Good Earth Natural Foods
1966 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Fairfax
What Good Earth offers?
What Good Earth offers is best summed up on their business card: "Specializing in organically grown foods for the achievement of personal and planetary health since 1969."
Good Earth is widely known for their bountiful organic produce, but it also offers supplements and herbal remedies, a salad bar, fresh baked goods, bulk grains and nuts, specialty cheeses, fish, poultry, organic wines, non-toxic biodegradable household products, flowers, herbs, and a vegetarian (and delicious) deli.
The mission – per the website – is to "help the people of planet Earth maintain their primary vehicles in top performance by providing the finest in natural and organic foods."
When you call, employees answer the phone, "Good Earthling" -- which should tell you a bit about how the store connects to the planet.
Who are they?
Co-owner Mark Squire grew up in Connecticut eating whole grains. A high school drop out, Squire became interested in food during his late teens, reading all the Adelle Davis books his mother had.
By the time he was 16, Squire was trying to figure out what he wanted to do in the world.
"I was heading west," Squire said. "When I left Connecticut, I had two choices, go north to Woodstock or head west. I chose west and stopped when I came to the ocean."
Good Earth opened in Fairfax in 1969, on Bolinas Road. Squire always envisioned that, at the store, "we were helping to change the food in the country." In the beginning, he met the farmers around the area. Squire even worked a brief, but financially unsuccessful stint, as a farmer in North Carolina. Since there was almost no organic standards or distribution at the time, they worked to set up their own relationships and systems.
Since then, the focus has been on local farmers within a 100-mile radius. In the produce department, signs tell customers where the food comes from.
Good Earth also offers a philosophy best summed up in colorful large mural Seeds of Peace painted on the side of the store by muralists Susan Cervantes and Miranda Bergman. It shows the struggle for peace and social justice, and illuminates the link between a peaceful world and ecological sustainability.
In the mural, people are holding up signs saying things like Plant Seeds, Peace is Patriotic, Fair Trade, Si, Se Puede (Yes, We Can), and Keep Marin GMO-Free.
Each figure in the mural is a real person, like Dolores Huerta (co-founder of the United Farm Workers union), Mimi Farina (famed singer), and Vandana Shiva (a scientist and leader of the "seed saver" movement in India). The mural also includes local rancher Ellen Straus of the Straus Family Creamery and Frank Egger, six time mayor of Fairfax.
As co-owner of Good Earth, Squire is in the mural, too, holding a sign that says, "Keep Marin GMO-Free". Squire is especially proud of his participation in the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization created by leaders of the organic and natural products industry to offer consumers a consistent non-genetically modified organism choice.
How long have they been here?
The original store, which Squire calls "the old store," opened on Bolinas Road in Fairfax, in 1969. In 2000, Good Earth expanded to its current, 7,500 square foot location.
"We never thought we could get as big as we have, but we always envisioned we were helping to change the food system in the country," Squire said.
At the very beginning, the mission was to create a new food system. This required the early founders of Good earth to network with everybody else who felt the same. They had to meet farmers and other store owners and consumers. They had to explain what organic meant and what they were hoping to do.
"Many people don't realize that many of the national organic standards that are in place now originated in California, through California Certified Organic Farmers, and they have evolved hugely too," said Squire.
In the 1970s and 80s, before there was any certified organic regulation, Squire and Good Earth and others like them were establishing the standards themselves and helping farmers understand those new standards. In the early 1980s, when Squire served on the board of California Certified Organic Farmers, they developed the basic structure for organic standards, which were then later adopted by a number of other certifiers and eventually rolled in to the national standards used today.
Why are they the business of the week?
Besides the exceptional organic produce and all the other carefully chosen items they carry or make themselves, commitment and loyalty between Good Earth and their customers makes the store stand out.
Many customers drive several times a week from all over Marin and even from San Francisco to shop there. The staff at Good Earth, who have a stake in the company due to their profit sharing bonus, provide customers with education and information.
"We offer our customers as much information as possible so they can make informed choices," said Squire.
Regular customer Ilona Marshall, a hypnotherapist, dream consultant, and Spanish teacher (39 years), drives to Fairfax at least three times a week from her home in Greenbrae. She is a vegetarian, only eats organic foods, and Good Earth is the only place she shops.
She said that in shopping here, she doesn't have to be concerned if foods are genetically engineered or if they have toxins. If she pays a little more, she is happy to do so for the quality and peace of mind.
"Shopping at Good Earth is like walking into an oasis. It just makes me feel good," she said.
"I shop frequently at Good Earth even though I live in Larkspur because it is the most reliable and wonderful place," said Rea Franjetic. "Good Earth has a great assortment of herbs and there are people there who can help and inform me about them. I also buy the take-out food at least twice a week."
"It is worth paying a little more for organic food because it is vibrant. It's what I want to feed my kids," said Teya Chavez, of Forest Knolls.
James Higgins, a San Francisco and Mill Valley yoga teacher is also a regular shopper at Good Earth. "The quality at Good Earth surpasses what I've come across in the Bay Area. It is the pinnacle. We love to come here for dinner in the arbor, as a family. My kids are 11 and 12 and they know it's a healthy choice for them, too."
Good Earth is also a gathering place for the community.
At any time of day or evening, outside on the benches or under the arbor, you will find people relaxing, eating deli take out food, sampling a peach, reading a book, working on a laptop, or just having meaningful conversations with each other. Respecting each other, being loyal to the store, buying local, discussing sustainability, and being committed to the community - at Good Earth all earthlings seem to have a good vibe.