>>Female Presenter: I'm Liv Wu.
I'm an executive chef.
I know a lot of you.
I'm just delighted and honored to be introducing Joel.
He's a hero of mine and a hero of a lot of us on the food team.
I'm not going to say a lot except to say -- to tell you that this morning I was playing around
on his website – the website for Polyface Farms.
It's really a cool site to visit foodie or no or greenie or no.
It's full of fun and full of really serious stuff.
And stuff that makes you think hard.
But of course I went to the -- I clicked on the buy turkey link because it's, you know,
seasonal and we just created -- if you guys didn't know -- an ability for us to group
by heritage and organically raised turkeys that will be available to all of us through
Google Green Grocer.
But I clicked on "turkey," and there was all of this wonderful language that so Joel.
It's wonderful white skin, buttery, moist.
You know, it was a great sale.
And then, the last piece was a disclaimer that says 'we will not ship.
We don't ship.
Please go to your local farmer and buy your turkey there.
And not only that, we suggest you go to visit the farm before you buy the turkey' and I
just went 'huh'.
That is exactly what we do on the food team here.
This is what makes us able to bring you great food and makes our consciouses clear about
what we're doing.
You may try to drive an electric car or hybrid car, but in fact, what you eat and how that
food is produced is contributing hugely. as much as if not more than, the car you drive
to our environmental footprint.
So I love the turkey link.
And just with that I will give the floor to Joel.
>>Joel: Thank you.
Are these yours?
[chuckles] I need them but they're not mine.
Well, it is a real distinct honor to be here at Google and I do feel like a fish out of
water because I have what is called 'anti technology karma'.
[laughter] Anybody who shows me how to do something on a computer when I do the same
functions, it doesn't work.
Took me ten minutes to get out of the parking lot at the Hilton this morning up at Burlingame
because the room key card would not work in the -- you know, I watched the other cards
in front of me all go through, put it in and run out, put it in and run out, mine it doesn't
work and so the gate doesn't come up.
So it takes me ten minutes to get out of the parking lot.
That's just the way my life is, you know.
But I sure can make dancing earthworms.
>>Joel: And in the continuum of things probably most of us, historically and in the future,
will be far more dependent on dancing earthworms than working key card slots out of a Hilton
So -- and as my life has gone, on I have found myself more and more kind of -- I call it
archaic-- in our culture because we live on a farm that is -- that has four generations
living on it.
My mother is a very healthy happy octogenarian will be 88 this winter.
She still rides five miles a day on her stationary bike.
Teaches English country dancing to people and sings in the Happy Notes which is an old
-- it's a group of retirees-- who entertains and she'll pop in at our house and she drives
to sing in this chorus at the nursing home.
She says, "we're going to sing to the old folks" and half of them are younger than she
But and then of course we have, you know, Teresa and I are there and our children are
there and their children are there.
So we have four generations on the farm all living in a commune.
It's quite dramatic.
It's quite amazing.
And we grow our own food.
I feel like we just live in this nest of abundance.
We live in a time when a lot of people are concerned that we're teetering on the precipice
of precariousness in a lot of things.
You know, economically, ecologically, socially, culturally.
And so, to live surrounded by a tribe that is devoted to a common denominator and surrounded
We like to graze.
I like to walk through the seasons.
We have mulberries and pawpaws and pear trees and apple trees and grapes and strawberries
and I just like to graze.
I just have these visions of campuses whether they're Google campuses or any kind of institutional
campuses where all the ornamental landscaping is converted to edible landscaping and you
use your GPS technology to just let everybody know every morning when you get up with a
app the strawberries in quadrant 45 are ready to be picked today.
[laughter] The asparagus in quadrant 87 pick some spears on your way to your office this
Why couldn't we do that?
And the idea is to return us as a nest -- as a nest to an ecological womb.
Wouldn't that do a lot to take the edge off of the fear and the concern that many of us
have for some of the big picture items around our world.
You know, we could hook up the exercise room to water pumps that would pump water back
up on to the roofs of all of our buildings that are growing strawberries and cucumbers.
That way we don't have to have any air-conditioning and it cools down our buildings so much we
use our human power to pump the water back up on the roof.
And this stuff can be done.
It's not out of the question.
So, as I live the more live the more I look at our culture and I look at the fact that
we are if first culture in human civilization that routinely eats unpronounceable food.
You know, we're the first culture in human civilization that eats food that you can't
make in your kitchen.
You ever try to make high fructose corn syrup in your kitchen?
We're the first culture in the world, in history, that has ever put 1500 miles on average under
every morsel of food.
That's a long ways.
You know, in 1930, one calorie of food on the table took an average quarter calorie
to get there.
Today every calorie of food on the table takes 15 calories of energy to get there.
I mean, these are hockey sticks graphs.
And we all know that hockey stick graphs never last.
And so, what happened was -- I'm leading up to why this book came out -- was that as I
tried to describe looking for sound bites of how do I describe what I think has sustained
and rejuvenated and regenerated and formed the glue for human existence for centuries
if not millennia, what I found was that this blip that we call "modern America" is extremely
And I run into young people every day like you know -- it's so fun to talk to a group
here at Google.
You know, if I talk to a group of farmers, you know the average farmer is now 60 years
And they can remember, you know, a day before supermarkets.
Today most of us can't even remember a day before computers.
