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The Health Science Podcast | Episode 078. | May 02, 2024
078: Love of Organic Farming Rooted in Life’s Work with Mark Epstein
078: Love of Organic Farming Rooted in Life’s Work with Mark Epstein

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Mark Epstein, a prominent figure within the National Health Association (NHA), has had a multifaceted journey through health, finance, and entrepreneurship. His insights and experiences offer a unique perspective on the intersection of these fields and their impact on personal and societal well-being. Epstein’s appearance as a featured expert on the NHA Health Science Podcast, hosted by Dr. Frank Sabatino, sheds light on his background, upbringing, and the pivotal moments that shaped his path.

Roots in Natural Health

Epstein’s roots in the natural health movement run deep, stemming from a family heritage deeply entrenched in the principles of natural hygiene. Growing up in the fifties, Epstein was exposed to the foundational teachings of figures like Dr. Chris John Curcio, a co-founder of the American Natural Hygiene Society. His childhood was steeped in the practices of natural hygiene, with summers spent attending hygiene conventions and following a lifestyle centered around whole plant foods and healthy living.

Academic Pursuits and Financial Exploration

Epstein’s academic journey led him to the University of Chicago, where he pursued studies in mathematics and computer science. It was during this time that he encountered seminal works like John McDougall’s “The McDougall Plan” and John Robbins’ “Diet for a New America,” which expanded his understanding of plant-based nutrition and its broader implications for health, society, and the environment. These works provided a modern perspective on natural hygiene principles, reinforcing Epstein’s commitment to a lifestyle rooted in whole foods and compassion.

Transition to Finance and Entrepreneurship

Despite initially pursuing a career in academia, Epstein found himself drawn to the world of finance, particularly the derivatives and options markets. The allure of Chicago’s bustling financial scene led him to explore opportunities in stock trading and mathematical modeling. 

In 1987, amidst the turbulence of the stock market crash, Epstein’s interest in financial markets intensified. He immersed himself in the intricacies of options pricing and futures trading, leveraging his mathematical background to navigate the complexities of Wall Street.

Epstein’s entrepreneurial spirit culminated in the establishment of Cafe Voltaire, a cultural and performance space in Chicago’s vibrant arts scene. Inspired by a chance encounter with a vegetarian restaurant while navigating the city’s streets, Epstein embarked on a venture that blended his passion for healthy living with his love for music and community engagement.

Ethical Awakening and Transition to Farming

Mark, a former trader turned gentleman farmer, shared his transformative path from the bustling trading floors to the serene fields of his farm in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Mark’s journey began with a realization of the importance of understanding one’s role in serving the world. Initially drawn to the complexities of trading, he grappled with the ethical dimensions of his work, questioning whether it truly contributed positively to society. This introspection led him to reassess his priorities and seek a more meaningful pursuit. His transition to farming was serendipitous, sparked by an unexpected turn of events—a fire in his Chicago apartment that prompted a relocation to Pinehurst.

Challenges and Innovation in Sustainable Agriculture

The transition from finance to farming was not without its challenges. Mark faced skepticism from local agricultural experts who doubted the viability of farming in the sandy soils of Moore County. Undeterred, he embarked on a journey of learning, immersing himself in the intricacies of soil biology and sustainable farming practices. 

One of the highlights of Mark’s farming endeavors is his innovative approach to greenhouse cultivation. Inspired by the concept of climate batteries, Mark designed a geothermal greenhouse that harnesses the natural warmth of the sun to sustain year-round cultivation.

Community Building and Advocacy

Mark’s commitment to sustainable agriculture goes beyond mere technological innovation. He believes in fostering a sense of community around farming, recognizing the importance of connecting people with the source of their food. Moreover, Mark is passionate about the role of regenerative agriculture in combating climate change and restoring ecosystems.

