Swanton Berry Farm
At A Glance
|What:||Fruit and vegetable farm|
|Founders:||James (Jim) Cochran and Mark Matze|
|Number of employees:||50 (2008)|
Jim Cochran is used to having his ideas brushed aside. Two decades ago, when he set out to grow strawberries organically without the pesticide methyl bromide, many of Jim’s peers in the strawberry industry thought he was nuts. He persisted and wound up developing one of the first organic, chemical- free approaches to growing strawberries on a commercial scale. When he began negotiations with the United Farm Workers to represent his workers, other strawberry farmers warned him this would kill his business. And yet, today, after becoming the first organic farm in the country to become 100% unionized and to offer family medical and dental coverage, profit-sharing, a stock ownership plan, retirement plans, and vacation and holiday pay, Swanton Berry Farm is thriving.
Cochran’s 200-acre operation now spans five leased farms. His strawberries and vegetables are sold directly through his own farmstand, two “U-Pick” locations, and 14 farmers markets. He also sells to several independent grocers, as well as 15 Whole Foods Market stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. Annual sales have reached $1.9 million, and profits have been positive most years, averaging approximately 3%.