Things I Can't Live Without: Gary Hirshberg
BY Liz Welch
Why Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, values his wife's raspberries, his custom hiking boots, and the words of Nelson Mandela.
With seven Jersey cows and a newly concocted yogurt recipe, environmental activists Gary Hirshberg and Samuel Kaymen founded Stonyfield Farm in 1983 as a way to fund Kaymen's nonprofit organic farming school. But the yogurt business wasn't immediately a cash cow. In the late '80s, Hirshberg recalls, "we burned through $28,000 a week for 60 weeks. Everyone I knew loaned me money."
Today, Stonyfield employs 310 people and is the largest organic yogurt company in the world, selling 500,000 cases a week and generating $212 million in annual revenue. Though Kaymen has retired and the French company that makes Dannon yogurt bought 80 percent of the company in 2001, Hirshberg is still the only CEO Stonyfield has known. He continues to sponsor Earth Day events--like handing out smoothies to people who take mass transit to work--and still donates 10 percent of pretax profits to environmental causes. "Ben and Jerry's was doing 7.5 percent," Hirshberg explains. "I thought we could do better."
Peppermint Honest Tea, $3.50
"My wife needs her coffee, but for me it's tea. No one could handle Gary on caffeine."
Limmer custom hiking boots, $610
"I have replaced the soles on these leather boots twice despite probably more than 2,000 miles in them."
Platform tennis court and Wilson rackets, $50,200
"These were the first things I bought when Stonyfield started making money. You can play all year round."
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, $18
"I've read it three times. Every lesson you'd ever want to learn about leadership is in the pages of this book. And it's not an intellectual exercise. It comes from the heart."
"My wife is an organic farmer. I just shovel the compost where she tells me to. That's why they're so delicious."
… and What I Covet
Getting off the grid, about $65,000
"My fantasy is to install a solar photovoltaic array system for my home to cover all of the energy costs. It's a fairly young field, though. I'm waiting for better technology that would let the panels turn to face the sun for maximum exposure."
Last updated: Apr 1, 2006
LIZ WELCH is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist who has written for The New York Times, Real Simple, Glamour, and Inc., among other publications. She is the co-author with her siblings of the recent book The Kids Are All Right, a highly regarded memoir of her childhood. @lizmwelch