A Vision for a Sustainable Future

It’s evident that Mark’s journey embodies a profound shift in values—one driven by a deep commitment to serving both people and the planet. Through his passion, innovation, and dedication, Mark offers a compelling vision of agriculture as not just a means of sustenance but a pathway to a more sustainable and interconnected world.

Episode Highlights 

[00:00] Introduction 

[01:30] Growing up in the NHA and natural hygiene. 

[04:15] The Greatest Health Discovery resurfaces. 

[07:00] Digging into the history of the NHA. 

[14:15] From mathematics, to accounting to organic farming. 

[16:00] A well-rounded approach to food choices and animal compassion.  

[18:30] The stock market crash shifts Mark’s trajectory of activities.  

[22:00] The early 1990s and Café Voltaire, restaurant-performance space, in Chicago. 

[26:45] Risky Entrepreneurship: Technology and Trading.  

[28:45] Soul searching reveals a deeper level of meaning in Mark’s work.

[31:00] The beginning roots of Flow Farm. 

[38:00] The formula for year-round growing and harvesting. 

[42:00] Comparing apples to apples. 

[46:45] The healing is D.E.A.P – Diet, environment, activity, psychology.

About Mark Epstein 

Mark Epstein is a computer scientist who worked in the investment management and technology industries for over 30 years. After receiving a B.S. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Computer Science from The University of Chicago, Mark began designing and implementing a variety of mathematical tools for futures and options trading firms. In 1996, Mark founded the Flow Trading Group to provide technology and trading consulting services. Flow has managed private assets in hedge funds and traded their own in-house proprietary accounts.

In the art world, Mark developed Cafe Voltaire in the 1990s, a natural foods restaurant, performance space theater, and art gallery in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. With a commitment to health and the environment, Mark has served on the boards of Sustain, EarthSave International, and the National Health Association. Currently residing in Pinehurst, North Carolina with his wife Jules and their two children, he has created Flow Farm (veganic), plays the saxophones, and enjoys vegan cooking.

Mark and his family are life members of the NHA. His grandparents (on both sides) were fortunate to learn about the NHA’s philosophy of healthful living nearly 80 years ago. Mark and Jules are very proud to be continuing this tradition by raising their children with this unique approach to health and a plant-based diet.

About Dr. Frank Sabatino

As a recognized authority on the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, Dr. Frank Sabatino has cared for and inspired thousands of people for over 40 years. Dr. Sabatino has a PhD in cell biology and neuroendocrinology and has done extensive landmark research on calorie restriction, stress, and aging. He currently is on staff at the TrueNorth Health Foundation in Santa Rosa, CA, and serves as the Director of Health Education at the NHA.

Dr. Sabatino’s passion and life’s work include raising awareness about the benefits of whole-food, plant-exclusive nutrition (without added salt, oil, or sugar), health rejuvenation and stress management.

About NHA

The National Health Association (NHA), founded in 1948, is a nonprofit organization that promotes the benefits of a plant-based diet. The Association provides educational materials, educational events, and services to thousands of people around the world.

The mission of the National Health Association is to educate and empower individuals to understand that health results from healthful living. The NHA recognizes the integration of all aspects of health: personal, environmental, and social.

The NHA also provides travel experiences around the globe through the NHA Plant-Based Travel and cruise division.

More information: 


A unique benefit of the NHA Conference is the selection of two medical students who receive a full scholarship to the conference.

Contact Wanda Huberman for more information on how to apply for the scholarship.  [email protected]

NHA membership

For a very nominal investment, you can enjoy incredible benefits of the NHA membership.

Members of the NHA enjoy a subscription to the award-winning quarterly health journal, Health Science, access to the “Members Only” section of the NHA Website (which contains all 43 years of back issues of the magazine),  the ability to download for free many classic out of print eBooks on the history of the Natural Hygiene Movement, including Fasting Can Save Your Life and The Greatest Health Discovery, discounts on books, and early notice of the NHA events.

Only $35 a year for basic membership within the United States.

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