My first book -- I wrote on a typewriter.
You know, when I was in college, there was no computer.
I wish you'd just think about this for a minute.
I can remember when TV dinners were introduced.
Can you imagine, you know, no microwave.
I can remember a day when there was no takeout.
I could remember when a salad bar buffet started in restaurants.
Started during Vietnam era -- Vietnam war era.
It was one of the biggest shocks of Vietnam war veterans.
They went, they came back there were salad bar restaurants.
[laughter] Where did this come from?
It was like boom!
It hit the culture.
But these are new things in our culture.
And as I would explain these things and how, you know, when I was a kid if you wanted to
stay warm in the wintertime you don't have to worry about this in California but where
we are if you want to stay warm in the wintertime you had to get some heat in your house and
so, we would cut wood.
We had wood stoves and we would cut wood.
And my wife has inherited her grandmother's majestic wood cook stove that when she and
granddaddy went to housekeeping in 1929, that was state of the art technology -- this majestic
wood cook stove that you put little kindling on the side that's where your dish water got
It just kept hot water there all the time.
You see all the old westerns and the baby is getting ready to come and the doctor says
The water was always there.
It was always ready.
That was new technology at that time.
And so, I just started mentioning this as I would describe these numerous things that
we've come to today with supermarkets with unpronounceable food, with computers, with
the technology, you know, iPhones and iPads and Google. that this represents an abnormal
blip in human history.
And so, what is this glue that is normal in civilization?
And so, I want to just spend a couple of minutes and we'll go right to questions and answer
and discussion about some of these things that I think have been -- are interesting.
They're in the book 'Folks, This Ain't Normal'.
It describes what I consider to be abnormalities in our system.
You see -- historic -- so I want to talk about animals for a minute.
Because animals are much-maligned in our culture.
I got one chapter in the book the title something like 'my aunt is my dog is my cat is my child'.
And what we've done in our culture, as we have Bambi-eyed and Disney-fied our culture,
and we ascribe anthropomorphistic humanism to animals and so, we have animal rights movement
that has eliminated, for example, wearing fur.
When I was a kid, teenagers would actually get their spending money by trapping foxes
and mink and beavers and stuff.
I'm not that old.
I'm not that old!
I'm really 80.
That's what good food does to you.
[laughter] People would -- you know, I remember very well old-timers saying back in the 20s
You know, when I was a boy these are people that are old enough to be my dad in a community,
this is how teens got money to go to the movies or get their first automobile or whatever.
And fox skins brought 50 dollars apiece.
Today they're less than a dollar so nobody traps and a lot of places in our country now
are having problems with kids with rabies.
One in ten foxes has the mange because of this explosion because we've extracted humans
out of nature.
And so, what was the role of animals historically?
Let's talk about chickens.
Historically chickens -- because everybody likes chickens.
I mean, chickens are like the most -- the coolest of the farm animals.
[laughter] So what was the role of chickens?
Well, historically they didn't have garbage trucks and landfills.
And enough excess food to just throw it away.
So chickens were a garbage disposal, salvage operation in the homestead and the farm stead.
That's what chickens were.
And that's one reason why peasants -- chickens were a luxury because there was no grain.
Now, let me talk about grain for a minute.
Because our culture -- when you think "farm," you tend to think "grain."
That's what we think in our culture.
In fact, we subsidize the U.S. duh Don't look at me like you don't get this.
The USDA subsidizes six types of grain annual production.
But in a day before cheap energy and machinery, if you wanted to plow a field to grow barley
or wheat, you had to walk all day behind ox or a yak or a mule or a horse with a sharp
stick and it was arduous work.
And you know at the end of the day you looked back and maybe the area of a size of this
room you actually got torn up a little bit.
And then you could go back and you could hand broadcast seeds.
And those seeds would grow.
And then you had to hand weed those seeds to keep the weeds out of them then whatever
grew, you could go in with a scythe and scythe it down and then put in a shock so it could
It actually ferments just a little bit because of the uneven moisture drying of the stalk.
And that's one reason why people now have so much wheat gluten intolerance is because
we're harvesting it so fast and drying it so fast there's no tiny amount of fermentation
that occurs in the grain, to change the enzymes to digestible enzymes in the grain crop.
You put it in a shock and then you took it in to a hard floor maybe a wooden planks or
beaten lime or rock or clay that you pounded real hard.
Anyway a hard surface and then you beat it all right with a flail and then you would
winnow it, all right, throw it up and the breeze would blow through it and drive the
chaff and husks away and then you'd get some barley.
Now carefully sweep that up and put it now in a -- in something that you could store
it away from rats and mice in a day before sheet metal, before mesh metal, in a clay
pot somewhere and hopefully that would last you until the next year's harvest.
Folks, there was not enough grain left over to feed animals.
That's why in the Bible, in Hosea, the prophet talks about a harlot being sold for 9 and
a half ephahs of barley.
It's not because harlots were cheap.
[laughter] It's because barley was expensive.
[laughter] I'm trying to help us understand here that this idea of cheap grain fundamentally
-- fundamentally changed the role and the place of farm animals that had been normal
And so, now suddenly we had all this grain with our ability to tillage, machinery, cheap
And so, now we can go plow up with a great machine.
