco-minded tips in the book. While Goodman is already working on a third cookbook, her second book is near and dear to her heart because of its focus on the environment.
“There are a lot of other ways beside choosing organic that protect the environment as well as your health,” she said. “It can have a really big impact and it’s easy to do.”
The book took two years to develop, and she kept expanding it as she worked with Sweet to include more “Eco-Minded Living” tips, as they are called in the book.
The book is also filled with personal stories from Goodman’s own life, such as the history of Earthbound Farm and bits about old family recipes such as her husband’s grandmother’s tomato rice soup.
The book includes 11 chapters, and in each there are tips for dealing with foods that might not be as familiar to some, such as lemongrass and fennel. Each chapter also includes advice on making eco-friendly choices in the kitchen. Some of the tips include advice on how to conserve water in the kitchen, what type of packaging is best for different products and what meat is the best for the environment.
The book is laid out with the recipes, colored info boxes and short tips filling some of the margins of the pages, which make it easy for readers who want to read the eco-minded tips in between skimming recipes.
“My first book I wrote was sort of a surprise,” Goodman said. “It was just supposed to be an Earthbound Farm’s cookbook – a marketing thing.”
But after the first book was published, she received a lot of feedback from people about the impact the book had on their lives.
“That is what made me feel like it was a good venue to communicate all these things I’m really passionate about,” she said. “It is a celebration of food being sustainable for the environment.”
When developing recipes for “The Earthbound Cook,” Goodman looked at including a mix of recipes that would be accessible to most local shoppers as well as a few with harder-to-find ingredients.
“One of my favorites is a baby turnip and carrot salad,” she said. “You see them (baby turnips) in the farmers market a few times a year. But it’s a recipe you couldn’t find (the ingredients for) in most supermarkets. I like to be able to broaden people’s horizons a little bit and turn them on to things a little less common.”
Goodman had a hard time listing her favorite recipes from the book because she likes them all, but she mentioned a water cress salad as a family favorite, a coconut crusted salmon and chicken tacos.
“The crepes on (page) 175 are one of my favorites,” she said. ‘I just love crepes. I always do savory crepes and then do desserts.”
One of the most popular recipes among readers is for her breakfast squares. The morning treat includes oatmeal, carrots and apples for a filling meal that can be eaten on the go.
“This recipe people mention to me more than anything,” she said.
Her next cookbook will focus on plant-based recipes as the company continues its operations from the San Benito headquarters.
“We’ve always just felt very fortunate to be located in San Juan Bautista,” she said. “It’s been a very lovely community. We’ve felt very supported. We have a great relationship with Anzar High School, which is right next door.”