Oregon Organic Produce Company Makes History By Selling Itself to a Sustainability Trust Rather Than a Corporation

Organically Grown Co. is now the first steward-owned company in the nation.

Organically Grown Co., the largest organic produce distributor in the Northwest, is determined not to sell out—at least by traditional means.

The company just announced its sale to a purpose trust, or a trust designed to advance a purpose rather than person, the Food and Environment Reporting Network first reported.

That makes Organically Grown Co. the first steward-owned company in the nation.

According to the report, OGC transports over 100 million pounds of produce a year around Oregon and to Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. In Portland, OGC produce is delivered via three-wheeled cargo bikes.

OGC's vice president of organizational vitality and trade advocacy, Natalie Reitman-White, tells FERN that the goal of the sale is to uphold the company's sustainability mission.

"Through this new structure, the pressure to maximize short-term quarterly profits and exit-value for shareholders is removed," Reitman-White says. "Instead, OGC will maximize 'purpose' by creating long-term returns to mission-aligned evergreen investors and sharing the balance of profits with their stakeholders, including farmers, coworkers, customers, and community."

In other words, rather than funneling its profits to one large company or investor, OGC will distribute that money to its farmers and workers, as well as to efforts that align with its values, such as fueling trucks with biodiesel and eliminating the use of other fossil fuels.

The company—which was started by a co-op of Eugene farmers in the '70s—was previously owned by its roughly 50 founding farmers and 230 employees.

The sale is meant to safeguard OGC from future sales to big corporations as founders retire and interest in organics from venture capitalists increases, Reitman-White says. The exact terms of the sale have not yet been disclosed, but according to FERN, the only way the company could be sold again is if the Trust Protector Committee—made up of employees, farmers, customers and allied nonprofits—approves it.