A “recovering” corporate attorney turned environmental activist, Tom Newmark has accomplished a great deal during his time in this industry. He spent 14 years helping to build New Chapter into a premier brand, and he was just getting started. A sampling from his bio: Tom is the co-owner of Finca Luna Nueva Lodge, an organic and biodynamic farm and ecolodge in Costa Rica that teaches regenerative agriculture. He is also the co-founder and board chair of The Carbon Underground, co-founder of the Soil Carbon Initiative, past board chair of the Greenpeace Fund USA, a founding member of the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative of California State University – Chico, and past board chair of the American Botanical Council. We asked Tom about his journey in the industry, and lessons learned along the way.

Nourish Your Soul: “I’m a late-comer to the industry,” Tom shares. “While I was New Chapter’s attorney for some years in the 1990s, I didn’t formally join the company until early 1999. Alas, I spent years in an amoral wilderness of civil litigation, practicing corporate law for nearly two decades. I represented some fine folks and organizations along the way, together with assorted robber barons. The practice of law was economically very good to me, but I suffered from burnout and was desperate to find a new career, one that spoke more to my soul and hopes for the world. Fortunately for me, my connection to New Chapter was strong, and I leapt at the opportunity when I was asked to join the company as its president.

“First of all, there’s a huge element of luck involved in every success story, and good fortune certainly smiled on me during my New Chapter years. I was an industry novice, so I had a lot to learn when I started out. I’ve always been curious and studious, and I threw myself into learning the industry. I brought with me my almost lifelong devotion to science and nature, and then there were the many decades I’d spent practicing and teaching meditation. My work in the natural products industry was thus my ‘at last’ moment, an opportunity to build a business based on my spiritual and environmental commitments. I am forever grateful for this opportunity, and it created so many opportunities for me to advance the causes dear to my heart.”

Commit, 100%: “Let’s start at the very beginning, when I was first thinking of joining New Chapter. At the time, New Chapter was still of modest size and the only way it would have made sense for me to join the company is with a major capital raise that could fund the sort of growth we hoped was possible. I tried to raise money from a group of my clients, but no one was willing to invest. I thought we had a great business plan and were primed to succeed, but no one opened their checkbooks.  One day I was grousing to my mentor and senior law partner, Alan Johnson, that I just couldn’t understand why no one was investing in what I thought was a great opportunity. I said to him ‘I really believe in this. I’m going to cash out my IRA and invest all my retirement savings into the company.’ And then he said ‘That’s what I’ve been waiting to hear.’ Within 48 hours, Alan raised all the money we projected we’d need, including his own major personal investment. He explained that I should never ask people to invest in an opportunity to which I hadn’t fully committed. It was a lesson I have never forgotten, and it’s not just about money; it’s about making a personal commitment of time, energy, heart, and, yes, sometimes money before asking others to join in the mission.”

Championing Future Generations: Sara Newmark

“I am beyond lucky that my mentor's role in my life far exceeds that of just a career,” shares Sara Newmark, COO, True Grace, and Tom’s daughter. “He has been a guiding force for me since my first breaths, first walks, first decisions big and small. But there was a moment when his guidance extended from that of just a parent. Twenty years ago we began a new journey together as co-workers, co-conspirators and friends. I learned very early on how important it was to have someone you could trust on your side who could congratulate you on your successes and, most importantly, give you honest feedback on areas of improvements.

"I remember I went after a promotion at work and I didn’t get it. I was very disappointed and confused on my next moves. My Dad had very simple and yet profound advice that I have carried with me though my career. He advised me to feel my disappointment that night. And then go in the next day and work harder than before. That this was the time to show the company that you are a team player and while you may not agree with the decision, it won’t affect your work or attitude. That these are the moments for real growth, so seize it."
Fail Gloriously: “I hope I’ve been of value to many younger people who’ve sought my counsel over the years. I tell them to give yourself permission to fail gloriously! Believe in yourself, believe in your mission, throw everything you’ve got at it, focus tightly and avoid distractions, surround yourselves with great people, and then see if the stars align. Not everyone is built to be an entrepreneur—I’m not sure I was and I still can’t believe I stumbled into that career path. But if that’s your calling, go for it, have loved ones who also give you permission to fail, keep your sense of humor, know that you’re going to stumble often, and don’t get a big head if you’re lucky enough to catch the wave just right.”

Never Stop Learning: “Alan Johnson was a major mentor or role model to me. Alan was a great corporate attorney who specialized in mergers and acquisitions, and he was as quirky as he was brilliant. Imagine a tough, clever, and relentless attorney back in the 70s and 80s who was also a vegetarian and devotee of a spiritual master.  These days that’s not so unusual, but back in the day Alan was a rare bird, indeed. And he brought to every deal a keen sensitivity to momentum: He appreciated and ‘worked’ the emotional dynamics of deal making. I studied him—first as his associate, later as his law partner, and finally as the business leader of a company he financially supported—and his focus on deal momentum continues to guide me. In later years at my farm in Costa Rica, when we had some major challenges Alan jumped in with funding and guidance. His support was fundamental to creating the regenerative experience that we now provide at Finca Luna Nueva. Thank you, Alan, for believing in me—I can still hear your voice guiding me long after your passing.

