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Episode 86
The Doctor's Farmacy

How To Fix Nutrition In Schools

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

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As we see a rise in the hyperlocal movement, urban farming, school gardening programs, and farm to table restaurants it’s clear there are some really exciting solutions in the works for a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system. We just need to embrace them and keep the innovations coming.

When it comes to innovative ideas that support a more sustainable, nutritious, and beneficial food system, there’s no better person to talk to than Kimbal Musk. I was thrilled to sit down with him for this week’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy to dig into our changing landscape of food and how he’s managed to scale sustainable eating and education as part of his model.

It’s easy to see that Kimbal is passionate about changing our food system. We talk about how this all started, and he shares that despite his mother being a dietitian food was the enemy in their household, until at the young age of 12 he set out to learn how to cook to make delicious meals that would bring his family together. 

Kimbal eventually built a high-powered tech career (think Paypal), only to leave it to pursue his true passion and go to culinary school. He found a way to connect the two with his current company Square Roots, which makes it possible to grow super fresh food in the most optimal climate possible anywhere in the world. 

As Kimbal got more and more involved in the world of real food he noticed the need for educating kids about food and agriculture. School gardens increase food literacy, healthy food choices, even test scores, and this propelled Kimbal to continue spreading this information with kids through his Big Green organization, his most prized project to date. He also shares about his urban farming company Square Roots and how he helps young farmers with the National Young Farmers Coalition

Kimbal and I talk about the many ways we can keep our food system moving in the right direction, from healthy, locally-sourced neighborhood restaurants to an educational system that involves regenerative agriculture and so much more. I hope you’ll tune in.

This episode is brought to you by Thrive Market. Thrive Market has made it so easy for me to stay healthy, even with my intense travel schedule. Not only does Thrive offer 25 to 50% off all of my favorite brands, but they also give back. For every membership purchased, they give a membership to a family in need, and they make it easy to find the right membership for you and your family. You can choose from 1-month, 3-month, or 12-month plans. And right now, Thrive is offering all Doctor’s Farmacy listeners a great deal, you’ll get up to $20 in shopping credit when you sign up, to spend on all your own favorite natural food, body, and household items. And any time you spend more than $49 you’ll get free carbon-neutral shipping. All you have to do is head over to

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

In this episode, you will learn:

  1. The development of Kimbal’s love of cooking
    (2:10 / 4:27)
  2. Kimbal’s decision to leave Silicon Valley, move to New York and go to cooking school, and his experience cooking for firefighters after September 11th
    (8:11 / 10:27)
  3. Community restaurants and Kimbal’s move to Boulder, CO to open The Kitchen restaurant
    (13:36 / 15:53)
  4. Scaling the industrial food system to provide local produce to more areas
    (17:19 / 19:36)
  5. America’s aging farmer population, the average income of farmers, and why it’s so difficult to bring innovation into farming
    (19:10 / 21:27)
  6. How the ethanol mandate is keeping young farmers from gaining access to land, and how this lead Kimbal to start Square Roots urban farming company
    (23:28 / 25:45)
  7. Ecosystem services and the challenges that farmers face in efforts to break away from the monocrop system
    (37:30 / 39:47)
  8. Kimbal’s experience breaking his spine and how it led him to dedicate his life to scale bringing learning gardens to schools through his organization Big Green (
    (44:59 / 47:16)
  9. National Young Farmers Coalition and its efforts to get young people into farming
    (54:40 / 56:57)
  10. Scaling regenerative farming
    (59:33 / 1:01:50)


Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

Kimbal Musk

Kimbal is a chef, restaurateur, and philanthropist. His personal mission is to pursue an America where everyone has access to real food. He’s been named a Global Social Entrepreneur by the World Economic Forum and is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of three businesses—The Kitchen Restaurant Group, Big Green, and Square Roots—with real food missions that are rapidly growing across the US. The Kitchen Restaurant Group (with its three concepts Next Door, Hedge Row, and The Kitchen) serves real food at every price point and has created over a thousand mission-driven jobs. Kimbal’s nonprofit organization, Big Green, builds permanent, outdoor Learning Garden classrooms in hundreds of underserved schools across America reaching over 350,000 students every day. 

Transcript Note: Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Kimbal Musk: You get a school garden into a school, food literacy goes up, access to food increases the choice of fruits and vegetables goes up, test scores go up.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Welcome to the Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman and this is pharmacy with an F. F A R M A C Y. A place for conversations that matter and if you care about food, which of your listening is podcasts you probably do. This conversation’s going to matter because it’s with one of the leading thinkers, innovators, and really mavericks in the field of food. Kimbal Musk. We’re going to talk all about his background, what he’s doing.

Dr. Mark Hyman: But he’s an extraordinary man who’s taken his success in the tech world and turned it into impetus for creating a food revolution. He’s a chef, he’s a restaurant tour, he’s a philanthropist. His personal mission is to pursue in America where everyone has access to real food. He’s been named a global social entrepreneur by the World Economic Forum. He’s co-founder and chairman of three real food companies that are rapidly scaling across the United States.

Dr. Mark Hyman: First is the kitchen restaurant group, including Next Door Hedgerow [inaudible 00:01:08] which are amazing restaurants at every price point. Really whole food, real food farm to table. The restaurant source food from farmers directly stimulating the local farm economy to the tune of millions of dollars a year. His nonprofit Big Green builds permanent outdoor learning garden classrooms. Not just school gardens, but learning gardens.

Dr. Mark Hyman: We’re going to talk about what that means. They’re serving hundreds of schools in multiple cities across America and underserved communities reaching over 350000 students a day. Maybe now it’s 420000, maybe it’s going to be a million, I don’t know it’s a scaling pretty big. We’ve been even talking about doing this in Cleveland. His tech enabled urban farming company called Square Roots.

Dr. Mark Hyman: We’ve had to Tobias Peggs on the podcast talking about this grows hyper-local. We’ll talk about with hyper-local is. Real food year round while empowering the next generation of farmers training farmers in the future because guess what? The current farmers are aging out fast. We’re going to talk about that. He’s also on the board of his brother’s company. You might’ve heard of it called Tesla and SpaceX. Welcome Kimball.

Kimbal Musk: Thank you for having me on the show.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Okay. Here’s a really important factoid about you. You grew up in South Africa and your mother was a dietician.

Kimbal Musk: Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman: How does that have any connection to what you’re doing now or does it?

Kimbal Musk: No. Has a huge connection. My mother is an amazing inspiration for me. There’s two ways she’s an inspiration. One is, she gave us a wonderful understanding of nutrition and how important real food is. Then the other one is, she’s a really bad cook. I took over cooking.

Dr. Mark Hyman: A dietician who’s a bad cook. That’s right.

Kimbal Musk: I either had to cook or I would have to eat my mother’s food. I give my mother a hard time. But the truth is I love food and I love to cook. She found food to be as a dietician, somewhat the enemy. I was 12 years old, I asked my mother if I could start cooking.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You were a child laborer.

Kimbal Musk: Child laborer exactly. I just wanted the food to taste good, I have a joy around food. It has a therapeutic meaning for me to cook. I can come home from a super hard day of work and cook for two hours. That sounds like, you maybe you want to take a break after a day like that. Actually, no, the way I take a break is to cook. I was 12 years old.

