“Whenever my head starts to hurt/ Before it goes from bad to feeling worse/ I turn off my phone, I get down low/ And put my hands in the dirt.”
Jason Mraz sang these lyrics on his joyful 2014 song “Back to the Earth” — and it was no metaphor. In 2015, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter converted the orchard he purchased in 2004 into Mraz Family Farms, an organic, fair trade, and regenerative farm.
A decade later, the San Diego, Calif. farm has a full-time staff — though Mraz still does pitch in when he can! — and sells its avocados, coffee beans, and passion fruit across the country. The farm has even supplied avocados to Chipotle.
“When I bought the property 20 years ago, I bought it from a man in his 80s, and he planted those trees probably in the mid ‘70s,” Mraz tells Green Matters exclusively. “Now I'm 46; the trees I'm planting today will be about that same age when I’m in my 80s. And I'm going to sell the farm to some other young fool who wants to farm.”
The “I’m Yours” singer adds: “If a farm is done right, it'll outlive its farmer.”
Green Matters recently sat down with Mraz at the Chelsea Market in New York City, at a pop-up experience hosted by Planet Oat to launch the vegan company’s new coffee-friendly, ultra-creamy Barista Lovers Oatmilk. (The brand will be holding more pop-ups across the country, so stay tuned.)
To learn more about Mraz Family Farms, how Mraz incorporates sustainability into his life and career, and what’s next for the musician, read on for Jason Mraz’s exclusive Green Routine!
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.
GREEN MATTERS: What made you partner with Planet Oat?
JASON MRAZ: I started my career in coffee shops, I've worked in coffee shops, I’m a home barista, I grow coffee. I always keep one foot in the coffee world to see what's going on. And I use Planet Oat at home, which was a great coincidence. So when they said they're launching Barista Lovers, I said, “I’m there.”
GM: When did you become an environmentalist?
JM: When I was younger, I was blind to the environment because I was so focused on music. And through music, I established a career and I was able to buy a home. Through that homeownership, I felt like I had to be a steward of the earth.
GM: You’ve talked about eating mostly plant-based in the past — is that something you still do?
JM: I’m mostly plant-based. As a singer, I choose a dairy-free diet, because I find that my ear, nose, and throat just handle a non-dairy diet much better. And then when I do choose a fish or a chicken, it’s more of a side than an entrée.
GM: On your 2012 song “Frank D. Fixer,” named after your grandfather, you sing about a family farm. How did farming and that song influence each other?
So, having been involved in Farm Aid, I started to understand the plight of the family farm. It made me remember the farming my grandparents did, and reconnect to my roots.
And also, I was starting to then have my own farm, and understand the challenges of having a small farm in general. So that song sings about all of those things.
GM: You're touring your 2023 album Mystical Magical Rhythmical Radical Ride this summer. How do you incorporate sustainability into your tours?
JM: We do biodiesel in our buses when possible. The biodiesel truck will come to our venue and fill up our buses and trucks.
We're old school, avid promoters of making sure everyone has their own refillable water bottles, and we have biodegradable and reusable cutlery and stuff on the bus.
GM: What's next for your music?
JM: The album I have in the works is a country bluegrass record, inspired by my grandmother. Every time I made an album, she said, "Is it gospel?" So I finally made her a gospel album [which was never released]. And, of course, she loved it.
When she unfortunately passed away, I got the album back. And I've been sitting on it thinking, “I need to share this.” So I'm taking some songs from that record I made for my grandmother, and I'm adding other songs in that style.
GM: When did you write those songs?
JM: They were actually cover songs, from the ‘20s through the ‘70s, of country gospel inspirational songs. It’s steeped in Appalachia, bluegrass, country, gospel, inspirational. But I'm writing new songs that pair with those songs.
I want every album to be different. I want to explore as many genres as possible. Doing the same thing all the time would just get a little old.
"Green Routine" is a series from Green Matters that invites notable people in the environmental space to share the efforts they make to live more sustainably.