Suddenly the traditional role of a chicken which was right next to the kitchen to eat
the kitchen scraps and the, you know, the peelings and all the stuff that came out spoiled
food being in a day before refrigeration.
Food spoiled what do you do?
You feed it to chickens.
And then chickens then in return then cycle it -- the ultimate recycling agent-- and give
us eggs in return.
That was the traditional role of chickens.
Today, we think we're great when we take our banana peels and our waste from the kitchens,
put it on a truck run with diesel power --especially biodiesel-- and truck it off site somewhere
to a composting operation and then people can buy the compost for their house plants
or little ornamental flowers.
What really would be green would be to attach a chicken house next to each cafe so that
the scraps [applause] went right into the chicken house, the eggs come right back in
and now we don't have to truck the garbage anywhere or bring the eggs from anywhere.
That's what I'm talking about is normal, okay?
So, I've just concentrated on chickens but you could take every single animal.
I'll do one more just to show where I'm coming from.
Let's take cows.
What is the role of herbivores in nature?
Historically herbivores -- the bison on the American plain.
Today the wildebeest on the Serengeti, the cape buffalo in Botswana.
We Americans -- we modern day developed country people-- are absolutely brain damaged when
we talk about grass.
When I say "grass," everybody thinks about this close cropped lawn out here or a golf
When I say "grass," what I think about grass, is little house on the prairie when ma and
pa wouldn't let the girls go out past the stoop of the soddie lest they get lost.
What do you mean?
We think lost, the city beautification committee would cite me for violating the ordinance
for having an unkempt lawn.
No, I'm talking about glass, like if you go today to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln,
they've preserved a 2-acre native prairie patch they used it with fire.
This grass is 12 feet tall.
It's more than half an inch thick at the stem.
It's thick as hair on a dog's back.
I still get chills every time I talk about it.
It's an absolute biological biomass soil building carbon sequestering cathedral.
[laughter] And you walk out in there in this 12-foot tall grass.
I mean, taller than the lights in this room, okay?
And it's over your head and it just blocks out the world.
And then to imagine this rustling waving mass of biomass for hundreds of miles out through
I mean, it is unbelievable.
And so, civilization -- civilizations coalesced early on around grasses, perennials and herbivores
because that was the only really nutrient dense product that could be produced without
Because when all tillage was done with a crude stick or a wooden spade, it was too precious
to do in any scale.
And so, that's why lamb, goat, camel, cow, yak -- all right?
Became the centerpiece of civilizational diets and fish all right?
Because that could be fished.
You didn't have to till to get seafood.
And you didn't have to till to get the herbivore.
And so, that's why that became the centerpiece of dietary protocol in every civilization.
Today, with cheap grain, we have been able to abdicate this and plow up everything and
confine the animals in houses where they neither salvage nor do anything except for eat erosive,
petrol chemical dependent, ecologically debilitating, annuals that are subsidized by U.S. domestic
policy to make cheap food in concentrated animal feeding operations that have no comparison
either ecologically or relationally or symbiotically or nutritionally to their forbearers who filled
a definite function in their ecology of the ecological womb.
So what we've been able to do is extricate ourselves from this historic normalcy which
was the herbivore is the biomass restart button.
The grass grows in an S curve.
You with me?
The bottom part I call diaper grass.
This is teenage grass and this is nursing home grass.
[laughter] Well, if my job is to take solar energy and metabolize it into decomposable
biomass, carbon sequestering biomass, where of those three stages do I want grass more
often than not?
Not nursing home into senescence and not diaper into trying to toddle, but teenage all right?
And so, if the grass is allowed to just grow and get old and die, it shuts down the photo
If it stays very diaper-ish, it can never really kick into high gear.
And so, the herbivore was nature's way before mowing machines and before cheap energy was
nature's way of pruning the biomass to restart the rapid biomass accumulation.
An herbivore is an ecological biomass accumulation restart button.
That's the role of herbivores in nature, all right?
And when we go to grass finished beef, grass finished lamb, we reaffirm that normal role
of the herbivore ecology in nature.
We're the first culture -- and I'm almost done -- we're the first culture that views
children as liabilities instead of assets.
All cultures in history viewed children as a blessing.
Today we talk about the cost of raising a child.
You know, this is the first generation which the average child has not had domestic chores.
You know, kids used to grow up weeding the garden, picking beans, helping can applesauce.
Helping to cook.
Today we call that child abuse.
>>Joel: And I would suggest -- and I know I'm speaking into the heart of our electronic,
plugged in, techno-glitzy world and so I'm doing a dance with you here and I'm not a
Luddite and I love technology.
I love microchip, electric fencing and energizers, UV stabilized, you know, canvasses and nursery
and polyethylene black plastic pipe and stainless steel and refrigeration and there's a lot
of cool things we've got today, all right?
But I want to tell you something.
Human self-actualization, human self-affirmation, I think, is actually encouraged and stimulated
when we viscerally participate in the physical elements of life.
And there is no comparison with looking back at the end of the day and seeing gleaming
gleaming jars of fresh-made, canned salsa for example, sitting on the shelf that you've
picked the tomatoes and you've sliced and diced and you've smelled it and you've been
viscerally involved, touching, smelling, moving it, and preserving it for the future.
There's nothing that compares with the sight and the ability to participate and have a
visceral relationship with that production on the shelf compared to being the top performer
in the latest video game.