Kimbal Musk: What I found was… It’s a funny story. I told my mother I wanted to a roast a chicken and get some veggies and the whole thing. She was like, I think she thought I was joking. But she took me to the grocery store and I remember picking up these bell peppers and smelling them and she was looking at me going, “Who are you. What is this?” Then we went to the butcher we didn’t like doing bell peppers because I was 12, I wanted to do french fries.

Kimbal Musk: I was like, “I’m going to figure out how to do chicken and French fries that’s going to be great.” We went to the butcher and they butcher gave me this chicken and I still use this lesson to this day, which is put it in a oven as hard as it will go for one hour and you’ve roasted your chicken is really nothing else to do.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Complicated right?

Kimbal Musk: Salt and pepper on it or something like that. You can put olive oil on or you could put some rosemary or something in it. But really all you need to do is put it in the oven for one hour at as hard as the oven will go, which back in those days was probably 450 degrees.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Depending on the size of the chicken though, right?

Kimbal Musk: Not really actually. Since I have a cooktop just stuck with that philosophy and it generally works.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s like a magic trick you put in the oven, turn on, comes out.

Kimbal Musk: It’s super tasty and it’s super easy to share for a family. I cooked it and the chicken came out super well and I was so proud of myself. Then I did the french fries and they were gray and it didn’t work. We ate them because it was all french fries and I was really proud of myself. But then about three minutes later we all started throwing up, because I cooked the french fries in cold oil.

Kimbal Musk: When you put french fries in oil and you’re supposed to have hot oil, so that it seals the oil out of the french fries. I was 12, I didn’t know what I was doing. I put it into a cold oil, and I did eventually heat the oil up so it looked like the french fries were cooking, but what they really were with these oil soaked french fries. I had this positive experience. Then, okay, wait, I really need to learn what I’m doing. But it was a wonderful first cooking experience and I’ll never forget it.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s so great. It seemed like it was inspired really by adversity, which was your mom’s bad cooking.

Kimbal Musk: Exactly. Then I saw the cooking and I started getting better and it was really fun. Cooking is fun. What I loved about it and I learnt this over time was when I cooked, my family would sit down and eat and we would sit for an hour. I have a very busy, intense family and if I didn’t cook-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Under achievers.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah, exactly, exactly. If I didn’t cook, we just pick at something. It was actually a wonderful learning experience. The fact that if I put love into the food, then everyone would sit down and we’d actually learn about each other’s day and connect with each other. I really kept that with me, with my kids, and I just do that. I have planned to do that for the rest of my life.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I think what you’re saying is one of the most important things that could be said in America today because we’re talking about chronic disease. We’re talking about obesity, we’re talking about regenerative Ag, were talking about climate change. But at the end of the day, the solution is really in our kitchen. If everybody got an amron with cooking, which we’ve been basically disrupted from the food industry. It’s literally disinter mediated us from our own kitchens.

Kimbal Musk: It’s taken a lot of joy out of our lives.

Dr. Mark Hyman: The amount of joy and the amount of connection and the amount of love. We all often don’t do real things anymore. Everything’s had a digital tech. But cooking is a real thing. You’re dealing with real things.

Kimbal Musk: Tangible.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Use your hands and your smell and your taste it’s essential experience. At the end of it you get this amazing food and you get to share it and celebrate with your family and community. That really is a huge part of solution.

Kimbal Musk: I think it’s the greatest gift anyone can give themselves to learn how to cook, and cook simple things. You don’t need to cook fancy stuff. But realize that once you get past a few basic technique hurdles, it’s totally joyful, It’s wonderful and fun.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s a lot easier than learning how to drive a car?

Kimbal Musk: Totally. Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Unless, it’s a Tesla.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah, that one just drives itself.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I was in a Tesla the other day and I went to this guy in LA and he’s like, “This car drives itself.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He says, “Watch.” He’s like, “Put it on auto.” He like, it just changed lanes, it stopped in front of a car. I’m like, “Whoa, this is terrifying and it’s amazing.” It was a strange experience.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I think, one of the things that really struck me in your story is you made a lot of success early on. You sold the company that became PayPal. Then it went to Ebay everybody knows that story. But, you decided after that you weren’t going to go chase money anymore. You wanted to learn how to really cook. You went to New York and you went to cooking school.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. It was an interesting choice at the time. Everything was still pretty gangbusters in Silicon Valley. It just didn’t fill me with joy to work on software, even though you could reach a lot of people, of course, you could reach the whole world as we’ve seen today. But back then it was a much smaller part of the world. There was nothing tangible about it. I’ve always loved food and I didn’t expect for food to be my career, but I told myself that I deserve to go to cooking school to learn.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Some people buy a Yacht, you went to cooking school.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. Exactly. People do I know crazy stuff. Mine probably is equally crazy, but in my case it was really meaningful.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s so great. During that time it was right after you graduated that 911 happened.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. I live right downtown at Chambers and Broadway, just about 10 blocks from the World Trade Centers. I woke up at 7:55 AM, from the sound of the first plane hitting the building. I got the buzzing sound from the doorman, I get to the phone, he’s like, “The plane is in the building, the plane is in the building.” You don’t really know what’s going on. You’re a New Yorker, you just think some idiot has flown a plane into some building and like, I’m just, I’m [crosstalk 00:09:56].

Kimbal Musk: I get in the shower, I’m ignoring any of this stuff. I go down to go across the street to the deli to get a cup of coffee, and by the time I get down to the ground floor, the doorman says, “Another plane has hit building. Another plane has hit the building.” I still can’t get my head around what’s going on. Go across to the deli and the deli is… It wasn’t probably the deli, but this time they were, there must been, 30 people in line for a coffee, which is just not normal. I think New Yorkers when they panic, they just line up for coffee.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Get cracked out.

Kimbal Musk: Then what happened was, as I was getting the coffee, on the radio it said the Pentagon got hit.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah.

Kimbal Musk: That is when people really started to freak out and everyone just started running. I went and got my wife at the time, Jen and we just ran and we got to Canal Street by the time the first one fell and you saw this huge wall of white powder smoke.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You were close to that powder then.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. Then policemen and firemen driving out of it at high speeds. A policemen holding onto the outsides of cars because you couldn’t fit in the car. You just had to get out of that… They were covered in white dust. It was just extraordinary. Then the second one we kept going and the second one fell when we got to Union Square.

Kimbal Musk: Seeing it from a distance. When your right there and running, it’s a little bit of panic, but when you’re at Union Square you see it full. It was more like reality breaking. This is not possible. It fundamentally shifted something inside me. I’ll never forget that.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Then you decided you weren’t going to take off and leave and go to San Francisco. You were going to stay there and cook and help.

Kimbal Musk: It’s a traumatic experience. But what happened… My mother, who is very well known, dietician, was asked to cook for the firefighters and laughing about our earlier conversation. She said, “I can’t really cook what my son can.” Then they said, “Well does he have credentials because you got to preach it and millions of people are trying to volunteer right now.”

Dr. Mark Hyman: By the way he just graduated from cooking school.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah, I just graduated from cooking school. I got a security pass and I worked for six weeks, couldn’t cook for the firefighters. I would drive ATVs with the coolers of some of the best food you’ve ever had, I remember taking a salmon dish with dill sauce cooked by some of the finest chefs. I’m in the pealing the potato chef because-

Dr. Mark Hyman: The Sous chef.

