The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: Lundberg Family Farms

Sustainability Series: Lundberg Family Farms


September 27, 2009

For over 70 years Lundberg Family Farms has been using methods of farming that care for the environment. Based in Richvale, California, the Lundbergs helped pioneer the organic rice-growing movement in the U.S., and now produce a variety of organic, eco-farmed products, including brown rice, rice cakes, rice chips and risottos. We spoke to Jessica Lundberg, Chairman of the Board for Lundberg Family Farms and the Nursery Manager, about incorporating sustainable practices into all aspects of the business, from field to fork.  

How does your business define sustainability?

At Lundberg Family Farms we see sustainability as the end goal to our continuous striving for improvement. Our farm was founded on the belief that caring for the land and respecting people is part of the process of growing and producing healthy food. Our business continues this tradition and fits well within the three aspects of sustainability so often talked about: social, economic and environmental. If we are able to continue our business and pass it on to future generations as a fiscally sound company that makes healthy foods grown on farms on which the health of the soil, air and water are stewarded in partnership with employees who are treated with respect, then we have succeeded. 

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

•    In the field, as we grow our organic and eco-farmed rice, we care for soil health by incorporating straw after harvest and planting cover crops to add organic matter to the soil. We do not burn crop residues, and we are careful with our use of water. 
•    We pay ourselves and our growers fair prices for the rice we grow. 
•    We provide living wages, medical and dental coverage, profit sharing, retirement savings as well as health and wellness programs that show respect for the time and care our employees put into producing our products. 
•    Our employee garden provides fruits and vegetables daily to employees, because we believe in promoting a healthy lifestyle so employees can fully enjoy their time in and out of the office. 
•    Lundberg has reduced company energy use through facility improvements. We currently produce about 15% of our electricity used at the Richvale facility through on-site photovoltaics and purchase wind energy credits for the remaining electricity use. 

What are your short term and long-term goals?

Lundberg’s short-term goals include completing our in-house assessments and making immediate reductions in resources used (packaging and energy) while making our processes leaner. We also continue to work with employees to improve our health and wellness programs and to create innovative new healthy rice products.

Lundberg’s long-term goals include:

•    Continuing to be the leader in developing innovative organic farming practices, products and varieties of rice.
•    Building a LEED platinum certified office building as home for our Richvale operations. 
•    Producing 100% of our electrical energy on-site.  
•    Continuing to successfully transition the company to the fourth generation and beyond through the internship program and culturing a love and respect for farming and the business of sustainable food production.

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

I think Lundberg’s sustainable practices have a big impact in both our local community and with Lundberg consumers across the country. In our local community we positively impact the soil, air and water through our sustainable farming practices, and we affect the local economy through the wages of our employees and the taxes to local governments.  

In the lives of our consumers across the country, we offer them great tasting, quality rice products, the ability to support food production methods which align with their values and a connection to where, who and how their food was produced.   

How do you measure your progress?

We measure our progress by looking at how much rice we produce through pounds harvested and acres under cultivation over both long and short-term time frames, as well as through our bottom line. We also gauge progress by looking at our employees and evaluating our turnover rate, employee health and the cost of healthcare. 

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

Retailers are an integral part of how Lundberg Family Farms reaches consumers. Our retailers have the ability to educate consumers about what is available and explain who Lundberg is, what we do and most importantly, how we grow rice. Retail placement, support and testimonials of our products and company are important to our success. 

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

Food production is such a basic element to our civilization, utilizes so many resources from the earth, and touches so many parts of our society that it is imperative that those in the food industry be responsible for the part they play. By employing more sustainable business practices, the food industry can affect the future of our agricultural genetic resources, the healthfulness of products and the overall health of our worldwide population. 

Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

As a consumer, I see the people who produce the products I buy as an extension of myself. So when I buy products, I want to buy items that are made in the way that I would if I was able to do it myself. I think this is how the consumer looks at our business, and we keep this in mind when we make business decisions. 

In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom