I am so happy writing this blog! My husband has a deep-rooted obsession which involves rockets, electric cars and their maker – the one and only Elon Musk. I often tune out during our conversations about these topics because they happen so often. I admit, it is more than a little ironic that, as I started researching more deeply into food waste champions, who did I find but Kimbal Musk, none other than Elon’s brother.
Now he is teasing me about being obsessed with my very own Musk.
My very own Musk… who is as passionate about food…as his awesome brother is about rockets and electric cars.
Kimbal Musk first became seriously involved in food and the magic of cooking whilst providing for the firefighters during the aftermath of the New York September 11 attacks. “These firefighters would come in from these giant piles of melted metal, and we would feed them,” he says. “We were serving them real food, and they would come to life and connect with each other.” From this experience, he realized that delicious, real food was the tiny bit of happiness in those bleak moments, and that it was the bonding glue between them all.
Kimbal defines real food as “food we trust to nourish our bodies, our farmers, and our planet.”
Upon his move to Colorado, Kimbal co-founded The Kitchen. The Kitchen is a restaurant that gathers and cooks the tastiest and most seasonal produce from local farmers. This provides a delicious experience for diners and stimulates and supports the local farming community. “We wanted to create this sense of community, connecting with one another and taking a break from the day,” says Kimbal. Continuing to value the creation of community around local fare, he went on to open more restaurants: Hedge Row and Next Door.
Whilst working on his restaurant businesses, Kimbal noticed a declining number of farmers. This was the impetus to found another business. Square Roots, an urban farming company, enables the growing of nutritious food all year-round. Square Roots aims to reduce food waste by growing food, as close as possible, to the point of use. They do this by installing “modules” (hydroponic farms in reclaimed shipped containers) that can grow certain vegetables around the clock and without pesticides. The modules have pre-set lighting and irrigation systems. They can be set up anywhere, enabling access to fresh ingredients- locally- for use in restaurants and shops. The thinking is that raising at least some crops close to where they will be eaten helps reduce food damage and the spoilage that occurs during transportation. Growing food in a tightly controlled microclimate also means those crops can have better flavour and yield than their counterparts grown on traditional farms.
Square Roots was designed to inspire and empower thousands of young entrepreneurs to become real food farmers. New farmers are encouraged to enrol in the Square Roots Next-Gen Farmer Training Program. Throughout the year, the trainees get to learn about everything from plant science to computer science, while also earning a salary and health benefits — which aren’t always available from similar internships and apprenticeships. The Square Roots program trains young indoor farmers to grow nutritious crops, conduct agricultural business, and get involved in their communities. The ability to install their modules anywhere also means that a significant number of its next-gen farmers are city dwellers who never expected to be working in agriculture.
Not content with his above achievements, the serial entrepreneur Kimbal launched a non-profit organization Big Green. Big Green builds permanent, outdoor “Learning Garden” classrooms in hundreds of schools around the United States. Learning Gardens are providing more than 200,000 children an understanding of food, healthy eating, lifestyle choices and the environment through lesson plans and activities that tie into existing school curriculums.
To recap, Kimbal’s missions are simple:
To feed Americans real food;
To encourage the love and respect of real food from a young age by embedding these values in local school systems; and,
To encourage upcoming generations to embrace the farming profession by offering an alternative to conventional farming.
As I mentioned on this week’s Kathy TV, there are many emerging food waste advocates and warriors. I encourage you to read more about Kimbal’s work and that of the many other warriors around.
To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.
Image Credit- David Scott Holloway for Popular Mechanics, OCT 24, 2018