Kimbal Musk: Barely even the Sous chef because the people that would come in one day at a time, they would be able to come for the whole time. Would be these famous chefs from around the world that wanted to give their time. It was beautiful experience. I remember driving this ATV down and you get right down to ground zero. It was this giant pile of melting metal and this is a week after 911 and it was still melting.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wow.

Kimbal Musk: You could smell it. It was really intense. I went into this gymnasium that had been converted to a cafeteria, just an empty room. These firefighters came in covered in this weird dust and we would feed them this delicious food and they would connect with each other.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Like a [inaudible 00:13:13].

Kimbal Musk: After about 30 minutes, the energy would come back into their faces and they’d be re-energized. Then they would go right back out into that giant pile of melting metal to save American lives. It was then I was, I really have to work in food. I have to do a restaurant, I have to, I just have to. Even though it didn’t match what I had come from in terms of scale or things like that. I went to Colorado.

Kimbal Musk: I was blocked out of New York and my head could not stay in New York. It was too intense to imagine staying. But I founded Boulder Colorado and we opened the kitchen and we worked with local farmers. Very simple approach to food. Really our goal was to create a community restaurant and it was wonderful. We opened the doors and we hit a nerve. People wanted community through food.

Dr. Mark Hyman: What is a community restaurant?

Kimbal Musk: Well, for us it was… This is before the term Farm To Table came about. For us it was working with food grown in the community, doing as little as possible to it and serving it to the guest in a way that the guests knew which ingredient came from which farmer. You’d get carrots from Cure Farm or you might get parsnips from Monroe Farms. We are not a vegetarian restaurant. We work with local ranchers. You get a pork chop from farmer, John. That would be clear on the menu and it’s now done across the country. But at the time it was a very, unique idea. It was absolutely amazing to see how much people resonated with it. They wanted to trust again, they wanted to know where their food came from.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Transparency.

Kimbal Musk: Transparency became just naturally how we did it without any technology. The idea was just to, highlight the farmers and then the farmers would come in, we’d bring in a farmer on Monday evening. At the time we worked with 43 different farmers. You can imagine how a normal restaurant, a large truck pulls up and the deliveries arrived. We had 43 different farmers coming into the back door at anytime of the day. We would take their food and as long as we got the food by four o’clock, we’d tell the farmers we would get it on the menu. We, would creatively come up with the dishes by 5:30 when we would open the restaurant.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s like an improv restaurant.

Kimbal Musk: It was totally improvd. My co- founder Hugo Matheson is just an extraordinary chef. He can just do magic that way. But all of us participated in being creative about the menu and it was just wonderful to see how much people resonated with knowing where their food came from.

Dr. Mark Hyman: One of the challenges that… We all would love to eat like that. I think that these local farms are often not organized. Everybody’s doing their own thing. They don’t have a distribution system that easily gets things to all hosts to restaurants. You partner with them directly but it seems like there’s an interest in using tech to actually aggregate these small farmers and create distribution systems that bypass the traditional big-

Kimbal Musk: In Colorado, which I think is leading away is, there are groups that do the actual organization of it. If you’re a farmer that wants to work with the kitchen now, you would work with Growers Organic in Colorado. They manage the pickup from the farm and they drop it off at a convenient time to us, which is really, really important when you’re running a restaurant. Back in the early days, we just figure it out. But after time, you’re like, “Okay this is exhausting, let’s have a little system here.” Colorado has got a good system in place. But we do always need more innovation in the space.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. There was a guy I met in Cleveland who actually created a company to work with hospitals and schools and big institutional food providers to actually aggregate small farmers in the community to bring them into all together so they don’t have to do. The farmers don’t do the work.

Kimbal Musk: Farmers can focus on what they’re good at is to grow food.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Institutions don’t have to do the work and it all is seamless. I think that will help. But do you think this is scalable? In terms of the industrial food system is so big and it’s so massive and the-

Kimbal Musk: Well, we’ve seen Gordon Food Services is a partner of ours at Square Roots where Gordon Food Services, one of the largest distributors of food in the country. They have a passion for real food. The challenge that they have found is if they want to bring basil for example, to Michigan in January, they’ve got to get it shipped in from around the world. It’s simply not grown there.

Kimbal Musk: It’s not a choice of theirs, they have to ship it. They tell us it takes 11 days to get from a farm to their distribution center where they can then, they have to get it to a restaurant or a grocery store. This is a company of massive scale that wants to be part of the solution. They came to us at Square Roots, which is our Urban Farming Company, and asked if we would build our campuses of young farmers. We trained young farmers indoors to grow indoors.

Kimbal Musk: If we build our campuses on their distribution centers so, we can now harvest basil in the morning and their trucks are right there and it gets to their customer within two hours, which of course means the food tastes better. Of course means they trust the food, there’s total transparency. It also lasts two weeks because it doesn’t have to sit in transit for 11 days and you don’t design the food for shipping. You design it for taste and flavor.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Right. Amazing. One of the things about Square Roots, which is the Indoor Farming Company that can be urban and shipping and is so great, is you use tech and it can grow certain types of crops and not others. More leafy greens and herbs and spices. But it was in part response to farming crisis in this country where the farmers are aging out. Can you talk about what’s happening in the farm landscape in America, and why we need to bring new farmers into the landscape?

Kimbal Musk: I spent years working on this problem. What I would do is, there’s a farmer’s conference in Iowa where you can actually go and meet with farmers who own most of the… Iowa is mostly small hold farmers. Average farm size is 160 acres. But you could imagine going in and talking to farmers directly and maybe there’s a way to get into the business.

Dr. Mark Hyman: The average farm size an Iowa is 160 acres?

Kimbal Musk: I believe so. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wow. That’s a homestead size.

Kimbal Musk: There’s a rule in Iowa. You’re not allowed to own… No corporations are allowed to own farms in Iowa. Even if you wanted to create a conglomerate of farms, you’d have to do it by yourself not as part of a company.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wow.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. It’s a couple of rules like that keep the farms on average small. There are plenty of big farms in Iowa, but there are owned by personal one family. I think you’re allowed to have only up to 40 family members or even allowed to own it. If you have a big family, eventually you got to figure out what to do with your farmland. A lot of rules in place that actually make it possible for people to get into farming. But also to protect it to be a small family business idea. This all sounds good but the problem what I found was you go to the conference and the average age was not 58 or 59, which is what people say is the average. The average was more like 82.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Really? You’re just being facetious.

Kimbal Musk: I’m not being facetious. In Iowa, 60% of the… Sorry. 60% of the farm land is owned by people over the age of 79.

Dr. Mark Hyman: What?

Kimbal Musk: If you go to Iowa to actually purchase land or get into the business, you’re negotiating with an octogenarian. What I discovered was, immigrant South African maverick whatever you want to call it, with a cowboy hat coming into chat with these farmers and I’m negotiating with an 85 year old late grandma. It just didn’t go well, let’s just put it that way. What I found was that. It’s an enormous emotional attachment to their land. What they want is their kids to farm it and what they want is their grandkids to farm it.

Dr. Mark Hyman: But they’re not doing it.

Kimbal Musk: They’re not doing it because the business sucks.

Dr. Mark Hyman: When the average income of a farmer is?

Kimbal Musk: Well, if you have a 100 acre farm in Iowa in a good year, which we haven’t had a good year for a few years, you’d make $22000. If you imagine you were a young farmer.

Dr. Mark Hyman: The average income of most farmers is negative 15 per?

