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Photograph by Justin Steele for Bloomberg BusinessweekCharles Sweat joined Earthbound Farm in 1998 as chief financial officer and soon was appointed chief operating officer. Since November 2006, he has served as president of the company and, in July 2009, took on the role of chief executive officer. During 13 years with Earthbound Farm, the company has established itself as the nation’s largest producer of organic produce and specialty salads, growing from $10 million in annual organic produce sales to more than $500 million.
Today, Earthbound Farm’s organic produce is grown on more than 40,000 acres, keeping more than 14 million pounds of harmful chemicals out of the air, water, and food supply. The company has a greater than 50 percent share of U.S. organic salad sales.
Sweat led the company’s response and recovery following the 2006 spinach recall, including the establishment of an unprecedented food-safety program in fresh produce, which remains the most rigorous in the industry. In 2009, on behalf of the founders, owners, and employees of Earthbound Farm, he led the deal that brought private equity firm HM Capital Partners into the ownership group.
In 2011, Sweat received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2011 Northern California Award in the Food Products category, which recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.