It’s so difficult to accept the fact that we are not in control here. Therefore, the best thing we can do is let go of any and all expectations. Only then will we be open to a positive new beginning and the idea that the universe may actually have a better plan for us — if we can just allow it all to unfold.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Wolkon.
Doug Wolkon is the founder of Kauai Farmacy, a seed-to-cup, herbal medicine producer with worldwide distribution, and author of “The New Game: A Strategy to Reinvent the American Economy.” Wolkon represents the new generation of business leaders driving economic innovation for the survival of humanity and the future of our planet. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he spent 10 years in private-equity real estate finance where he was a partner and co-headed the acquisition group for Greenfield Partners, a 3 billion dollars fund based out of Norwalk, Connecticut. His finance career was followed by three years of studying economic theory and publishing his first book in 2007. Wolkon moved to Hawaii in 2008, purchased property, and began developing diverse herb and spice gardens with his wife and business partner Genna and a team of gardeners and herbalists. Doug advocates holistic living, self-care, and the optimal balance of nutrition, rest, and hydration as the most influential aspects of one’s health. Doug enjoys playing basketball, surfing, and gardening.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1996, I spent my 20s on Wall Street in finance but left in 2004, somewhat disenfranchised by the financial system. I was particularly frustrated by Wall Street’s propensity to breed boom-bust economic cycles as well as its inability to integrate true economics, including food and health, into its financial matrix.
So, I decided to move on and commit the following three years to research and writing a book on economics, “The New Game: A Strategy to Reinvent the American Economy.” In the book, I introduce a new age economic theory as well as practical, new financial strategies like new landlords, mini stock markets, and local investment funds. These strategies are designed to align the interest of investors, employees, landlords, and tenants to focus on local food production, local trade, renewable energy, and healthy sustainable lifestyles. And, although my vision has evolved greatly since 2007 when the book was published, the economic foundation is timeless.
In 2008, soon after the dramatic birth of our first child, we moved our family to Kauai, the western-most island in Hawaii. As a result of the conventional birthing paradigm, we had become shockingly aware of the disparity between accepted medical practices and actual sustainable, healthy lifestyles. So, when we arrived on Kauai, I quickly found myself in both a healing and identity crisis.
It was at this time that I was introduced to the power of Kauai-grown plant medicine, such as turmeric, tulsi, lemon balm, and noni. As we began to work with the plants and wild-craft fresh herbal tea, everything began to change, including our weight, diet, attitude, self-awareness and connection to our environment. I finally began to shed my attachment to my former identity as well as cleanse my system of toxic blockages that were causing all kinds of physical pain and mental stress. Soon thereafter, we purchased a 4-acre tropical horse ranch and began to develop and operate an herbal medicine farm that we now call Kauai Farmacy.
At this moment, I am grateful that my family and our business have been relatively unaffected by the pandemic. Our organic, seed-to-cup, herbal oasis that is now almost 10 years old is fortunately thriving during the current immune-boosting movement. We provide both local and worldwide internet distribution of our organic healing teas, superfoods, salves, tinctures, honey and more through our website at www.kauaifarmacy.com. At the helm of the operation, our dedicated team of 17 people includes gardeners, herbalists, and healers. We grow over 70 different varieties of potent herbal plant medicine including ginger, lemongrass, allspice, cinnamon, and sage, to name a few. Our mission is to build biodiverse gardens with strong immune systems, create a sustainable economic engine by providing healthy jobs, and provide next-level plant medicine to help heal people. I believe we are an exemplary economic model for present and future generations to come.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I vividly remember being in a bookstore in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 2005, picking up Adam Smith’s 1,100-page economic “bible,” and starting to read it as if it was the newspaper’s sports section (the only thing I really enjoyed reading back then). It literally felt like Adam Smith had written the book, 250 years prior, for me specifically to read and study. And, although the economic linguistics in which he wrote was entirely foreign to me, I understood his message seamlessly. So, I proceeded to purchase my first economic literary doorstopper of many, chasing one “old-school” economic thought leader after another during my next three years of self-study. My favorites to this day include such lost philosophers of economics as Carl Menger, Léon Walras, Jean-Baptiste Say, Joseph Schumpeter, and of course, Adam Smith.