Kimbal Musk: This past two years in a row has been negative $1800 for 100 acre farm. It’s just been a disaster. In fact, we have the worst year for bankruptcy is in a generation this year in amongst farmers. Almost 600 farmers went bankrupt and it’s just awful. The reason is because they’re so emotionally attached to the land, they want their kids to farm it. As a result the kids don’t take it over and most farms are bought through estate sales. Someone passes away and then the family doesn’t want it. That’s how you can acquire land and go to farming. Man, that’s just too depressing for me to figure out.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, you said you wanted to go outside of Chicago and buy 10000 acres.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah, the idea was I’d get 10000 acres. The problem is, you have to buy 160 acre piece of land from a farmer that when they pass away. Then you have to wait for all of your neighbors to pass away to get-

Dr. Mark Hyman: You’ll be 82 years old.

Kimbal Musk: Exactly. You’re running me like, this is not going to work. Of course that’s why there is no innovation in this space because farmers are aging and bless his heart. They’re not doing anything wrong. They’re doing what the government’s telling them to do. It’s just that what the government is telling them to do is stuck in the past.

Dr. Mark Hyman: The whole financial system of the farming supports all go to producing these mono crops. You were saying that ethanol.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. Ethanol is one of those unique things, and I think might be one of the only things that is equally hated by environmentalists and oil companies. It is an absolute waste of land because you’re taking 25 million acres of land, which is American farm land. People say we need to feed the world. We have run out of things to do at our farm and to such a degree that we’ve given away 40% of our farm land to growing ethanol. It takes a gallon of oil to make a gallon of ethanol.

Dr. Mark Hyman: How does that does not make sense?

Kimbal Musk: There’s no positive impact on the environment from the use of fossil fuels.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Because of all the inputs, the fertilizer the tractors.

Kimbal Musk: But then also you have the pesticides and the roundup and the GMO. It’s all GMO and so it’s disaster for the environment. Nitrogen is killing our rivers, it’s a total disaster for the environment. On the other side, the oil producers are saying, “Why are you making us do this? This is not really helping the cars. This is not really making a difference environmentally.”

Kimbal Musk: But the reason we’re stuck in it is because what else do you do with these farmers. You can’t say to them, “Sorry guys.” The government cannot say to them, “We’re just going to stop buying ethanol from you if you’ll stop making people buy ethanol farm use.” Because those politicians, we voted out of office very quickly. What do you do? I think it is a real problem, but as a result young farmers do not have access to land and that’s a reality.

Kimbal Musk: Then you can’t get around that. That’s when I started working on indoor farming to create… Square Roots is a company we based in Brooklyn, we have another campus in Michigan where we bring young farmers in for one year. They run a climate farm. It’s a shipping container converted to an indoor farm.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You can regulate and change the climate depending on the time.

Kimbal Musk: Is amazing how wonderful the food we can create. One of our farmers did their research and found out that Genoa, Italy has best basil, which actually is where basil comes from so that makes sense. But there was a particular summer in 1997 where the basil is known to have been the best.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Like a year of wine.

Kimbal Musk: Like a year of Wine. Exactly. In that area, of course they keep track of this stuff because it’s how important it is to them. This young farmer mapped out what time does the sun come up? What times is sunset, what days does it rain, the humidity, the carbon dioxide the oxygen levels. The nutrients and recreated Genovese Basil from 1997 in their climate farm.

Kimbal Musk: It’s just extraordinary. The basil is more aromatic, it’s got more oils to it. It’s got a softer texture. It’s absolutely delicious. There are a few other things as well. We don’t have the same length of stalk. If you have a Genovese Basil from 1997, it’s all leaf and very little stalk just because of the nature of the season. In America, if you buy basil, you open the basal container. It’s just a whole bunch of stalks with some leaves in it. Our basal is this wonderfully unique basil that is really mostly leaves and a beautiful, delicious, aromatic basil.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I’m dying for my basil tomato. That’s my favorite thing.

Kimbal Musk: You can pick it up in New York and Michigan.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I’m going to Brooklyn.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah Brooklyn exactly. We sell out, and we have requests from all of our grocery stores to continue to expand. We’re working hard to do that.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s the way you call hyper local, the furthest distribution point. As you said, two subway stops away.

Kimbal Musk: Two subway stops. Exactly. It’s actually quite fun because the demand keeps growing and we keep adding production and we still sell out before the second subway stops. While we’re wondering when the day’s going to come and like, “Oh, we have to go three subway stops because we have a little more than we expected this week.”

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. Economically does it work? In other words, could you put this in the Bronx and in underserved neighborhoods, could you produce greens and things that actually could serve that local community and provide jobs and help everybody.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. For sure, we love working in underserved communities so that’s Square Roots is in Bed- Stuy and it’s just part of my personal mission to bring real food to everyone is to get these farms into communities that would normally have not ever seen a basal plant. Folks would grow up in that area and have never been out to a farm. I love that. The economics work pretty well. We think that over time it’ll work very well.

Kimbal Musk: But the goal is to empower young farmers and so we just need to make sure we have a living wage for those farmers. It’s a one year program and we are able to do that very well. Then as the technology improves and our production improves, the economics become more and more sustainable and we can expand to the Bronx and we can expand to other parts of the country and eventually the world. This will be how, if we want to empower young farmers this is how we will empower young farmers to get into the food business.

Dr. Mark Hyman: How does what they learn at Square Roots translate to traditional farming? Does it translate if they want to work on one of the regenerative farm or go upstate.

Kimbal Musk: Totally. In fact, we have a graduate from our program last year that works up at Stone Barns, which is a phenomenal farm in upstate New York, run by Dan Barber. Is probably the premier farm in the country. He got recruited by, by that farm to… In fact, he had to come to us and say he needs to leave the program a couple months early because our program ends in October and they needed him in July.

Kimbal Musk: We said, “That’s the whole point go and be a farmer. That’s the point.” But we have about 80% of our graduates. We’ve now got 42 farmers either in training or graduated. 80% of our graduates stay in the food business. Many of them stay in indoor farming, some go to outdoor farming. We have one farmer that is up in Bronx working with the organization, Teens For Food Justice.

Kimbal Musk: Helping kids and teenagers get access to real food, which I love. If I can create more people like that, that’s just… If we played a even a tiny role in that person’s him in making that decision to help kids in the Bronx. I love it.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It seems like a key part of the solution to some of what’s happening. But there are criticisms that people talk about. I’ve heard Dan Barber questioning from a purist as a chef, what is the quality of it? What are the nutrients in it? When I think about human health, because I’m a doctor, well, okay, we’re going to learn about vitamins and minerals and how important they were and how critical they were to life.

Dr. Mark Hyman: We took food, we processed it intensely, and we threw some vitamins in there. We do fortified flour, but it turned out that, that’s not that great. Yes, you get the vitamins, you don’t see rickets, you don’t see beriberi in playground, all these horrible diseases. But you’re not actually getting the richness of what’s in the soil that brings the fighter nutrients for example, into the plant that all will help you.

Dr. Mark Hyman: When I think about the soil, soil is so complex, it’s so rich, especially when you have real organic matter, not the stuff we grow food in, which is mostly dirt. It’s using heavy intensive pesticides and fertilizers and herbicides and so on. But how do you answer that question of the complexity of the soil, all the microbes extracting various compounds from the soil that go into the plans that actually make it nutrient dense. How do you answer that question?

