Shareholders have agreed to sell Earthbound Farm to Denver-based WhiteWave Foods Co., which plans to operate the organic produce company as a separate business unit with no operational changes planned, according to the companies.

The $600 million cash deal is expected to close during the first quarter of 2014, according to a joint news release from the companies.

Earthbound Farm co-founder Drew Goodman said in the release the acquisition would help the San Juan Batista, Calif., company achieve its original mission and reach its full potential. Goodman has seen the company grow from a 2.5-acre backyard garden in 1984 to more than 50,000 acres and more than 200 growers producing more than 100 varieties of organic fruits and vegetables.

WhiteWave is a food manufacturer and distributor of brands including Land O’ Lakes beverages and coffee creamers and Horizon Organic dairy products, according to the release.

Earthbound’s chief executive officer Charles Sweat said the two companies’ philosophies are closely aligned.

“Both companies have a heritage nurtured from small beginnings. And both companies believe in the importance of scaling the production of better food that makes for healthier people and a healthier planet,” Sweat said in the release.

Gregg Engles, chief executive officer at WhiteWave, said in the release the addition of Earthbound’s organic produce is a natural extension of WhiteWave’s mission to “change the way the world eats for the better.”

“Fresh foods are one of the most attractive, emerging trends in the food industry today and the market for organic products continues to grow steadily. With Horizon Organic and Earthbound Farm, WhiteWave will now provide the two most popular gateways for consumers to enter into the organic category — produce and dairy,” Engles said in the release.