Good Earth Partner Mark Squire joined the company in 1969 at the age of 16. In honor of our 50th Anniversary, we sat down with him to talk about the evolution of Good Earth, and the evolution of the food system.

GE: How can our customers become food activists?

MS: What immediately comes to mind is that once you start to view eating as a political act, you begin to realize the impact that your food choices can have on both your own health and the health of the planet. For example, we’re just beginning to realize the profound amount of carbon that organic agriculture can sequester in the soil. By switching to an organic diet, one person alone can sequester thousands of pounds of carbon each year. Agriculture is one of the main mechanisms we have for healing the planet, and it’s something everybody can participate in through their food choices.

GE: Are there any developments within the organic system that you’re excited about?

MS: I spent a lot of time in Washington D.C. last year as part of an industry-wide effort to lobby Congress on the Farm Bill. Through that process, we saw major wins for organic like increased funding for research and increased funding for the National Organic Program. It feels like there’s a growing recognition that supporting organic is an investment in healthy communities.

GE: What are some issues within the food system that are concerning to you right now?

MS: I’m very concerned about an emerging wave of genetic engineering techniques that are being used to create food additives and proteins that have never been in the human diet before. Just one example of this is the genetically engineered heme featured in the Impossible Burger. I feel that our government isn’t doing enough to sufficiently monitor whether these new food additives are causing health issues. At Good Earth, we’re taking extra precautions to make sure products like these stay out of our stores and off of our shelves.

GE: How did you become personally interested in organics and natural health?

MS: In my teen years, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a few important books, including Jethro Kloss’ Back to Eden. Kloss was an American herbalist who taught about the connection between diet and health. A little bit later, I had the opportunity to study with Herman and Cornellia Aihara, who taught natural healing from a tradition of Japanese medicine. The Rodale family was critical in sparking my interest around organic, and their work made clear for me the connection between non-toxic agriculture, healthy soils, and human health. We actually have a few posters dedicated to their story in our Mill Valley store.

GE: You’ve been an organic farmer for a few years now. How has this deepened your understanding of organic systems?

MS: I’ve always had a reverence for organic farmers, and viewed them as people who were developing this radical system of agriculture with very little research or support. Now that I’m doing some of my own farming, my respect and understanding around the complexities of organic farming has only deepened. It’s become even more clear to me how different organic farming is from conventional, and how important it is in terms of healing the earth.

GE: What is one of your fondest memories from your years at Good Earth?

MS: It’s not necessarily a single memory, but it’s always been a joy for me to watch people join our staff and transform their health over time. We’ve had a number of people come on with serious health issues, and as their understanding of the link between health and diet grows, you see this dramatic shift happen for them.

GE: What does the future hold for Good Earth?

MS: We’ve always felt like we’re a small piece in a much larger movement toward healthier, higher quality food, and it’s been really exciting to watch the awareness and interest around organic grow nationally. It’s always been our goal to play a part in transforming the food system, and there’s still so much work we can do to aid in this transformation.