Kimbal Musk: Well, on the nutrient side, that’s an easy part. But I think there’s more complex answer. Nutrients part, when we run out of climate farms, we can actually adjust the lighting and nutrients to increase vitamin C or increase vitamin D in the actual basil. We can actually do that. It’s pretty amazing.

Dr. Mark Hyman: What about the phytochemicals? For example basil is full of all these things that aren’t vitamins and minerals that are phytochemicals that give it, it’s a potent medical benefits.

Kimbal Musk: I will say that the oils in the basil are much higher than you’d get a soil-based farm. The aromatic oils that will make basil, what basil is. I’m not an expert on those phytonutrients, but I would have guessed that it actually does a good job. But there’s a month in the year when a soil farm is absolutely better. In June, you grow basil in upstate New York. I agree it’s much better. The complex answer though is, let me finish that. For the other 11 months. If you try to grow basil in upstate New York, it’s okay. It’s just not that great. For us we really produce the same basil all year long. We get 12 to 13 seasons a year.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Oh, yeah. That’s pretty good.

Kimbal Musk: A farmer is busy all year long. It’s not a feast and famine experience. It’s a real occupation. Our basil is the best basil in New York, but there are times in the year-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Except in June.

Kimbal Musk: In June, Exactly. But also you have to get it from really good farm in June. Of course that’s all sold out and it’s very hard to get. What’s nice about Square Roots is we can get it to you all year long and we also sell out, but we are able to expand which is great. But the more complex answer is that it doesn’t really matter because we don’t have access to soil. But if you want to grow basil in upstate New York, you better be a multimillionaire to start. Have about 10 years to find a farm.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Then build up the soil.

Kimbal Musk: Then build up the soil.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. It’s a lot.

Kimbal Musk: For me in my lifetime to have an impact on the food we eat, bringing real food to everyone. I looked at working with those farmers in Iowa and I just saw 50 years of trying and maybe scratching the surface but not really making a difference. With Square Roots, what I love about it is, we are currently training 20 next generation farmers right now and next year we think we could get it to 50. The year after that we could get it to 250 and the year after that we could get it to a 1000 farmers being trained in one single year.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s incredible.

Kimbal Musk: Then I look at it and go, that gets me going, that I love.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Let’s talk about the farmers then because you mentioned this ethanol mandate, which requires 25 million acres, which is what?

Kimbal Musk: That’s like the size of the Central Valley in California.

Dr. Mark Hyman: What percentage?

Kimbal Musk: It’s 40% of all our corn being farmed.

Dr. Mark Hyman: 40% of our corn.

Kimbal Musk: 40%.

Dr. Mark Hyman: We think we grow corn for food, but it’s actually for-

Kimbal Musk: The feed the world mantra was all drawn by Monsanto. Basically Monsanto said that… Was a marketing genius, said that we will have to feed the world this is our mission. The American lobbyists, you tell a Senator that we need to feed America. They’re like, of course we do. They were almost too successful because in the end, this is in the mid ‘2000s. The government said, “Hey, wait a minute, we don’t actually know what to do with this food. What are we going to do with it? There was not enough people in the world that we can ship in.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Or [inaudible 00:35:02] about 300 more calories per person on the planet today than people need to eat.

Kimbal Musk: We actually produce enough calories for everyone in the ’60s. We don’t need more calories, but what happened is, in the mid two thousands the Bush administration was basically not going to get reelected, because people who are farmers are older and they vote. We ran out of use of the corn. He created the ethanol mandate so that any extra corn being grown would be forced to be used as ethanol. It sounded good from an environmental perspective. It’s been a disaster. But at the time it sounded good. What it really was a giant subsidy for those farmers. It quickly grew to be 40% of our production.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Stunning 40%?

Kimbal Musk: Right now-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Grown in ways that are destructive to the earth.

Kimbal Musk: Totally disruptive poisoning the waterways.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Creating climate change, soil erosion.

Kimbal Musk: This greatest sadness for me is preventing that land from being used by young farmers.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It seems to me, that I think this is the first time I really put the whole ethanol mandate together and I’ve been studying this for a while, so I don’t know how I missed it. But just the idea came to me of if we have 25 million acres, 40% of our land is used to grow ethanol, that neither environmentalist or the energy industry think is a good idea. Why not turn all that into regenerative farms and bring new farmers in and create a whole program of regenerative Ag, on these-

Kimbal Musk: That is the right thing to do. That is absolutely the right thing to do.

Dr. Mark Hyman: 25 million acres, it’s like what?

Kimbal Musk: By the way, all you have to do-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Everybody wins.

Kimbal Musk: All you have to do is remove the ethanol mandate, and it would happen automatically because people would be forced to sell that land to generative farmers. But of course, whoever does it is going to get elected out of office. You have to have someone.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Why?

Kimbal Musk: Because those people vote and their value-

Dr. Mark Hyman: But you help the farmers transition?

Kimbal Musk: A smart politician would create a transitional plan. Absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Because that’s what we need. We need an investment in regenerative farmers.

Kimbal Musk: Because the regenerative farming, if you can actually get access to the soil is a carbon sink. You have food that is real food grown for their community. You have millions of acres outside cities like Chicago or Saint Paul Minnesota, Indianapolis or Detroit, in Cleveland. Millions and millions and millions and millions of acres that would get freed up for regenerative farming.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it’s true. In some countries they pay the farmers to restore the environment. They call it paying for ecosystem services.

Kimbal Musk: Exactly. Farmers can play this amazing role, but we are stuck in a system that does not allow them to do. In fact, the government will punish you if you change from corn and soybeans to growing real food.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, it’s true. In Costa Rica they pay the farmers for putting carbon in the soil for farming in a way that holds water in the soil, for farming in a way that restores biodiversity and brings back pawning a species. They actually pay the farmers for that. It’s happening in various areas around the world. Because we have to actually look at the true cost of what’s going on in the ecosystem services that we use up around the world is like $124 trillion, that’s more than the global economy.

Dr. Mark Hyman: What if we just flipped it on its head and said, “Hey, why don’t we start paying for restoring the environments instead of extracting all these resources from the environment. We can actually make food this better for us. Make food this better for the animals, treat the animals better and actually restore the ecosystem and be more profitable.

Kimbal Musk: Yes. What’s so sad about Iowa is all of the farmers are losing money, but they cannot change from pumping the soil with nitrogen fertilizer and growing corn and soybeans because otherwise the government will truly punish them. The Des Moines waterworks, utility in Des Moines, is suing all the farmers in Iowa for putting so much nitrogen in the water that it’s killing people.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yes. Lake Erie became a person in a sense by the legislature because it has rights now so they can’t poison it.

Kimbal Musk: The problem is the farmers. Can you imagine Des Moines, which is the capital of Iowa, suing the rest of Iowa, and the rest of Iowa saying, “Well, we don’t have a choice because you guys at in Des Moines have told us we can’t farm anything else.” It’s this awful trap that we’re stuck in.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, it seems like an elegant solution. They just end ethanol mandate, changed the gender farms, bring in new farming. Young people care about this. It just seems-

Kimbal Musk: I would solemnly give credit to Donald Trump. But he actually has been trying to do that.

Dr. Mark Hyman: He has?

Kimbal Musk: Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Ending the ethanol mandate?

