William A. Galt, a health food pioneer and founder of the Good Earth restaurant brand, has died. He was 89.
Galt died Aug. 2 in Reno, Nev., from complications after surgeries for a broken left hip and pelvis suffered in a fall, according to family and friends in an Associated Press report.
Galt (left; photo by Marialice Galt) launched Good Earth in 1975 as a 22-seat restaurant in Reno and grew it to 53 restaurants.
Good Earth restaurants served mostly vegetarian dishes based on Galt’s research into whole grains, hormone-free meats and natural sugars and spices without additives.
In 1986, Richard Martin, West Coast editor of Nation's Restaurant News, told the Los Angeles Times that "Good Earth is probably the most prominent chain example of a health-food concept.”
General Mills acquired the brand in 1980, closing some and converting about 20 locations into Olive Garden or Red Lobster brands, which it owned before spinning them off in 1995 into Darden Restaurants Inc.
Good Earth restaurants popularized ingredients such as alfalfa sprouts, jicama, tofu and snow peas before they went mainstream, said Joan Bryna Michelson, a Galt family friend and business associate.
Michaelson said that, after selling the Good Earth restaurants, “Galt traveled the world and launched The Good Health Centers to promote healthy lifestyles and Peace Leaders International, a think tank.”
Galt also developed Good Earth Tea in his home kitchen in Mexico, and the brand is still available at retail locations.
“Employing scientists, scholars and environmentalists, PLI’s mission was to identify solutions to the myriad challenges facing specific eco-systems and the world, including global conflict, extreme poverty and the mistreatment of animals, and to leverage citizen diplomacy to address them,” Michelson wrote in an email. “Galt leveraged his well-heeled connections to help fund it, including Arianna Huffington who worked with him to make it a reality.”
Galt sat on former Soviet Union President Mikael Gorbachev’s Peace Council and met with Cuban President Fidel Castro, added Michelson, a blogger and podcaster at Green Connections Radio.
Michelson said that Galt, who was part Cherokee, first worked in restaurants at his parents’ Cherokee Inn on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina.
Galt was born on May 31, 1929, in Cartersville, Ga., where his parents owned a dairy farm. After attending the University of Miami, Galt went to Los Angeles and worked in Lawry’s Prime Rib and then The Golden Nugget Casino in Nevada.
Michelson said Galt made his home in Mexico the past 20 years, where he started Mexico’s Slow Food Movement in Merida, Yucatan, bringing together organic farmers from around the region weekly.
Galt is survived by his wife of 30 years, Gail Weaver, as well as four children from his first marriage and two grandchildren.
Memorials can be sent to the nonprofit William Galt Organic Farmers Scholarship Fund in care of the Reno law offices of Diaz and Galt at 443 Marsh Avenue, Reno, Nevada 89509.
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