One is just cyber.
And we see it in our interns.
We've had interns come out of Dilbert-cubicle type situations.
And they get there and they describe with trembling lips and deep emotion that for the
first time they were able to build something that they could touch, sense, feel, and hear
the voices of their team members in person.
And finally, we're the first culture that has devoted so much time and energy to a national
food police -- the food police -- you know about the food police -- we call them the
food safety people.
I call them the food police.
Who, for the first time in human history, have told a culture that you know it's perfectly
safe to eat Mountain Dew, Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs but that raw milk, compost-grown raw
potatoes and Aunt Mathilda's pickles now that's deadly [laughter] And so, I want to end -- because
of this setting-- , I want to end with a thought about food innovation.
Because folks, what has become normal in our culture I'm suggesting, you know, DiGiorno's
frozen pizza, concentrated animal feeding operations farms with no trespassing signs,
food production models that you have to walk through sheep dip and put on hazardous materials
suit to go visit, it's not food worth eating and it's created a toxic landscape.
Just try living down river from a concentrated animal feeding operation or from a mono-speciated
spraying operation in the San Joaquin valley.
We know about this.
There are many of us who believe that much of our pathogenicity, our type two diabetes,
the fact that the U.S. leads the world in the five chronic debilitating diseases of
cancer and diabetes and these things.
There's a reason why, that there's a connection here because we lead the world in creating
an abnormal food system.
Now, if we're going to return our food system and our landscape policy to a more normal
sustainable regenerative system I would suggest that it's going to require the same kind of
innovation that Google enjoys today bringing innovation to the world.
How does innovation happen?
It happens in embryonic prototypes.
The beginning of Google is not a 15,000 person campus in California.
The beginning of Google is a couple wild ideas with lunatics sitting on their little computers
fooling around with stuff and dreaming and thinking.
But starting small.
And so, what we've got right now is a desperate need in our food system to free up the innovators
at the bottom.
Farmers like us that are returning with high-tech, techno-glitzy stuff like electric fencing
and 4 wheel drive diesel tractors, with front end loaders and chipper shredders, large scale
composting and all that kind of stuff.
But taking that heritage normal biological cycling with a healthy dose of appropriate
technology, marrying the two together and coming with an innovative anecdote -- antidote
not anecdote -- antidote to the problems we face in our ecology in our food system.
And we have to be able to start from the tailgate of a pickup truck; from an innovative kitchen
in our homes.
We have to be able to start there to access our neighborhoods and our communities with
innovative antidotes to what Wal-Mart and Costco are offering us.
And so, that's just as much as I'll say.
You can ask more questions about the food police.
That's as much as I'll say right now.
But it is absolutely an innovation thread that runs through everything and that's why
innovation always occurs in the economic sectors of least governmental penetration.
And that's why government regulation is stifling true innovation and antidotes to the problems
And so, that's all I'll say right there about the food police.
We can go onto more questions and answer.
I think I'd like to stop right there.
That gives you a few tidbits of some of the things that are in this book "Folks, This
I think you'll find it a very broad cultural and I think many of you when you look at,
you know, the result of having a Manhattan project for ammunition but not having a Manhattan
project for compost.
You'll get this wonderful epiphany that you understand some of the wonderful things you've
heard about elitism and we can't feed the world will be set in their cultural context
as we carry the past into the future.
Because my belief is that the chances are the next hundred years we will need to return
to a more localized, truly solar driven, carbon cycling, biomimicked, kind of existence than
we have learned to enjoy in the last 50 years as we have abdicated historical normalcy in
Comments, anything at all on how all this works.
>>Male #1: Thanks for speaking today.
So, I think I buy into just about everything you're saying.
But at the same time I think in order for us to actually have the kind of change you
want to have, we need more than just rich Bay Area people pulling for it.
I think the system is kind of stacked against, you know, sustainable farmers and the real
cost of, you know, factory pork isn't what's reflected in the price but the fact of the
matter is if I was spending most of my income on food, it's hard for me to then also get
what, you know, we think is better, more humanely raised, and sustainably raised stuff.
So have you any thoughts on how you get the people who are not kind of us more bought
into the system and make it possible economically for them to do.
People like Alice Waters can say everybody can afford this stuff but in reality I don't
think that's really true in every case.
So how do we get people who aren't us to pull for it, too.
>>Joel: Your question is well stated.
I think there are two issues here.
One is how do we get more people to buy in just philosophically after all a lot of people
are still eating at McDonalds.
And a lot of people still think they've eaten a great dinner out of a box.
I ran into a an art teacher in Washington, D.C. she said I'm going to retire this year.
Being a very astute male, I said you don't look nearly old enough to retire.
And she said well, I'm not.
And I said why.
She said because our first art project this year and the first art project is to bring
in a cooking pot.
This is tenth grade.
Bring in a cooking pot and draw it because they come in different shapes and sizes and
they're fairly basic and easy to draw.
And so, yesterday I did the assignment and all the kids looked at me -- 22 in the class--
looked at me like I had two heads and they said, "we don't have a cooking pot in our
Said "what do you do?"
"We just open a box and stick it in the microwave."
So I think the question is two things -- one is how do we get more people to just buy into
the idea that I should have a relationship with my food you know.
