Kimbal Musk, the brother of Elon Musk, seems to share many personality traits with his older sibling: vision, courage, and a strong concern for humanity. Kimbal invested in Elon’s Tesla and SpaceX, and helped sell Zip2, the company they cofounded, for $307 million. He could easily spend the rest of his life, as one commentator put it, “self-luxuriating on mega yachts or private tropical islands, heavily imbibing, surrounded by yes men/women, sitting in a jacuzzi smoking cigars and playing poker.” Instead, Kimbal has invested much of his heart and his fortune on a dream. Where Elon’s dream is to take humanity to the stars, Kimbal’s dream is more practical and prosaic. It is to revolutionize the way people eat in America. Specifically, to make cheap, quality foods available to Americans of all incomes, a “real-food revolution.”
Tall, lanky, and rarely seen without the cowboy hat he first tried on in a store in Austin, Texas, Kimbal runs successful food ventures in his home state of Colorado as well as in big cities like Los Angeles. However, he believes that the revolution in eating and food production will take place in areas like Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio, and he has been busy opening restaurants and buying up agricultural land there.
“The Americana here gives me goosebumps,” Kimbal told the New York Times during a visit to Memphis last spring. “I’ve been to Graceland twice. The community has been so welcoming, it’s just ridiculous.”
According to Kimbal, “industrial food has totally failed America … and so the more I dig in, the more I get passionate about being part of solving that.” It would be difficult to contradict him; one-third of Americans are obese, and the United States contains one of the highest percentages of obese people in the world, according to Wikipedia.
Kimbal’s vision is of “real food” that nourishes and empowers the person, the farmer, and the planet. For over 10 years, he has run two restaurant chains, The Kitchen and Next Door, which serve healthy fare made with hyperlocal ingredients. In 2011, he has also started a nonprofit venture that has installed “Learning Gardens” in over 300 schools to teach children about agriculture.
Kimbal’s latest project has been starting an urban farming campus in Brooklyn, New York, called Square Roots, where leafy greens are grown without soil and using LED lighting, with minimal water and electricity wastage. In July, Square Roots opened applications for its second season, which started in October and will last 13 months.
“Graduates are uniquely positioned to embark on a lifetime of real food entrepreneurship — with the know-how to build a thriving, responsible business,” Musk wrote on Medium. “The opportunities in front of them will be endless.”
Indeed, it is an exciting time for food and food-lovers, and Kimbal’s dream of real-food farming that is integrated into the community seems closer than ever.
Nezha Boutamine | The Edge Blog