These books, written between the 18th and 20th centuries, resonated with me because of their basic interpretations of a more transparent economic system, mostly based on landlords and tenants, utilizing essential values like food, energy, trade, housing, and clothing as the foundation of their economic theories.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear and loneliness. From your perspective, can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During This Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Heal Yo’ Self
In my humble opinion, it is our unhealthy lifestyles and unhealthy environment that are the root cause of the pandemic and the subsequent economic collapse. We have fostered weak immune systems in our environment, ourselves, and our economy that has proven to be unsustainable for our planet. Often it requires a big wake-up call, a catastrophe of sorts, in order to take back our power and reestablish ownership of our life. If there is any light at the end of the tunnel, it begins with the notion of self-healing and our ability to take responsibility for our own health and environment. The healing begins with awareness; with growing, sourcing and eating quality fruits and vegetables; supporting local farmers; and pursuing healthy career and lifestyle choices. It is the ultimate power of this self-healing movement that will birth a new world, abundant in healthy beings, peaceful hearts, and sustainable environments.
When we moved to Kauai in 2008, we were honestly not really sure why. But as time unfurled, we realized we had come here to heal from our recent traumatic birth experience as well as to slow down from our former go-go lifestyle. For after 10 years of steak and wine dinners in the world of finance, logging hours and hours on the computer and cell phone, not to mention long coast-to-coast airplane rides, I certainly had a lot of work to do. But this was not the kind of work that I spent my entire life training for. This work, we soon learned, was referred to as “working on ourselves.” So, the healing journey began: massage, acupuncture, yoga, eating farm-grown food, using herbs, drinking tea, immersing ourselves in nature and so much more.
Our first fresh herbal tea blend from the garden was comprised of tulsi (holy basil), lemon balm, mint and sage. We began making gallon batches and drinking it throughout the day. It was delicious! My entire system began to change from the inside out. My waist and center literally came alive after years of dormancy, and my neck began to trim out and loosen up. My appetite for life picked up as well, as I began preparing and consuming vibrant, alive food. It was amazing. I began losing weight simultaneous to my increase in appetite. My metabolism and digestive tract rejuvenated in real time. I am most grateful to these herbs for my renewed health and the radiant state of my family. For it is my health that allows me to live by my intuition, trust my immune system, be calm, and become the highest version of myself.
Slow Down and Trust
We have been taught from a young age to fix things when they are “broken” or to work “harder” when things may not be going your way. But, this time, we may just need to take a big step back, observe it all, tap into our intuition, and trust in nature. It’s so difficult to accept the fact that we are not in control here. Therefore, the best thing we can do is let go of any and all expectations. Only then will we be open to a positive new beginning and the idea that the universe may actually have a better plan for us — if we can just allow it all to unfold.
When we moved to Kauai, I completely lost my identity and felt void of self-purpose with regards to a “career.” I was immediately forced to be with myself and embrace the journey. I realized it was no longer an option to follow the path I had been programmed to follow — but rather, to take some healthy, uncalculated “risks.”
So, three years after moving to Kauai, guided by our intuition, we decided to use our savings from my former life in finance to purchase the farm. The truth is that we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. We moved fast at the beginning: gathering seeds and starts, planting diverse herb gardens, cutting down huge invasive trees, building solar dehydrators, and introducing beehives.
As productivity accelerated on the surface, each moment was anchored in deep life lessons. There was a lot of baggage we were still carrying from our past, and as a result, “mistakes” became a way of life out of ignorance, ego and fast decision-making. From initially erecting the plant nursery under a huge shady tree (duh!) to planting runaway jungle vines that would later have to get entirely removed, we were continually experiencing the repercussions of haste.
