Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for The Rolling Stones and the cofounder of MNN, talks to pop star Jason Mraz about his avocado farm and how it felt to be named the #1 farmer on our list of 40 farmers under 40. (Mike Lindsay/MNN and Nick Scott/MNN)
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Chuck: So great to see you.
Jason: Likewise, man, good to see you.
Chuck: I think it was the Bigger Bang Tour last time.
Jason: It was, right.
Chuck: A couple years ago.
Jason: Yeah, about 2005, I think.
Chuck: Yeah, there you go.
Chuck: Well, thank you for being here with us on Mother Nature Network and I want to start by pointing out to our viewers that you, dude, were number one on our list of 40 farmers under 40.
Jason: I heard about that. Thank you, and I’m touched but, you now, to tell you — I’m also a little bit surprised ‘cause I think more and more young people should be getting into farming, and starting to acknowledge the importance of agriculture.
Chuck: Well, you’re setting the example, my friend, and we really appreciate that.
Jason: Thank you much.
Chuck: I’ll tell you what, and it really was great to see your name at the top of that list.
Jason: Thank you.
Chuck: That was one of our most visited stories, by the way. So, there are a lot of people that are showing interest in this.
Jason: Very cool.
Chuck: I think that’s encouraging.
Jason: Very cool.
Chuck: Now this is your first Farm Aid. Right?
Jason: This is my first Farm Aid and I’m humbled, you know, I’m so grateful to be, well, acknowledged that my music could be contributed in this manner, you know. The thing about Farm Aid, and I look out there, and it’s like a huge demographic of people, all ages, all kinds of people and it’s very refreshing ‘cause it isn’t so, yes, it benefits the farmers, but it really is a concert for humanity. You know? It really is. And we’re gonna raise the consciousness level about the kind of food we’re eating, where we’re buying our food from, how we’re actually contributing with our dollar, and so I’m really stoked, and as you know, as a musician and an activist, it’s great when you can fuse them together.
Chuck: You bet. Well, let’s let the folks know a little bit more about your farming.
Chuck: You farm avocados.
Jason: I farm avocados. Yeah, and now I can’t take all the credit. I moved in about five years ago, six years, and the gentleman who I bought the farm from, he says, “You know anything about avocados, son?” And I was sweating. I was like, “No, sir.” He was like, “Good, ‘cause these trees do it all themselves.” And he’s right, you know, all we got to do is just monitor how much water is in the soil and the trees do a pretty darn good job of it. So, it’s something I’ve been taking care of for the last six years. I love it. Trying to keep these 30-year-old trees thriving. They get harvested about twice a year depending on where the acreage is and how they’re blooming. We’ve also done a lot of pruning in the last couple of years. So, things have been a little slower in the last couple of seasons, but also, they opened up some trade between Mexico and the U.S. recently for avocados. And so, last year was the first year where I actually had to pay money to grow my avocados.
Jason: It was unbelievable.
Chuck: That’s kind of interesting.
Jason: So, I couldn’t be happier to be at Farm Aid this year and stress the importance of really going to your farmers market and really buying locally. You know, talk to your grocer, talk to your local produce grocer. And really support, you know, and also when you buy organic and you buy locally, you’re voting with your dollar at that point of where you want your food to come from. So…
Chuck: Absolutely. Well, I think now your avocados actually do stay in the community. Don’t they?
Jason: Well, I’m not sure, you know, the avocados they go out in probably big, big bundles. They look like dumpsters, you know, the breathable dumpsters, probably take out, I don’t know how many tons. I’ve never actually weighed them. But many, many avocados, you know. And they get taken down to a big farmers market in downtown San Diego where they’re purchased by various restaurateurs and canneries and what not, and they go far and wide, all across southern California.
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