The First Feast Project, Part 3: Growing a Feast When You Don’t Own Land

Reader Contribution by Kiara Ashanti
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The list of foods eaten at the First Thanksgiving, detailed in the previous post are diverse and easy to obtain — if you are buying them from a grocery store (a luxury the Pilgrims did not have). So the goal here is to not use the grocery store. Growing and hunting for the food with my own two hands is a much more satisfying way of approaching the project. The guidelines for carrying out it, however, make it more difficult.


The parameters are simple and straightforward:

1. I will make an honest effort to procure game animals (deer, duck, turkey,) and seafood items with my own hands.

2. Vegetables and fruits will be planted and grown with my own hands.

3. If a menu item cannot be obtained, either because of a failed hunt, not grown in time, or some other reason, I will get the food from a local farm, or source.

4. No foods on the menu will be bought from any chain supermarket. If it did not come from the Earth near me or a local farm, it will not show up on the table.

These guidelines are a little more difficult than at first glance. I do not own a homestead, nor my own home, so I don’t have a backyard to place a garden. I live in an apartment. Also, there are a few foods that cannot be obtained in the state of Florida, where I reside. Cod, for example, is a coldwater fish. There is nothing cold about the waters of Florida. The showpiece, turkey, is an expensive bird to hunt. These hunts can cost $1,300 to $1,500 dollars. Essentially, I could buy all the items I want from the store and have money left over to go Black Friday shopping for that amount of money. Public land hunts are cheaper. But I have no idea where to look on them, and I don’t want to be the black guy that needs rescuing on the news.


Where to Grow Your Greens

Despite living in an apartment, planning on where to grow was easy. The Orlando area is home to several community-based gardens. I have plots at two locations. One is a 4-by-12 raised bed, and another location has two 4×10 garden plots. Community based gardens are a great solution for anyone who wants to garden, but do not have their own land. Joining is usually inexpensive, $20 a year in my own case, and have the added benefit of having all the tools you need at them.

Using the Mother Earth Garden Planner, I mapped out my plots to include the vegetables needed for Thanksgiving, mixed in with the other vegetables I eat regularly. At the larger plot, I planted: corn, yard-long asparagus beans, broad beans, peas, lettuces, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, and winter squash. The smaller plots were planted with more corn, a variety of squash, called Red Kuri, sage, celery, carrots, greens (more on THAT decision to come), cabbage, thyme, spinach, and more broccoli and kale.

Experienced gardeners on Mother Earth, already see a number of problems in the planting plan. Corn needs room to pollinate itself. Sweet potatoes need to be started in summer. I had a plan for the corn that involved planting them close together, about 5 inches apart, in hopes that proximity would aid in pollination. I also planted items like African Basil, and Borage in hopes of enticing bees to flit around the garden.

 I’d heard corn could be water hogs, but there is plenty of water at the community garden. However, knowing that work would at times keep me from watering as often as I would prefer, this year I changed the amendments that I added to the soil. Rather than just adding mushroom compost or Black Kow; I added a bunch of Coconut fiber. If you have never used this, I would skip the peat moss and jump on this stuff. It holds moisture extremely well. My thought process was simple.  Retained moisture, meant less worry about getting to the gardens to water at the right times. 

With my plan set, my gardens prepared with amendments, trellis’s, and my seeds bought, it was time to plant. All I needed now was a group of people to cook and prepare the foods of the First Feast.

Which is where roadblock one sprang in front of me.

Click here for Part 4, “Disconnected from Our Food.”

Kiara Ashanti is originally from the cold state of New Jersey. He attended college in sunny Florida and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Speech Communication. He loves taking on new projects and is the author of over 200 articles ranging from trading securities, politics, social policy, and celebrity interviews. Read all of Kiara’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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