You know, we live in a culture in which people are far more interested and passionate about
the latest body piercing and hair style in Hollywood than they are about what's going
to become flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone at 5 o'clock.
And this is abnormal.
Now, the answer to that is simply we have to lead by example.
And that's where this headquarters is leading in the institutional edge by example.
What you've done here with your meal plan and with all these -- with sourcing and all
that is leading.
I call it leadership and that's what needs to happen is leadership by example.
But the second part of your question is about the high price.
And essentially it is the charge of this is really an elitist movement.
This is really about elitism.
Now, when anybody ever comes up to me and talks about the price -- that they can't afford
this food -- I know this is very unpolitically correct.
You won't find very many politically correct things in this book.
My first response is: right now we'll get in your car and it better be a cheap car not
an expensive care and we're going to go to your house or apartment wherever you live
and this is what we're not going to see in your house because you can't afford this.
This is what we're not going to see.
We're not going to see any sodas.
We're not going to see any alcohol.
We're not going to see any a tobacco.
We're not going to see any coffee or tea.
You really can live without those things.
We're not going to see TVs or iPods.
We're not going to see lottery tickets or Disney vacation cruises.
We're not going to see hundred dollar designer jeans with holes already in the knees.
[laughter] We're not going to see -- are you with me.
>>Male #1: Yeah.
Here's the thing.
The fact is very, very, very few people have no choice about how to spend their money.
And I would say -- and I know again it sounds very uncharitable--, but I would say instead
of us sitting here today picking the lint out of our belly buttons stewing over how
to deal with maybe the 2 percent who really have a problem, let's instead look around
and say, "well, all of us that can, what's my problem?
What's my excuse?"
And the fact is if the 98 percent of the people who could do something would do it, it would
so fundamentally change the fringes that the argument would change in a way that we can't
You know, it's like people with a 4-acre suburban lawn coming together at their garden club
meeting and stewing about, you know, the 4-child single mom in Harlem that can't grow a garden.
Why don't all you people grow a garden?
We got 35 million acres of lawn in this country.
36 million acres growing food and housing and recreational horses.
That's 71 million acres.
That's enough to feed the whole country without a single farm.
So the point is every one who can should.
And if everyone who could would, it would so fundamentally change the parameters of
the argument that we can't even imagine the innovation that would punch out the other
And, if it became more normal again, a lot of things would happen -- economies of scale
just regular things that happen when something becomes more normal.
>> Male #2: Hi.
I'm from the big island of Hawaii.
I have a farm and a community there.
We've had -- we integrate chickens.
We make biochar.
We generate all our inputs.
It's all very lovely.
>>Joel: Wow, you are weird.
>>Male #2: Yeah.
>>Male #2: A lot of us here are technologists.
And sometimes when technologists get into the carbon, we geek out on agriculture.
>>Male #2: Anyhow.
Ultimately though, like many people in agriculturally sustainable parts of the world, it's not economically
We weren't able to for instance build a house for our growing family.
So like many many families one of us has to leave and go to the city -- or Google in my
case -- and be either wash cars of rich people or be a software engineer -- my case -- and
send the money home to the farm.
This is like -- it's a -- it's common.
It feels -- it's tragic in a way.
I mean, I would love to be there with my chickens and grass and everything.
But is this -- could you say some words about the people who have to leave the farms to
make it work?
Because the system is stacked against actually doing it the right way.
>>Joel: Yes, yes.
Well, if you would like me to, I would say, " bless you my son.."
>>Male #2: Thank you.
>>Joel: But in actuality, we haven't gotten where we are overnight and we won't get out
of it overnight.
And as you know, all innovation requires disturbance.
We know that.
All succession, all, you know, freshing up whether it's for ideas, technology, policy
-- it all requires disturbance.
And so, what you're going through in your life right now is the disturbance of an innovative
idea that you have brought to your home, your family.
Chance are you didn't grow up on a farm.
Chances are you have this green bug in your genes somewhere, you know?
Both Gen and Jean.
You have this thing that is wanting you to move forward that way.
And a lot of people do.
A lot of people really want to do something with their hands as a craftsman or an artisan.
And I think our culture has failed the blue collar craftsmanship of our age by worshiping
just intellectual, academic, cerebral pursuits without appreciating the balancing groundedness
that calluses and not to mention immunofunction occurs when we assault our immunofunction
with exercise with calluses and splinters and dirt under our fingernails or grease or
And so, what you see, then, is you see people with physical, visceral hobbies whether it's
building sailboats or gardening or doing something.
We've got people now learning to cut meat in big cities.
It used to be like big Tupperware parties.
Now it's meat-cutting parties.
[laughter] Because people want to get in there and touch it, sense it.
It's the Lexus and the olive tree phenomenon.
And so, in a place like this you see it very acutely.
And so, I think what you're trying to do is absolutely phenomenal and laudable and I think
there are principles that hopefully -- I wrote a book "You Can Farm".
>>Male #2: I read it.
>>Joel: That can hopefully help stimulate some creativity in how to jump start that
But at the end of the day what you're trying to do is leave a legacy that has moved us
innovatively in some direction.
And maybe you won't accomplish it completely even in your lifetime.
In fact, I've heard, if a vision can be accomplished in your lifetime, it's too small.
My dad used to say, if you don't suck a seed just suck and suck and suck until you do suck
So just keep after it.
And remember that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly first.
