I sit here in my tiny house, tucked away in a backyard just a few miles from downtown Orlando, Florida. As I type I see ocean water boiling away on my firepit to produce my salt. I see honeybees glistening in the afternoon sun, coming and going from their hive, stocking me up with honey. I see hickory nut shells scattered on the ground, the aftermath of making morning hickory nut milk.
Today is day 111 of growing and foraging one hundred percent of my food. When I say one hundred percent, I truly mean it. No exceptions whatsoever — no gifts of food, no purchasing food from the local farmers market, not even a drop of craft brew from a friend. And of course, coffee and chocolate don’t grow here in Central Florida. I have embarked on a deeply immersive experience in food, from the calories, to the fats and proteins, to the sugar and oil, down to every last nutrient my body will need.
When one imagines a self-sufficient life like this, one would typically imagine it happening on a farm in the countryside. Perhaps something like Barbara Kingsolver experienced and shared with us through her book, Animal, Vegetable Miracle. I sit here with helicopters flying overhead and surrounded by neighbors not even a shout away.
I don’t have any land of my own. Instead, I am growing my food in the front yards of about a half dozen people I have met in the neighborhood. The gardens have been abundant so far, and the homeowners are welcome to eat as much as they’d like. I have set up a 100-square-foot tiny house that I built for under $1,500 with secondhand and repurposed materials.
I do a work exchange to allow me to have this simple abode. In this little nook, I have everything I need. To my left and behind me are shelves for storing dried herbs, and beans, foraged fruit, jars of honey, ferments and more. To my right sits my deep chest freezer packed full of the abundance of my gardens and my trips to collect the earth’s bounty. On my bed a few dozen coconuts currently lay out to turn into coconut oil. The storage under my bed is where I tuck things away when the place is too cluttered. It’s a small space for all this food, but so far it has done the job.
When I arrived in Florida just 14 months ago, I had no experience with growing in this state and in reality, had only ever had a few raised beds in San Diego that were pretty meager-looking back on them now. I jumped right in upon arriving with intentions of taking six months of preparation before fully launching into this project.
Six months turned into 10, but with good reason. I started three initiatives to help others grow their own food: Gardens for Single Moms, Community Fruit Trees, and Free Seed project.
You see, growing and foraging 100% of my food, is really just a small part of the goal. What I really want to do is inspire more people to start growing some of their own food and to connect with the life-giving substances that we have lost connection with through the industrialization and globalization of our food. That could be planting a single tomato plant in a pot on a balcony, turning an entire front yard into a garden, or just getting to know a farmer and buying local. I figure, what better way to inspire this change than to live it. So that’s what I’m doing.
I’ll be here growing, eating and writing and I’ll be sharing it all with you right here if you’d like to embark on this journey with me.
Photos by Sierra Ford Photography
Rob Greenfield is an adventurer, activist, humanitarian and dude making a difference. He is the creator of The Food Waste Fiasco, a campaign that strives to end food waste and hunger. Rob currently lives in Orlando, Florida in a tiny house he built near zero waste, with 99% repurposed materials for under $1,500. His current project is to grow and forage 100% of his food a year. Connect with Rob at his website and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
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