Kimbal Musk: Maybe not ending it entirety but reducing it. I can’t even put a rational thought on that an administration, I can’t really rationalize it.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s even hard to talk about it.

Kimbal Musk: It’s hard to talk about it I’m going to explain what’s going on. But the point is that even he is backing off because this is a very powerful group of voters that are old and they need a proper plan to transition.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I think that’s right.

Kimbal Musk: Just removing the ethanol mandate.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You can’t do that.

Kimbal Musk: You just can’t do that. You have to have a plan that really does support the farmers. As I said this past year to have 600 farmers go bankrupt and these are big farmers that normally would thrive. That’s not okay.

Dr. Mark Hyman: What’s interesting, I just talked to a farmer Gabe Brown. You might’ve heard about him.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah you’ve mentioned.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Who told me this story of how he went from a traditional big 5000 acre industrial farm with tons of chemical inputs, which was basically decimated during hailstorms and multiple years of drought and hailstorms and he couldn’t merger gender farming. He says now he doesn’t use any inputs, he uses rainwater. He uses the fertilizer that comes from the cows and the beans that he plants. He uses cover crops, no tilling crop rotations, integrating animals and plants into the farm, cows, pigs, chicken, sheep.

Kimbal Musk: That’s absolutely the answer.

Dr. Mark Hyman: He said, he does far better. His farm is more resilient to weather.

Kimbal Musk: He’s making actually a profit.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I asked him. I said, “How much more are you making than your neighbor?” He says “20 times more.” I was like, “Well, if this is more profitable than a farmer, it’s better for the environment, it creates better food for humans, it treats the animals better. It seems like a no brainer.”

Kimbal Musk: Yes. The challenges that the farmers are so old. Gabe isn’t as old, but if you’re 85, it’s hard to innovate.

Dr. Mark Hyman: How can they even be farming?

Kimbal Musk: Well, what happens is they assign it to a management company that does a good job of doing whatever they say, but the most profitable is not very profitable, is just do exactly the same thing, corn and soybeans. There’s no risk in it either because if things fail, the government steps in with crop insurance and subsidies. It’s really I think of it more like a pension. They don’t actually do any farming.

Kimbal Musk: In order for it to be innovative is we need that land to be unlocked. We need a transitional plan that encourages young farmers to take on that land and farm regeneratively. I think it’s not that complicated to do that, but it’s going to require understanding that the folks who own these farms, they also need to be treated with respect as well. It’s not their fault that they’re doing this. This is what the government told them to do.

Dr. Mark Hyman: They’re being squeezed by our government policies and by big Ag, it’s they’re the ones who are suffering the most.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. Another thing the government could do is just not punish you if you do change. If you change from growing corn or soybeans to tomatoes for example, the government will not back up that insurance.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Right. If you have a big soy farm and you want to have 10 acres of tomatoes, you lose your ability to get crop insurance for your soybeans?

Kimbal Musk: The government will not back you up.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s pretty crazy.

Kimbal Musk: That’s not okay either. There’s things, that were created 50 years ago by the lobbyists of Monsanto that if it wasn’t a crop that they supported, there was just simply no legislation to support it. Monsanto is getting, it’s come upings right now. Unfortunately getting out of that system is going to take a lot of effort politically as well as culturally.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. You’re focusing on the ground with real solutions for how people find and eat real food in your restaurants. You’re doing it through disrupting farming, by bringing urban farming and training the future generation of farmers. Your also doing it in schools because schools where kids start to learn about food, it’s where they get hooked on bad things and our curriculums have been disrupted so that there is no longer Home-ec. It was an intentional initiative by the food industry to remove Home-ec from schools and it was successful.

Kimbal Musk: That is so sad.

Dr. Mark Hyman: We’ve changed gender trained, now raised generations of Americans who don’t know how to cook. You’re trying to change all that. What’s interesting is that a lot of you were talking about school gardens and helping with school lunches and all that’s great. But at the end of the day you have to retrain kids to learn about food nutrition. You’ve done it not just with the gardens but integrating the gardens in the curriculum. Can you talk about how that works and why Big Green is such an important initiative.

Kimbal Musk: Big Green has become my proudest achievement and I am so happy. The team that we have at Big, Green and what we’ve done-

Dr. Mark Hyman: PayPal is a footnote?

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. That was in the old days. I think what I found when we opened the kitchen in 2004, we took some of the profits and we supported the school gardens in the community. One of our first employees, I wanted to do that, and we thought that would be a nice way to give back. Every year with a lot of financial support from us and others, this person was able to open two new school gardens a year. I had a very serious accident in 2010.

Kimbal Musk: Between 2004 and 2010, I was getting really frustrated that we couldn’t reach that many more kids, it was very effective. You get a school garden into a school, food literacy goes up, access to food increases, the choice of fruits and vegetables goes up. Test scores go up, if you do it the same science lesson in fifth grade in a school garden versus in the class test scores go up by 15 points on a 100 points scale.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Is it because they’re eating that food or because-

Kimbal Musk: It’s experiential there having fun exactly. It’d be mentioned learning out of a textbook versus being in a garden. You’ve just got to remember and that better. It did work, but it just didn’t scale. I got really frustrated. In 2010, I had a very serious accident, I went down a ski hill one of those sanction children’s runs it wasn’t an illegal thing.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You never saw the age limit. You’re not speeding.

Kimbal Musk: No, exactly. They should have been a height limit. I was six, four. Weirdly, I’m six five now because of the surgery.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Now that’s an index. People are going to be writing. How do I get the height extension surgery? You’ll break your neck, you’ll break your neck.

Kimbal Musk: I went down the ski hill of the tube flipped. It was meant for a kid so I’m six five and just really wasn’t meant for someone of my size. It threw me, landed on my head going 35 miles an hour, broke my spine at C6 and C7. Ruptured the spinal column, paralyzed for three days, it’s just impossible to describe the lack of feeling and because if it was paralysis there no pain. There’s just nothing.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Like the void.

Kimbal Musk: It’s just you watch your body and you just can’t move it. You’d send the signal to your left hand to go move and it just doesn’t move. You just can’t believe it, you just cannot process it. The doctors actually were telling me that the way I broke my spine, my neck was they could fix it.

Kimbal Musk: There was bleeding in the spinal column, so that was causing the paralysis. But if they can get in and fix it fast enough, I’d get feeling back and hopefully motion and so forth. But I remember them telling me this and I was paralyzed and I’m thinking to myself, “Oh no, okay, it’s going to be fine. It’s going to be fine.” There were just tears streaming down the side of my face.

Kimbal Musk: I just had no, no ability to process what was going on. It was just absolutely awful. Three days later, the surgery was successful, but I also had to be horizontal for two months as part of the therapy. I think while I was in hospital, while I was paralyzed and they were telling me they could fix me, I said to myself that if they did fix me. I would figure food and how to scale real food, bring real food to everyone.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Why, because the hospital food was so bad?

Kimbal Musk: Well, probably because I had been working in food, but I couldn’t scale. I had this block in my head that you can’t scale school gardens, you can’t scale restaurants. That’s more precious than-

Dr. Mark Hyman: You never had of McDonald’s?

Kimbal Musk: That’s the weird thing. It’s obviously scalable, but I had this block in my head and when I had this accident and I was sitting in hospital, I said to myself, “I’m going to give this a try.” I’m going to focus entirely on food. It was a restart in my life. When you break your neck, you get permission from everyone to do anything at all. If not for my joke about is, if not for the physical trauma, I highly recommend the psychological awakening, because what I got out of that was permission to be myself and myself was working on food.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You came right up against your mortality.