We've all heard Grandma.
We come do adulthood.
You know we're children and we're willing to experiment with things.
And we come to adulthood and we become paralyzed with analysis and fear because we can hear
Grandma over our shoulder, "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."
And the fact is, nobody does it right the first time.
I mean, it would be equivalent to, you know, to going to a family shindig and here's a
little toddler and the first time Janie tries to stand up, she gets up on a chair she's
wide eyed, "Oh look Janie's starting to stand."
Of course she gets this great big grin, she loses her grip on the chair and falls down
on her diaper and all the adults gather around and say "Janie, if you can't walk any better
than that just quit".
[laughter] We don't do that do we?
We say, "oh, wow, she's doing."
And the fact is all of us toddle first.
And so, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly first and just be encouraged by that
and keep going after it.
>>Female #1: Your answer to -- so Kevin's question was more or less -- there's a lot
of people out there who can't afford to eat well and your answer was well they can afford
to eat well they just choose not to.
So how do you change the mind set and convince them that it's something worth doing as opposed
to something that's not worth doing.
And I have a second question which is, if you were king for a day and could change three
policies or behaviors or do three things to fix the U.S. food system what three things
would those be.
>>Joel: Oh my.
You moved this question -- okay.
So we'll go to your king for a day one.
Yeah, because I do believe that it is a mind set.
I did a class for a college.
It was a real elite girl's private college on global food issues.
The professor of global food issues wanted me to come and be a guest lecture.
I said, "let us do something different.
Get us a classroom with a cooking range in it.
You go get some salsa and some good local artisanal cheese.
I'll bring some apple juice from our neighbor's biological apple orchard.
I'll bring some eggs and some skillets okay?
So we went in there and I did omelets for these college students.
You know, sixty-second omelets.
And we had the salsa; we had this cheese.
We had this apple juice to die for.
It's cold pressed; it's got an inch of sediment on the bottom.
You have to be careful eating it because you could guzzle it and ooh, I just ate six apples.
And you have 24 hours to work through this event.
[laughter] But anyway, we did these wonderful omelets for a buck 50 a plate in two minutes
So I asked the students.
I said so -- because college students are always forlorn no money, no time, blah, blah,
I said so how many of you watched a movie this week.
All of them.
How many of you put money in a vending machine this week?
All of them.
We live in a culture that's all about victimhood.
Victims, victims, victims.
I mean, and we're hard wired to remember what stops us not what makes us go.
That's why we call them stoplights and not go lights, okay?
So we dwell on the negative.
We dwell on the negative.
And so, the positive part of the question, if I were king for the day what couple of
policies would I do to really move this forward?
Ooh, that is a big one.
The first one I would do, is to eliminate all farm subsidies.
All these things that -- and you know what?
There are a lot of things that aren't overt farm subsidies.
They're kind of sweetheart deals.
You know, things that, for example, make it cheaper to bring a container load of apples
from China than pick apples from our own trees.
Because that's, you know, if you use -- because of all the laws regarding that.
So I would certainly eliminate all the subsidies.
The second thing I would do, is amend the constitution with a food emancipation proclamation.
[laughter] And I would grant every citizen of the United States.
And I am dead -- it's funny but I am dead serious about this -- I would grant every
citizen of America the right to food freedom of choice.
We do not have that in our culture.
And the Food and Drug Administration now, in response to several suits filed by the
farm to consumer legal defense fund, which I call the NRA of food choice in our country.
And everybody should join it because I want it to be as big as the NRA.
Because you see we've been granted the freedom to own guns, worship, assemble and speak.
Well, what good is it to have those freedoms if you don't have the freedom to choose the
fuel to feed your 3 trillion member internal community of beings that fuels you to go,
shoot, pray, and preach?
[laughter] It happen only reason that our founders did not give us the freedom of food
choice is because they couldn't have imagined a day in which you couldn't, you know, buy
raw milk from your neighbor and California has now, you know, incarcerated these three
folks down in Los Angeles for having the audacity to take their herd share goat milk from their
own animals off the farm and drink it in their own homes with their own families.
Now, folks this is tyranny.
And we're supposedly fighting tyranny around the world with our military while our own
USDA food police sends swat teams out to farmers and confiscate food out of domestic freezers
to keep families from being able to eat foods of their choice.
So I would emancipate food from its enslavement by Monsanto's agenda.
And anyone who thinks Monsanto is your friend, think again.
You know, we have trespass law in this country.
If I came to your house or your yard and dumped a bunch of garbage on your lawn that you didn't
want, I'd probably -- the prosecuting attorney would come against me for trespassing violations,
But Monsanto can go and dump promiscuous pollen.
Those are interesting words.
[laughter] Promiscuous pollen that runs rampant around the community creating sexual orgies
in my plants with life forms of garbage that I don't want and our country -- our own president
-- our Democratic president thinks that I should have to pay Monsanto a royalty for
the privilege of their promiscuous pollen.
This ain't normal.
I would absolutely say, "you know what?
You own you".
And you can word it however you want to.
But I would say every person is now -- if you want to take responsibility for your own
person hood and your own 3 trillion member of internal community of beings, you can do
You can do it.
[laughter] You know.
Now, if you don't want to and you still want a USDA stamp on all the food you eat to certify
that it's gone through the industrial food fraternity, that's fine with me.
