Plenary: Good Food Movement & Multi-Generational Businesses

Gains & Goals for the Good Food Movement: An Overview

Dr. Kathleen Merrigan
Former Deputy Secretary of the USDA, Washington, D.C.

Opening invocation by Tom Willey, T&D Willey Farms, Madera, CA

Stewardship is a concept often used in connection with ecologically-sustainable agriculture. To steward is to use practices and inputs that respect nature by leaving the land and natural resources intact or improved for future generations. How can these concepts and requisite actions best be achieved by businesses? Or even government?

Multi-Generational Businesses Thriving with Integrity


David Bronner
President, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps
Encinitas, CA

Grant Lundberg
CEO, Lundberg Family Farms
Richvale, CA

Jyoti Stephens
Director of Human Resources and Sustainability, Nature’s Path Organic Foods
Richmond, British Columbia

The marketplace can be a difficult arena for any values-driven, family-owned and operated business to survive. However, some companies with great longevity have managed to adapt and thrive while maintaining their independence. How have they achieved this? What has made the difference in their successes? And how do they navigate the changing seas of the marketplace while being true to their ideals?

Hear from the next generation of leadership of three of these companies: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Lundberg Family Farms, and Nature’s Path Organic Foods. Learn how they have found the way forward to succeed in business while maintaining their companies’ unwavering commitment to triple-bottom line principles: protecting people, planet, and profits.

These companies have proven themselves supporters of a bold vision of integrity for the ecological and organic food and farming system. They have remained committed to their founding principles, adhering to strict standards of production in their ingredient sourcing and in the management of their operations. They will share their successes and concerns, and will speak to opportunities they see for continued and expanded influence of the values represented by their companies’ missions.


Dr. Kathleen Merrigan was most recently the deputy secretary of the USDA, where she was instrumental in starting the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, highlighting the critical connection between farmers and consumers, and supporting local and regional food systems that increase economic opportunity in rural America. She previously served as assistant professor and director of the Agriculture, Food, and Environment graduate program at Tufts University, and was administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. In her role as a staff member for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), she was the key author of the Organic Food Production Act of 1990. Recognizing the history and scope of her work, Time Magazine named Merrigan among the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010.
Tom Willey and his wife Denesse have operated T&D Willey Farms since 1981. The farm is a 75 acre certified organic farm in Madera, California, growing a wide array of Mediterranean vegetables year round. Willey Farms produce is in specialty markets and fine restaurants on the West Coast, as well as on the tables of over 800 weekly CSA subscription members in their own community. Tom was, until recently, Slow Food USA’s governor for California’s Central Valley and passionately advocates for local food prominence through writing, speaking, radio, and event organizing. Tom is a past board member of EFA and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). He currently serves as a policy advisor to The Cornucopia Institute which monitors integrity of the US organic industry.
David Bronner is President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a grandson of company founder, Emanuel Bronner, and a fifth generation soap maker. Under David’s leadership Dr. Bronner’s was one of the first brands to certify their soaps, lotions, and balms under the USDA NOP. Today Dr. Bronner’s is coordinating certified fair trade projects for all major ingredients. David pioneered using 100% post-consumer recycled bottles for liquid soaps and a hemp/recycled paper blend to package bars. He coordinated the Hemp Industries Association’s (HIA) successful multi-year litigation against the Drug Enforcement Administration; protecting sales of hemp foods and body care products in the US (2001-2004). He’s an active supporter of both the HIA and Vote Hemp, working to bring back hemp farming in the USA.
Grant Lundberg was appointed CEO of Lundberg Family Farms in 1997. Since then, Lundberg Family Farms has expanded its board of directors to include the third generation Lundberg family. Lundberg Family Farms is owned by the second, third and fourth generations of the family. It is the leading producer of organic and eco-farmed rice and rice products. Employing 250 people, the board is comprised of eight family members, including Grant, and two independent directors. In 2012 he served as the co-chair of the California Right to Know campaign. He currently serves on the board of directors for Frontier Natural Products and for the Rodale Institute.
Jyoti Stephens is deeply committed to sustainable agriculture and to Nature’s Path Organic Foods’ mission of “leaving the earth better than you found it.” Jyoti is a third generation family member, serving as Director of Human Resources (HR) and Sustainability, helping to lead Nature’s Path’s commitment to sustainability, including initiatives around ethical sourcing, energy efficiency, waste reduction, community engagement, and eco-friendly packaging alternatives. She works at a strategic level to develop and support the company’s sustainability goals and HR programs. She is passionate about growing the company’s culture in a way that nurtures people, nature, and spirit. Jyoti is on the board of directors of the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association and has been awarded the Women of Spirit Fledgling Chick award.