“A second ‘mentor’ is the collective wisdom I gleaned from my many years practicing meditation and then serving as legal counsel for the Natural Law Party. My work for that political party inspired my opposition to genetically engineered foods and ingredients, which I carried with me to New Chapter. I remember early at New Chapter asking a vendor if a particular ingredient was sourced from organic or archival seeds, and the response was ‘no one has ever asked me that before.’ This was before the NonGMO Project, and frankly many people had never even heard of the issue. But it mattered a great deal to me, both environmentally and spiritually, and from my start at the company we aggressively rooted out the heresies of potential GMO contaminants.

“Finally, I have never stopped learning from and being inspired by my family. I’m a lucky guy, surrounded by wise and caring loved ones who inspire me. Want me to name them all? How much time do you have!?”

Championing Future Generations: Bethany Davis


“I came to meet Tom through his daughter, Sara Newmark," shares Bethany Davis, Director of Social Impact, Advocacy and Government Relations, MegaFood. "Sara and I were on a couple of industry boards together and struck up a friendship. She invited me on a friends and family vacation down to Costa Rica at Finca Luna Nueva. I was sure that I'd have fun, but I had no idea that it would meaningfully change the course of my life. We took a tour of Tom's farm and he explained the global soil crisis and the hope of regenerative agriculture to restore the climate, our food security, and our soil. I had a meeting with my CEO scheduled for my first day back at work. We had been advocates for organic and pesticide/herbicide-free, Non-GMO Agriculture for years, but the soil story was new to me and it lit a fire in my belly like nothing else has.

“We need leaders. We need people to go first, to take chances, to be willing to be wrong and redirect, to inspire, to be the front line of people who are strong enough to stand in the discomfort that leaders often co-create. These are the same reasons we need mentors. More than once I have called Tom, faint of heart and unsure of myself and in those moments, having a mentor like Tom, that can remind me of my commitments, encourage me when I feel hopeless, and put things in frame and right relationship–those are essential moments, essential people.

“Once I read a lengthy article that seemed to cut out from under me many of the premises I had been holding as true surrounding soil health and the potential of regenerative ag. It was from a non profit I had never heard of but seemed meaty. And I got scared. Like pretty scared. What if I've missed something? What if my science background isn't enough? What if I have no idea what I'm talking about? I called Tom. He made time while he was with his family to talk me off the ledge. Aside from revealing the not-so-forthcoming nature of the ‘org’ (a pro-chemical ag business masquerading as an unbiased non-profit), he reminded me that we are all still learning. It’s ok to get scared and to simply use that to fuel our curiosity. That we are at the very beginning of a very large shift in consciousness, understanding and systems. He made getting scared okay, and supported me to get super clear anywhere that I wasn't in that moment. He also connected me with a soil scientist colleague of his who was able to support me in thoroughly understanding the article and the issues and gathering my facts so that I once again felt clear in what I was standing for. I'm incredibly grateful for Tom's constant and unwavering support and friendship.”

On a recent episode of her podcast, The Healing Collective Podcast, Bethany and Tom conversion experience at the farm and more.
Go All In: “We’ve all heard the marketing expression ‘differentiate or die,’ but now we need to replace that with ‘regenerate or die.’ It’s really that simple: Current agricultural malpractice, compounded by broader climate chaos, threatens the continuation of the human experience. We’re running out of topsoil, time, and water. Carbon and nutrient cycles are broken, globally and locally. Food is no longer as nourishing as it used to be just a few decades ago. The natural products industry is not immune from these degenerative forces—it is vulnerable, perhaps even more than most industries, to being whipsawed by climate and agricultural chaos. William Butler Yeats spoke of things falling apart, with ‘mere anarchy loosed upon the world.’ Frankly, mere anarchy sounds pretty attractive given what we’re already seeing around the planet. A few years ago, in preparing for a talk at the NBJ Summit, I asked many natural products leaders if their supply chains were threatened by the climate crisis. Every one of them said yes, and things have only gotten worse over the last few years.

“The good news is I’m seeing some companies stepping up the regenerative opportunity and dedicating their energies to helping regenerate global supply chains. We need every single company in this industry to work together in support of this change. Sure, companies need to differentiate on a marketing level; I get that, and I know enough brilliant marketing people to know that you can’t stop differentiators from differentiating. It’s sort of a sport, but the game now has existential stakes. This is an ‘all hands, all hearts, all balance sheets’ on deck moment. It’s time for competition to take a back seat and let the power embodied in the current economic system mobilize to respond to the environmental crisis.” WF