Kimbal Musk: Exactly. You look back on your life and you say to yourself that… I told myself that, I have a capacity to do good things and I’m good at building businesses, I’m good at leading people. I had done my restaurant and I had done a little bit of work in school gardens. But most of my effort was in the technology space, which really just did not get me going.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Didn’t hit your soul.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. Many other people are even better at it than me. Good for them and they should do it. But for me, where I’m uniquely gifted at is I love food. I love cooking for people and I’m good at building businesses. I just gave myself permission to combine my purpose and my passion. It’s just been amazing.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. That’s such an incredible story. I also went through a similar crisis that changed the course of my life which was, I got very ill like 25 years ago. Having to figure out how to get better, led me to want to tell the world about a new way of thinking about medicine in the body. But it’s really about systems thinking and it’s about ecosystems. That’s what’s led me to think about farming and all the things that we’re talking about today because they’re all connected, if we don’t fix these problems. We’re not going to fix our health. We’re not going to fix our economy.

Kimbal Musk: I’ve got to give you a shout out. One of my team members his name is Kevin. His daughter struggled with asthma for years, chronic asthma. We’d go to the doctor, they’d give her medications and never worked. He read your book Eating To Beat Disease.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That was William Lee.

Kimbal Musk: Sorry. That’s William Lee’s book. Yours is what the heck should I eat?

Dr. Mark Hyman: FOOD: What The Heck Should I Eat.

Kimbal Musk: Sorry about that.

Dr. Mark Hyman: William Lee is good.

Kimbal Musk: Well, I love William Lee. What I mean, when they read your book. Changed the way his daughter ate. Not only did she improve and she’s a healthier kid right now, but he actually went to her doctor and took your book in. The doctor said that your book was the best approach to eating that she as a doctor had seen and is now prescribing that book to her patients.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Amazing. Well, it’s not based on ideology. It’s really honest. It’s here’s what we know. Here’s what we don’t know. Here’s what we’re learning and here’s how to eat, it’s better for you in the planet. It’s pretty simple and brings common sense in size.

Kimbal Musk: You really made a man to shout out for you.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Thank you. I really appreciate that.

Kimbal Musk: It’s someone that I know. I interact with every day.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s amazing. You went to get this school curriculum out there to not just thousands, but millions.

Kimbal Musk: We’re at 350000 kids every school day. We’re 650 schools. We combine the curriculum of science with what kids learn and science in the classroom, we bring it into the garden and they actually learn their science lessons in the garden.The teachers don’t have to do extra work. They just go outside to teach the same lesson.

Kimbal Musk: It’s a one of maybe the right or wrong thing to do, but we actually know what paragraph of what textbook is being taught at what hour of the day in every district. It’s just because that’s how teachers are trained to focus on. It’s amazing how structured it is. Unfortunately, I wish teachers had a bit more freedom, but as a result we can say, oh, we know that you’re going to teach. But we do plant a seed down the first day of spring.

Kimbal Musk: March 19th this coming year, we get teachers across the country to pledge to plant a seed with their kids. But what we do is we know the paragraph in the science textbook they have to teach on that day. We can say, here’s the lesson. Let’s all go teach together. In the classroom, if you’re in the Northern climates and outdoors, if you’re in the Southern climates and you’ll plant a seed with your kids. Our goal of this coming a plan to see days to get every teacher in America to pledge to plant the seed with their kids.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You’re teaching also the cooking, you’re teaching them about food, you’re teaching about nutrition, you’re teaching in the garden?

Kimbal Musk: Well, anytime the food comes out of the garden, you deal with kitchens in schools which are not very sophisticated.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Big fryers and microwaves mostly.

Kimbal Musk: Basic warming ovens. There are things that you can do really well. If you give kale from the garden to a kitchen worker, they can put the kale in an oven, warming oven and bake it.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Make kale crisps.

Kimbal Musk: They’ll have kale chips. It’s absolutely delicious. Little bit of drizzle of olive oil, a little touch of salt and you put it in these warming ovens. That’s a very popular ingredient that’s cooked from our learning gardens that it’s absolutely delicious. Anyone at home, go get some kale, make sure there’s no water on it, put it in the oven, 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Little salt and olive oil and you’ll have kale chips, which is like french fries.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s like your chicken.

Kimbal Musk: With all the nutrition you can imagine.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Your magic one hour chicken.

Kimbal Musk: Yes. Exactly, exactly, cooking is not that hard.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. That is really true. You’ve been thinking long and hard about the food space, and you’ve been acting in these sectors, farming, school and learning and restaurants. As someone who’s really deep in this, looking at our global food system, looking at our food policies, what really needs to change and how are you working in advocacy space, or are you?

Kimbal Musk: I did work, I toured the Congress Congressional Holes with Tom Colicchio who is so passionate around policy. He does great things in that area and I respect it. I didn’t find it good for me.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Doesn’t ring your bell.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. For me, I’d rather-

Dr. Mark Hyman: You don’t like hanging out with politicians you don’t get anything done?

Kimbal Musk: Exactly. Oh my God. It’s so against my DNA, it’s just crazy. I support Tom and I do everything I can to help him succeed. There’s another group called the National Young Farmers Coalition, which is a lobbyist for young farmers, which of course the young farmers don’t pay them anything. It’s a nonprofit that people who care about farming support local like myself, and a few other folks.

Kimbal Musk: But those folks understand Capitol Hill, they understand the patients that’s required. I trust them help move legislation forward, but they need more help. They need as much of us as possible to help them either with political support where we actually go to the congressional hill and support folks like Tom and National Young Farmers. But also financial support if there’s a nonprofit out there, you guys want to support us.

Kimbal Musk: The National Young Farmers Coalition. Those guys are really working on to figure out how to get young people into farming, give them access to land, if they don’t know about Square Roots, they’ll let young farmers know about squares if they happened to live into one of the cities we’re working in. But it’s about getting those young farmers engaged, which is going to be both political support which I support others to do because I don’t have that DNA. Then actual entrepreneurial support and figuring out how to create businesses that work for young farmers.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, it’s true there’s so much innovation in this space in food and that.

Kimbal Musk: It’s a very exciting time.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It’s really one of the fastest growing sectors of innovation and funding from venture capitalists. It’s just striking and bypassing the government in a way, which is actually what’s needed.

Kimbal Musk: I grew up in South Africa where I was in a group doing apartheid era. I was in protests, anti-apartheid protests my teen years, I grew up with such a skepticism of what of government’s role. Just how bad it could be, frankly. In America, I’m not suggesting government shouldn’t play a part, they should do their part. But I don’t come at it from a perspective of the government’s going to solve our problems. I come at it from the perspective that we’re going to probably solve it despite the government. Unfortunately, I think in the food world that is becoming the case.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I was [inaudible 00:56:51] a conference where we met called Food Tank and Sam Kass who worked for the Obama’s on their food policy and nutrition standards. He said, “We don’t have a food movement.” Many people disputed that who were in the audience. But I think what he meant was we don’t really have an organized force. It’s lobbying and creating coordinated policy and strategies.

Kimbal Musk: There is that group, the National Young Farmers Coalition.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s one segment.

