David Wolfe makes it his mission to get fresh with people. Sometimes he gets downright dirty. In fact, most would say he’s just plain raw. And it’s all in a day’s work.
Wolfe ‘98 (J.D.) , who grew up thinking a french fry was a perfectly respectable vegetable, is now at the forefront of the raw-food revolution. The raw-food movement — popularized by celebrities like supermodel Carol Alt and actors Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore — is based on the belief that cooking food reduces its nutritional value. Raw foodists also don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs or other animal products.
For Wolfe, what has become a lifestyle all started with a tangerine. He was 7 when he moved to San Diego with his family and, while visiting an uncle, plucked a tangerine off a tree in the back yard.
“I’ll never forget that tangerine,” says Wolfe. “I’d never had anything that fresh and vibrant. What happened for me in that moment was that I realized I could be eating this way all the time.”
As a teen, Wolfe stopped eating dairy products. In college, he dated a girl who only ate organic foods. Then he became a vegetarian. By the time he got to USD’s law school, enough people asked about his diet for him to start giving lectures and write a book. First he sold 10 copies. Then 100. Then 1,000. Before he knew it, he’d sold 100,000.
So far, he’s written three books. He founded Nature’s First Law, a raw food organization based in San Diego, with a store in El Cajon, specializing in all things raw. And, perhaps in part as homage to the tangerine, but mostly to promote fresh fruit, Wolfe also started The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. Its goal is to plant 18 billion trees around the world. Wolfe says he loves to get his hands dirty planting trees on Native American reservations and just about anywhere else people will let him dig a hole and drop a seed.
Wolfe concedes that for some people a raw food diet seems monotonous. “People always ask, ‘So do I have to eat lettuce and oranges for the rest of my life?’” he says. The answer is no. Some of the staples of the diet are fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, grains and legumes and coconut milk. But, in addition to these are what Wolfe calls super foods — things like wild honey, bee pollen, maca (which is a root in the radish family), cacao nut (which is the purest form of chocolate), and goji berries, similar to raisins, only red.
“Not everyone will jump from what their diet is to what my diet is,” says Wolfe, who’s lanky at 6-feet-tall, and weighs 168 pounds. He no longer owns a stove.
“Anybody can eat goji berries and realize they’re incredible. We meet people wherever they’re at, and usually start by introducing them to the super foods. From there they can try adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to their diets, pull out that juicer they’ve never used before and see what happens, or buy a raw foods book and start experimenting. They don’t have to take the whole thing on at once.”