February 3, 2003|
Announce Organic Tofu Partnership
WATSONVILLE, CA – California’s leading organic tofu maker, Wildwood Natural Foods, announced today a strategic merger with Iowa-based Midwest-Harvest, a family-owned organic soybean farm. The new company, Wildwood Harvest Foods, has a production facility and offices in Watsonville, California, with additional manufacturing facilities in Grinnell, Iowa.
Running counter to the industry trend of being acquired by larger corporations, this partnership maintains the integrity of both partners, while increasing the company’s product line, manufacturing operations and market reach. Wildwood products, which include soymilk, tofu, and vegetarian burgers, are sold in 700 stores in 24 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.
"Wildwood has always been involved with farmers as suppliers," said Billy Bramblett, one of Wildwood Natural Foods founding partners and an acclaimed Gospel singer. "This merger allows farmer to become owners in Wildwood and share in the added value of transforming the commodities they grow into healthy food."
The merger blends third-generation organic farming know-how with two decades of natural food and soy food expertise.
Wildwood Natural Foods was founded in 1980 on the edge of northern California’s Marin County, and became a popular community provider of fresh and delicious vegetarian food. Today, Wildwood is known throughout the Pacific Northwest for making the best-tasting, freshest certified-organic tofu, vegetarian products and soymilk, while furthering its commitment to social and environmental causes.
Midwest Harvest has been a family farm since 1927, when Floyd Lacina started farming soy, corn and alfalfa on 320 acres in central Iowa. His son, Tom, wanted to continue the family’s farming tradition, but faced declining commodity prices and a depressed farm economy. In 1998, looking for alternatives, Tom created the Midwest Harvest brand of soy products. In January, they opened the nation’s first dedicated cultured soy facility, producing soy yogurt and yogurt drinks.
"Making tofu is pretty rare for a farmer," said Jeremiah Ridenour, a Buddhist engineer and who joined Wildwood in 1985. "Tom joked that he made the factory doors big enough so he could drive the tractors in there in case the tofu plan didn’t pan out."
With its mission to nourish human health and well-being through the promotion of dietary and agricultural change, Wildwood Harvest donates a percentage of sales to breast cancer research and agricultural land conservation.
The management team: Jeremiah Ridenour, Chief Executive Officer; Tom Lacina, President; Billy Bramblett, Executive Vice President—Manufacturing.
Floyd Lacina, now 92 years old, can still be seen driving the harvesting tractor.