Coconut oil, hemp seeds and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee conjure up the Caribbean homeland of native son Bob Marley. Now his sons are exporting these organic tropical treats while fanning the flames of their father’s ideals. In more than three decades since leaving his mark on the world, it’s impossible to separate the enduring music of the international reggae icon from his inspiring message. His family honors this legacy with a variety of efforts, from producing healthy foods and sustainable products to the 1Love Foundation, a multifaceted charity aligned with Marley’s yearning for a better world.
“This is the way we were brought up. The philosophies of my parents laid down the foundation,” says Bob’s oldest son Ziggy Marley, whose songs also address social injustice, politics and freedom. His recent album, “In Concert,” even weaves in some of his father’s songs, such as “Is This Love?” Not only did Ziggy produce the definitive 2012 documentary, “Marley,” he also paid tribute to the legend’s music with Sting, Rihanna, Bruno Mars and brother Damian at this year’s Grammy Awards.
Ziggy just published his first children’s book, “I Love You Too,” based on a song from “Family Time,” a kids album recorded with his mother and sister Cedella. “Kids are an important audience to reach for the future of the planet. I think you have to start when their minds are open,” notes the Grammy winner. He previously created the comic book “Marijuanaman” about a superhero fighting for Earth’s dwindling natural resources (and diversity of the cannabis plant).
Along with Ziggy’s many hats as an artist, author and activist, he’s also an entrepreneur. Ziggy Marley Organics, launched in September 2012, makes Hemp Rules roasted hemp seeds spiced with Caribbean Crunch and Coco’mon coconut oils. Considered a superfood, hemp seeds are a good source of protein and have the recommended omega-3 and -6 fatty acid ratio. “I want people to get over the stigma about hemp,” he says. “These seeds can’t make you high, but they will make you feel good.” Even though agricultural hemp doesn’t contain active THC, the substance responsible for creating marijuana’s high, it isn’t grown in the U.S., so it is imported from Canada.
“I grew up with coconuts as the main flavor in food in Jamaica. It’s part of our culture,” he says about his organic non-GMO oil in curry and lemon-ginger flavors. While aware of its nutritional benefits, the issue of genetically modified food motivated Ziggy to do a PSA for the Just Label It campaign. He points to the high rate of allergies, asthma and obesity in children as a result of what we eat, explaining:
“The long-term study of GMO foods is going on in real time and in real life. Not in a lab. To affect the food chain of our society is one of the most influential things you can do. And it’s allowed without much scrutiny. I’m worried about that. Food should be natural. When we add pollutants to the air, it makes us sick. Same with water. But money speaks. Money bring power. Money bring silence, ya know. We have to take a stance as people.”
The rhythms of Ziggy’s voice and his reasoning echo Bob Marley’s words like, “Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights.” According to Rastafarian principles, the term “ital” (derived from the word vital) refers to a pure diet of unprocessed foods, and the idea that what we eat should enhance “livity” or life energy.
One of Ziggy’s creative siblings, Rohan Marley (right) is living his father’s dream of returning to his farm. On acres near the homeland of Nine Mile, Marley Coffee grows famed Jamaican Blue Mountain organic beans without pesticides or fertilizers. Sourced from beans around the world, the appropriately named roasts include “Lively Up” from Ethiopia. Ethically farmed and artisan roasted, the company provides workers with a living wage. Available at Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca, Amazon, and the Marley Coffee website, a portion of proceeds supports Kicks for a Cause, which builds soccer fields and kids camps in Jamaica and other coffee-producing communities. “Sustainability,” Rohan says. “That’s a legacy for generations to come.”
The Marley family’s 1Love Foundation, created by the musician’s 11 children and wife Rita, raises funds and awareness on issues devoted to youth, health, education and the environment. The House of Marley offers a line of headphones, and Cedella designs apparel to benefit the charity along with partners such as Little Kids Rock for musical education in U.S. schools, charity: water, and Save the Children. Ziggy founded URGE (Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment) to support education initiatives, and donates time to End Polio Now. “I care about the planet and the people on the planet.”
With 42 million Facebook followers, the lasting appeal of Bob Marley is a heritage his children respect. Ziggy refers to their shared spirit for making music. “It’s not a façade, a gimmick with fireworks — it’s real. People connect with that. Like real food — if you pick food from a tree, it tastes different than food from a supermarket. Our music is from the tree,” he says. “It contains the life force.”