Seeding the Organic Revolution
Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm with Organic Valley
As Gary Hirshberg, President and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, saw the demand for organic products grow steadily over the past 20 years, it was clear that the “organic revolution” was well under way. But as more and more consumers began to see organic foods as the natural choice, Hirshberg knew the revolution needed to grow to scale.
Beginning in 1983, when Stonyfield was a 7-cow farming school, Hirshberg and his partner Samuel Kaymen operated the yogurt company using core values of environmental sustainability. “We were children of the 60’s and had no choice but to question the conventional models and try to integrate these values,” Hirshberg says.
By putting values first and marketing second, consumers became passionately loyal to the brand, driving the company’s growth into the largest organic yogurt company in the world. And there was another side effect: “Our net profits were actually better than our competitors,” Hirshberg says. “What began as a set of practical steps to change the way we did business resulted in a better business and a model for other companies to follow.” Stonyfield continues to set an example through socially responsible practices like donating 10% of profits each year to efforts that help protect or restore the Earth and using yogurt lids to educate consumers about environmental issues and motivate them to take action.
Based on his experience with Stonyfield, Hirshberg worked with SVN to found the Social Venture Institute to educate other values-driven entrepreneurs. And as the organic food market continues to grow, other companies like Organic Valley, SPUD, Kopali and the Vermont Bread Company continue to thrive.
Ultimately, the power behind the idea of organic food lies in the beauty and balance of interconnected life. “Our real mission is not about organics,” Hirshberg says. “It is about connectivity. We are trying to foster connections— with the earth, with our bodies, with the plants and other animals.”