So, continuing to move fast proved unwise. The lessons were too costly — physically, emotionally and financially. It was finally time to slow down and learn what the word “organic” truly meant. We were forced to take baby step after baby step and to accept that every mistake was an opportunity to grow. We learned how to trust the process. Eventually, we found our rhythm, which had organically synched with the natural rhythm of the land, and that’s when the magic started to happen.
Take Action and Invest in our Local Economies
This “crisis” is actually an opportunity. By taking action locally, we are not only addressing the cause of the problem at its root, but we are also seeding a new sustainable economic system. As it is said in Hawaii, it is our kuleana (responsibility) to mālama ‘āina — to “care for the land that feeds and nourishes us.” As we prioritize action in our local economies, we will begin to experience the values of true wealth in our daily lifestyles.
I recently asked a wealthy friend of mine that lives on the island how he has fared financially through the recent market turmoil. He proceeded to explain to me that he was thankful to be in a mostly cash position and actually didn’t lose much at all in the markets.
I then asked him how much of his savings are invested in the local Kauai economy. He told me virtually none, other than his personal home. Here is when I dug into him, with compassion, of course. How can a person worth millions of dollars not have any savings or other resources invested in his neighborhood, his community, his environment, his economic reality? When push comes to shove, what else is more important than supporting the health, balance, and prosperity of your immediate surroundings and the people that live in our REAL ECONOMY?
Local job creation must be spurred by local people in their communities. I reminded him that his community is here, on Kauai, and that his “neighborhood” is the most critical allocation of his entire investment portfolio. This is the case in almost every community on the planet. We need to stop worrying about our worldwide investment paper “value” and quickly invest our savings, both big and small, institutional and personal, into our local communities for real tangible lifestyle and financial returns. Local investments by local investors, including big state, county, and corporate pension funds, endowments, individuals, 401(k)s, and IRAs, will build the new foundation for a new economy with fully aligned economic interests.
This approach to living one’s life and caring for planet Earth with local reverence is not restricted to my financial investors or my neighbors in Hawaii. Everyone everywhere can break the downward spiral by supporting local communities with their energy, their purchasing dollars, investment, trade, skills, and by literally planting that first seed.
Reemerge Into the Light With a Healthy Lifestyle
As a parent of three young children under the age of twelve, I admittedly find it difficult to explain to them the inequities that exist in the world today. We want so much to be able to illuminate a society that provides nourishing food to all its people, that rewards its people for pursuing healthy lifestyles, and that sustains itself on the daily medicine of plants, dance and music. We may be dreaming, right? But at this moment, why not dream big — of a new society where we dance, sing and eat together daily? Is it possible that this moment is truly an opportunity to reemerge from the dark into the light, from cheap fast food to abundant local organic gardens, from toxic fossil fuels to clean renewable energy, from institutionalization to human innovation, from health insurance to truly healthy beings? I don’t want to point out the obvious, but we can do a lot better!
It was after my wife gave birth to our third child that I realized the caliber of our new lifestyle on the farm. It was finally clear that what was required of us was to perform at our highest level physically, mentally and spiritually. And as we consumed more and more herbal medicine that promoted self-awareness (if nothing else), we realized the impact it had on our lifestyle. So, slowly but surely, I was forced to give up the late-night beers, toxic food, and anything and everything that was not aligned with my personal, family and farm’s highest and best interests. Next, we began to seek out optimal nutrition, rest, hydration and relationships. The results were sobering to say the least, and sometime around year six, the Farmacy began to hit its stride. And to this day, we continue to learn to appreciate the simplicity of a healthy lifestyle balance as our sole determination of “success.”