And you will find me -- I will not be picketing McDonalds.
I will not be picketing the World Trade Organization.
I will not be picketing Monsanto.
What I want is to let we native Americans who honor heritage indigenous foods to be
able to eat it and for you to be able to buy it.
And if we did that, folks, if we did that, you would see an explosion of cottage industry
and domestic food systems like you cannot imagine.
Everywhere I go around the country.
This is a very unusual group for me to talk to.
My bread and butter group have been sustainable ago groups farmers and greenie type food people.
And everywhere I go there is just this almost like a bull in the stall at the rodeo right
before they let him out or a horse right before the horse race.
There's just this chafing at the bit ready to make egg noodles or quiche from my garden
produce or lacto-fermented sauerkraut or charcuterie or artisanal cheese.
There's this -- people are just nuts about this.
But in between them and their neighbor and you is this huge food police that says, "Oh,
you can't make pickles in your house and sell it to a neighbor, that's manufacturing.
You live in a residential community."
So I have a lady in Texas that told me she got fined by her homeowner's association because
there's antifarming language in her homeowner's association and she grew a tomato plant in
her vegetable, I mean flower garden and that's farming.
So we have created -- we have taken our western, Greco-Roman, reductionist, linear, compartmentalized,
fragmentized, systematized, disconnected, individualized, parts-oriented, kind of thinking
to an unbelievable philosophical apartheid and I think that those of us who want to come
back together in a more eastern holistic, we're all related, and let me own my own body
-- those of us who want to do that and live in our tepees and have our medicine man and
educate as runners instead of mathematics.
Those of us who wanted to do that, should be able to opt out of the greater cultural
that normalcy may not vanish from this side of our world.
>>Male #3: Well, how to follow that one up?
So it seems that you're describing a really wedged situation here with the laws and how
the money flows.
And you know one of the characteristics of a wedge like that is that the people who are
benefiting the most are the beneficiaries and they have power.
How do you break a cycle like that.
>>Joel: How do you break a cycle?
Well, that's why I didn't say -- see?
Notice I didn't say if I were king for a day, I would shut down Monsanto.
See, a lot of my friends would say that.
If I were king for a day I would outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations or I would outlaw
-- you know what I'm saying?
Or I would outlaw genetic modification or whatever.
I didn't say any of those things.
I really believe and I think I'm at home in this company here to say this.
I really believe that the greatest innovation and the greatest opportunity is when we allow
people to self-actualize their own individual expression.
That's why on our farm we create habitats to preserve and enhance the pigness of the
pig, the chickenness of the chicken, and the tomatoness of the tomato.
It's in that environment of phenotypical distinctive expression that you capture the essence of
the person and the essence of the gifts and talents they bring to the table.
And so, yes, it is a wedge.
And that's why I think rather than try to regulate out and cherry pick what we don't
like and regulate that out.
If we just allow the people -- I mean, right here the people who want to eat differently
and buy differently and by one meal at a time create a different landscape for their grandchildren.
If we allow them to do that, it would just completely topple Monsanto, Tyson, Ciba Geigy.
The only reason they're able to enjoy their position at the top is because they're protected
from competition at the bottom that is absolutely -- that has absolutely jumped ship.
You know, very few people I think really trust Kraft Food to take care of them anymore.
We've been there, done that, okay?
And look where we are.
We've exchanged 18 percent food costs and 9 percent health care to 9 percent food costs
and 18 percent health care.
We've been there done that.
Just like people who are looking for breast-feeding, Lamaze, home schooling, free food in an institutional
Who would have dreamed of this five years ago?
Who would have dreamed of it, okay?
This is indicative of an entire desire to not entrust the current powers that be with
my body, my food, and my being.
And so, what we need to do is just free up that -- free up that move, okay?
Let it go.
And that's what scares the current big players to death.
But that's where I'm coming from freedom from the bottom up not from regulation top down.
And that's the difference.
>> Liv Wu: I love finding this.
And I want to read it and have you comment on it.
You call it "scaling up without selling your soul."
[reading] "Many successful entrepreneurial startups morph into Wall Street empires that
lose their distinctiveness and in the process the business chews up and spits out its workers
and founders in a mad scramble to dominate something.
Does middle ground exist between the calm talking stick circle of indigenous circle
of eastern tribal cultures and the mad scramble frenzy of western capitalism.
Or perhaps more to the point, in light of recent Wall Street and economic developments,
what values are more important than growth?
Especially since cancer is growth."
Please talk about this whether it's the food chain or larger.
What she just read is something that I wrote actually.
You didn't say that I wrote it, but I wrote that in response to -- I'm going to be very
personal with you as our farm grew and as our business grew we saw small entrepreneurial
endeavors like ours be gobbled up.
Look at organics today and look at the take overs of the little innovative organic players
in the game and they've been bought up by the big food companies.
We got scared frankly because we didn't want to get gobbled up like this and sell our soul.
And so, we developed a ten-step value statement for Polyface farms that is a totally anti-Wall
Street empire-building capitalistic value statement that I gave first to Fortune 500
middle managers at the Innovation Immersion Summit in Phoenix, Arizona about five years
And I've given it several times.
It probably should be a book.
But as we looked at what is it that defines us as a opposed to a typical, you know, a
typical like global, Wall Street-type, capitalistic corporation?
