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Craig Sams

Craig Sams

Craig Sams, the greenest man in Britain (2)

In the second part of her interview with Craig Sams, HOT’s Chandra Masoliver asks him about his grandfather’s arrival in the USA from Syria, his father’s career, and how his family background has influenced the several businesses and initiatives he has launched.

There is a clear thread in Craig Sams’ life that connects his family and ancestral origins with the ecological and nutritional work he has been so committed to throughout his life. On his family website, Craig traces his origins back to Noah, from whom Arab and Jewish people are descended. One tribe founded the kingdom of Saba, which is now the Yemen. The Sabeans lived in a fertile land, they exported gold, spices, precious stones and perfumes. But in 542 their land was ruined by flood and drought, and starvation ensued. Both the Bible and the Koran, when writing of dispersal, say ‘like the people of Saba’.

Craig follows their peregrinations through the centuries to 1825, when one Sabean tribe, the Ghassanids, became the leaders of all the Arab tribes in Syria. After settling in Bsoame, north of Damascus, they prospered, adopting the surname ‘Hajjal’, meaning partridge, because of its swaggering walk, like their leader.

A Syrian peddlar

A Syrian peddlar

In 1900, Craig’s paternal grandfather Abood Saba Hajjal and his wife left Bsoame for Carnegie in the USA. There he set up as an itinerant peddler to the mining towns, selling religious relics, underwear, elastic, buttons, bows, lace, clothing – anything people would buy in that land without department stores.

The United States Immigration gave the Hajjal family the surname Sam, and Craig’s father, Karim became Kenneth. In 1940 Kenneth joined the US marines as a radio operator. Later he got a Masters degree in English, earning money by selling his balsawood kits of ‘Rolloplanes’.

In 1951 the family moved to London where Kenneth created a rich and diverse life. He became an influential military historian, founding CHECO (Contemporary Historical Examination of Current Operations). He studied Arabic, and wrote plays for the BBC World Service. They were performed in the traditional way, with the aim of bringing the Arab countries into contact with the modern world.

Kenneth Sams

Kenneth Sams

Kenneth also redesigned the ‘Rolloplane’, patented as ‘UFO Sam’. It had such a unique flat wing that he offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who could explain how the vortices at the end of the wings made it work, and even the design team at Boeing failed!

In 1967 he started the ‘Grunt Free Press’, providing American GIs (Grunts) with an alternative to the military ‘Daily Stars and Stripes.’ Then in 1971, with his two sons Craig and Greg, he founded ‘Seed’, the Journal of Organic Living, the first magazine for the alternative and complementary health movement.

Craig Sams follows in the footsteps of his ancestors

CM: Has your knowledge of your forebears influenced you?

CS: In the Koran the fate of the people of Saba became a morality story of right and wrong living. There is a lesson to be learnt, that a nation should be watchful of the natural physical systems around them, and that society should be subservient to the divine laws of nature, to avoid undue balances.

CM: Were you the first in your family to be aware of the importance of what we eat?

CS: My father became seriously ill in 1948 and we were afraid he would die. He only survived because a Japanese doctor put him on a dairy-free, sugar-free, white flour-free diet. Whenever he fell ill again, my mother put him back on that food, so I learned the link between diet and health, which paved the way for our family’s interest in the wholefood business.

CM: You have had restaurants in England, written four books, started the Wellington Square Natural Health Centre in Hastings, and with your wife, Josephine Fairley you founded Green and Black’s Organic Chocolate, the first product to carry the Fairtrade Mark. From time immemorial your ancestors have been entrepreneurs and you follow in their tradition! How did you start off?

CS: I studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania, we were trained to be cogs in the big multi-national corporations, not how to manage a small independent restaurant. But I ran the restaurant for my fraternity – I worked with the chef, planned menus, budgeted, and had the food ready on time.

CM: I would like to go back to your ancestors, and what you have said about the Sabeans having to learn to be watchful of their natural physical conditions. What is your philosophy regarding our planet and its soil?

abad4e5634d3d7650b7250d2cce8fc0fCS: As with many civilisations, the Sabean dynasty collapsed when they turned from sun worship to Christianity. They thought of the sun as God, but in fact it is the soil that holds biology’s intelligence, and microbes are the gods of the soil. They have given life to the earth, and if we don’t do something, the vital layer of fertility that supports life on earth will be lost. The ‘Wood Wide Web’ describes the way that soil microbes communicate. For example, if a disease is affecting plants on the East Hill, the soil microbes will be aware of this over the valley on the Lower Torfield allotments, and the microbes there will produce defensive chemicals against the disease spreading.

I co-founded a company called Carbon Gold Ltd., we make Biochar, this is woody plant material, roasted until it is black and crumbly – charcoal basically; but we grind it fine and put it in the soil. Then beneficial soil microbes have a refuge from predators in the soil, and they expand their population – bringing nutrients to the plant host and warding off disease pathogens. When Biochar is buried in the soil it stays there, storing carbon, thereby taking carbon that was in the atmosphere and locking it up in the soil. So Biochar helps mitigate climate change while regenerating healthy soils.

Plants are fed by microbes, which generate nutrients that feed the plant. The plant makes sugar through photosynthesis. A third of that sugar goes down to the roots to feed the soil microbes. If you use chemical fertilisers the plant will grow tall, but it doesn’t feed the soil, so the microbes die off, and without them fungal disease can attack living plants. Then the plant needs chemical fungicides – it’s like being hooked on drugs. When farmers use nitrate as a fertilizer, it emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than carbon monoxide. Bio Char reduces their emission by 50%.

CM: So how else can we replenish the planet, bearing in mind your citing the Koran which says that society should be subservient to the laws of nature?

imagesCS: As Plato said centuries ago, vegetarianism is the only real answer to this problem. Meat and dairy farming are responsible for 50% of global warming, that’s more than deforestation.

If we adopted the proposal from the French Government of 4 parts of organic soil per 1,000 parts of soil, it would reduce the pressure. They have established that if we increase soil organic matter every year by 4 parts per 1,000 that would be enough to offset all our emissions from oil, coal and gas. But that means farming in a more organic way – fully organic farms can get from 7 to 10 parts per 1,000; it would reduce greenhouse gas levels every year. That includes pasture, forest and field crops. A significant number of countries are committed to the 4 per 1,000 initiative, and this will change the way we farm. It isn’t just better for climate change, it will stop us losing soil at the current global rate of 30 football fields every minute.

Craig Sams for more information.

Part 1 of Chandra Masoliver’s article: Craig Sams: Greenest Man in Britain (1)

Posted 10:04 Thursday, May 18, 2017 In: Home Ground

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