Reconnecting to our Food and Energy Sources
A recent run on seeds, plants, grain, and herbal medicine is solid proof that the wake-up call to plant real food and herbal medicine locally has already arrived. We are sobering up to the unhealthy, inefficient, and volatile supply chains that grow and deliver our essentials, like food and energy. We are ready to create an environment of diverse plant life that is also sustainable as a food and herbal medicine source to help us heal our respective communities. This empowerment will replace our dependency on a system that does not serve our best interests.
Dollar inflation, coupled with rent deflation and energy price volatility, will eventually force us all, large and small investors alike, into the only truly secure and tangible bets available: locally grown F-O-O-D, herbal medicine, and renewable energy essentials. The values of these essentials will be the new gold standard that our currency will be based upon in the new economy. As a result, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and biodiverse organic farming will be the next boom-like sector. Generation Z and millennials are already inspired to study and practice these new-age farming methods as their new career paths in order to realign our local plant and food production with our health and environment.
When we first arrived on Kauai, it was difficult to transfer my white-collar experience and skills to an economy driven by tourism and some local farming. But soon, I realized that working with the land is an innate skill that we all crave and possess deep down inside. In other words, we are all born gardeners. Reconnecting to our food and energy sources will bring fulfillment, purpose, great awareness, true health, and sustainable economies.
From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
When anxiety arises, I focus my energy within, specifically on self-care. As I have mentioned, this is the time to work on ourselves. Although it may not be easy at first, the more you practice, the easier it gets.
Step 1: Stretch lightly and as often as possible to keep your body limber, flexible, and strong.
Step 2: Practice breathing methods consistently to stay calm and circulate oxygen throughout your body.
Step 3: Eat and drink plants to stay calm, increase self-awareness and connect to the Earth.
Step 4: Be in nature, or if not possible at this moment, meditate, read or talk about nature.
Step 5: Handwrite journal entries as a means to physically, mentally and spiritually balance energy and let go of anxious thoughts.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Anxiety usually stems from multiple years of neglected self-care. As self-care leads to self-awareness, the more we practice self-care, the more aware we become, which completely dissolves anxiety. Hence, the easiest way to alleviate anxiety is to get adequate rest, eat healthily, and stay well-hydrated. However, the caveat is that when feeling anxious, it may be difficult to rest, so practicing yoga, breathwork, and warm baths can help facilitate peace, calm presence, and mind clarity. Just try it!
Doing the best you can do is key. And remember, the little things count. On the farm, we use herbs like lemon balm, lilikoi, pineapple sage, and tulsi to calm anxious feelings. Addressing anxiety takes a holistic approach that includes a disciplined and consistent healthy lifestyle practice. Being in nature when possible is also a great antidote for anxiety.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I love the quote, “Pray with your feet.” There is no better time than now to stop thinking and to take action.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement to heal ourselves and rebuild our local economy has already begun. Being home, being with ourselves, our family, and our local community is our medicine. It is the first step to the healing movement.
I conceived “The New Game” over 15 years ago because I believed then that there was a more sustainable, lighter, and healthier way to operate our economy. Today, that belief is even stronger. I wrote the book as an economic prophecy that would provide much-needed economic education to prepare us for the radical changes ahead.
In my opinion, the only defense against the hyperinflation we will face ahead (the erosion of the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar) is real local production by local people. In other words, “reap what you sow,” which is the root of any strong economy. Investing our savings (bank, IRA, pension funds, 401(k), etc.) locally in food and herbal medicine production and renewable energy creates healthy jobs, nourishing food, clean energy and a strong economic foundation. Inevitably, human innovation will take over, and the movement will be self-sustainable based on the infinite resources of air, water and light.
We have the opportunity of a lifetime to create sustainable local economies in which people are inspired to pursue the employment that is most advantageous to society, not the other way around. All we have to do now is to continue to self-care, observe, reconnect, trust our intuition and take action. The movement has begun.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Go to www.KauaiFarmacy.com where you can subscribe to our newsletter and blog, learn about the Earth’s source of plant medicines, and explore our herbal lifestyle products. For more inspiration, visit our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/c/kauaifarmacytea.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!