Kimbal Musk: I think he’s right though. I think for the most part, the only lobbyists out there are the ones protecting the entrenched corn and soybean industry, the ethanol industry. Those are the wrong people to succeed. Unfortunately, because there’s no one to be a counterbalance, we do struggle on Capitol Hill. That being said, Tom Colicchio got up right after that and said, “Hey, wait a minute, let’s give ourselves some credit on this wonderful programs that had been successful because of the food movement in Washington DC.” I think it’s good for the provocative talk, but I actually do think that there is some success happening and we should be proud of our achievements. It’s just the beginning though and we have a lot of work to do.

Dr. Mark Hyman: If you were in charge, you are King you had autocratic power which it’d be awesome for a minute.

Kimbal Musk: That’s right.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Sometimes hitoccracies are great. Saudi Arabia they’ll put in a 50% soda tax and 100% energy drink tax. Nobody is going to bother them. What would you think are the biggest things in leverage we need to pull to change the food system?

Kimbal Musk: I think the answer is really simple. It would be a program, government program that empowers young farmers to buy land from older farmers in Iowa. You’d start there, but that does mean you only do it in Iowa. But you could, just to keep it simple. If someone wants to buy a 100 acres or a 1000 acres, there needs to be government support for that, because that is expensive. Then there needs to be transitional support, because young farmers are not going to come in and farm corn and soybeans that’s not interesting to them.

Kimbal Musk: They don’t make any money anyway. It’s not aspirational, so it would be a program that would subsidize young farmers to get into the business, not a giveaway but maybe a loan or some structure that, that would only qualify if you grow real food. That I think would actually be very, very cheap for the government to do.

Kimbal Musk: It would be received with joy from the farmers in Iowa today because young people would come back into their community. Young farmers would get access to land in a way that they could build a profitable business like Gay Brown, and everyone I think would be really happy.

Dr. Mark Hyman: That’s true. I think you’re right. The UN came out with a report that said that for $300 million, which is the amount the world spends on military spending in just 60 days, which is about one 110th of what we spend on obesity and diabetes alone in this country which is an annual economy of Chile, which I don’t think is that big. We could literally massively scale regenerative farming and that would delay climate change by 20 years, giving us more time to figure things out.

Kimbal Musk: But it also carbon sink. It continues to get better.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Right, exactly. It’s not just ending a mission we have to reverse it. I was surprised. The head of the Google Food Program and I was sitting having dinner last night and he said, “If you could do one thing to transform everything that you’re talking about around food and health and disease economy, I’m like, what would it be?” I was like, I don’t really think I’ve thought about what’s the one thing? But I was forced to think about it and I said, “Really scaling regenerative agriculture. Because I realized that all the problems connect.

Dr. Mark Hyman: If we create better land stewardship, we solve all our environmental and climate problems. We revitalize the economy back, creating more jobs. We decrease our federal debt by ending a lot of the chronic disease that’s caused by the food, we make people healthier.

Kimbal Musk: We’re less reliant on selling food to China, which is truly a trade enemy.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You create an environment where you restore the land, you restore the economy, restore human health, you restore communities end, injustice. It sounds simple, but I’m thinking about it more and more. I think it is a critical, if not the most critical solution because it’s this downstream wave of effects that helps everything.

Kimbal Musk: Yeah. It really is not expensive. What we learnt at Square Roots is we have 10 climate farms in, in Brooklyn. When we did a call for applications, I just did a blog post. I was curious, how many applications would we get? We got 1100 applications for those 10 climate forms.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Really?

Kimbal Musk: 1100.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Wow. You’re getting like PhDs from Harvard.

Kimbal Musk: We have some of the most amazing… Our young farmers are the best and the brightest of people who want to be young farmers. It’s really a wonderful group of farmers. But the demand for being a young farmer is extraordinary. You need to make it possible. What we do at Square Roots is we give them a one year training program. They come in they grow basil or mint or chives or other products that we’re working on we’ll announce soon.

Kimbal Musk: It’s fun for them. It’s a campus so they’re with other farmers and it’s a community element to it. We do community events and they do it for one year. They get paid a living wage. They love what they do. Then they go off into the food world and they become a soil farmer or an indoor farmer or a one of them is doing a PA. Very cool one of our graduates got into the hardest Ag school in the world to get into.

Kimbal Musk: It’s in the Netherlands. I believe she got in as a PhD candidate even though Joanie had an undergraduate. It jumped to PhD which if anyone knows, that’s really, really hard to do. It’s the hardest university in the world to get into because of our experience at Square Roots, it’s this extraordinary training platform that lets young farmers get access to farming so they can find their love. It’s wonderful to see someone combining their purpose and their passion, which I found in myself, but now we can give it to these young farmers. My goal is to do this with thousands of young farmers every year.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Now somebody will say your brother is disrupting the car industry. You are clearly disrupting the food industry is such an amazing thing you’re doing. I think if people are listening and want to know how to get more involved, they can go to They can learn about Big Green Square Roots. They can learn about the kitchen, all the things you’re doing. I was going to say apply for a square woods, but I don’t think that’s a good case.

Kimbal Musk: You should apply. We’re always looking for great young farmers don’t be discouraged by the number of applicants, but we’re also growing. There’s always opportunity and we’re always looking for good people.

Dr. Mark Hyman: If you’re in communities where their schools are challenged and they need help. Big Green is just a great resource and they can help implement these programs. If you have money you want to donate, please do. This is really-

Kimbal Musk: A large foundation’s that we work at a 100 schools at a time at Big Green. We do a city by city. Maybe we can do Cleveland together?

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yes man. I called one of your people to talk about this and they were like, I said, this is great important school district. We’ve got whatever 12 schools, we’re like, “Oh no, we want to do 100 schools.” I’m like, “All right, now you’re talking.”

Kimbal Musk: It is credit. If their foundations in Cleveland or any city that want to bring us at that scale, then please do reach out. I’m at Kimbal on Twitter or reach out through my website. But the goal here is to do it at scale, and if it’s one or two schools at a time, they’re wonderful nonprofits that already work locally and you guys should support those nonprofits. If a foundation or a family office wants to do a large scale project in their city, that’s where Big Green is really effective.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, thank you so much Kimbal for being on the Doctor’s Farmacy. This conversation clearly matters to so many of us and I really appreciate the work you’re doing, your heart, your passion, and I’m glad you woke up. I saw you had the accident, but it’s-

Kimbal Musk: I’m glad to be here too.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You’re filled with joy and light and passion which I can see it in the way you are. It’s just beautiful. Thank you.

Kimbal Musk: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Mark Hyman: If you’ve been listening to this Doctor’s Farmarcy and you love the conversation, please share with your friends and family on social media, leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and we’ll see you next time on the Doctor’s Farmacy.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Hi everyone. It’s Dr. Mark Hyman. Two quick things. Number one, thanks so much for listening to this week’s podcast. It really means a lot to me. If you love the podcast, I really appreciate you sharing with your friends and family. Second, I want to tell you about a brand new newsletter. I started Mark’s Picks. Every week, I’m going to send out a list of a few things that I’ve been using to take my own health to the next level.

Dr. Mark Hyman: This could be books, podcasts, research that I found. Supplement recommendations, recipes, or even gadgets. I use a few of those. If you’d like to get access to this free weekly list, all you have to do is visit That’s I’ll only email you once a week, I promise. I’ll never send you anything else besides my own recommendations. Just go to That’s P I C K S to sign up free today.

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