There were distinctive that came about.
And I won't give all ten of them to you but I'll give a few.
The first one was so we resolved ourselves that we would never have a sales target.
No sales target.
We don't measure success by sales.
As soon as you start measuring success by sales or you create quotas or you say we want
to be at this stage by such and such a date, this many customers, this many sales.
As soon as you do that, you begin looking at people as commodities to buy, sell, and
In my scramble to the top of the heap.
You know, notches in my hatchet if you will, okay?
And so, we want sales to be an organic -- almost a serendipitous outgrowth of quality and service.
And so, we don't assume -- this brings me to my second segue.
The second one is: we will never advertise.
All growth, if it's going to be, has to come from satisfied word of mouth.
Now, it's fascinating to me that even the companies that spend 2 million dollars for
a thirty-second Superbowl ad still get 70 percent of their customers according to business
journals by satisfied customers -- word of mouth.
It still works.
And so -- and that is certainly a mantra here at Google.
So we don't assume, if sales drop off, we don't assume we're not spending enough on
We assume that we must not be giving the quality or service or whatever.
In other words.
And what this does is instead of immediately making us look outside, it makes us look inside
and we think that's healthy for the organism.
Another one is that we will never patent or copyright.
Whoa -- talk about anti-Wall Street.
Here's the deal.
We want to be lean and mean.
And if we never patent anything, then that means, we have to stay lean and mean to stay
ahead against the copiers.
And if we can't stay one stride ahead of the copiers, then we don't deserve to be in charge.
Because really, all these ideas are just gifts.
And I know -- boy, that's a real big one, okay?
Especially since this morning I was reading about Steve Jobs and the antipathy between
Apple and Google and I'm watching all of your Apple computers here.
[laughter] And realizing a lot of Google money bought Apple computers.
So anyway, the idea here is that innovation really in a lot of ways is just -- is very
much a stroke of blessing, genius and epiphany.
And so, the innovators should be sharp enough to stay a little bit ahead of the copy catters.
So those are just three.
But there are ten of these that we have identified -- one is defining our -- a fourth one is
defining our market.
We won't deliver more than four hours away from the farm.
Because four hours out and 4 hours back is about as much as one person can drive in one
Which creates an ability for transparency.
We don't want to ship anywhere.
We want people to come to the farm.
We have a 24/7, 365 open door unannounced policy.
Instead of a no trespassing sign, we want to put up a sign "trespassers will be impressed."
[laughter] And that's our commitment to transparency.
We're not concerned about copy catters.
We're not concerned about diseases, because our animals have an immune system.
[laughter] We want people to come and viscerally participate in this so that, when we sit down
to dine to this intimate experience of dining, there is a partner we've danced with prior
And that creates integrity.
Maybe one more question -- what's our time like?
One more and we're over?
OK, one more.
>>Male #4: Thank you Joel for everything you do.
Really really appreciate it.
You mentioned the power of word of mouth.
And that's definitely something we're working on here at Google and aiming to make it better
We've announced some things that are coming along those lines.
I think you'll find some people in this room and this company that will be very willing
to help you get your message out.
Given your difficulty with the swipe card at the hotel this morning is there anything
we can do as a individuals or as a company to help you get that message out.
>>Joel: [chuckles] Thank you.
I would say well for one is -- that's one reason I like to write.
Because to me, that is a way -- and this is by the way available on audio and Kindle,
you know -- this book.
But to get this kind of thinking penetrated into our culture.
But you guys -- when you said you want to help, you have a great big voice here.
You have a huge voice.
And your voice to bring balance can be extremely powerful.
And so, I think that individually in your ripple of influence, you can add things to
the pot whether it's how you eat, where you recreate, what you do, what you value as a
individual and then as a corporation, as a business.
There are certainly things that you could do -- like you're doing -- more of the same.
And continuing to use your purchasing power -- I mean, I'm hearing about buying whole
That's a big deal.
So the cafes have to work together.
This one does T-bones this one wants meatloaf and so you get together and you use the whole
And you use some blemished fruit.
And you use some blemished tomatoes.
Maybe Google could start a cannery here.
Maybe you could have some canning classes and take this one step further in domestic
food preparation to stimulate domestic culinary arts.
Because ultimately this big change is not going to occur -- I mean, it can't occur just
with the farmers and just with the food preparers or chefs or processors.
It ultimately has to penetrate to the way we live so that our homes -- rather than just
-- and our kitchens -- rather than just being a pit stop between everything that's important
in life out there actually become an epicenter of how we live, use our lives and our economic
commerce that we domesticate our values.
And that is something that all of us can work on.
And that's something I'm sure Google can continue to work on when I hear about 3 hour commutes
and that sort of thing.
And so, you know, telecommuting, working from home, those kinds of things are ways to move
that -- to take this information economy and move it to the next step which is the regenerative
That's the next step we've got to go.
We've been the agrarian, we've been the industrial, we've been the information, now we've got
to move on to the regenerational economy.
Thank you for letting me visit with you.
>> Joel: Now, may all of your carrots grow long and straight.
May your radishes be large and not pithy, may your drip irrigation never spring a leak.
[laughter] May your kitchens be places of aesthetic, aromatic, romantic sensuality.
And may we all commit ourselves to making the world better than we inherited.
Blessings on all of you.
Thank you so much.