They say that desperate times call for desperate measures. The idiom has been used over and over again throughout history, with different versions, but all alluding to resorting to extreme measures during drastic times, which may not be needed during normal circumstances. And definitely the current pandemic has brought about desperate and extraordinary times. Millions of people in the US, and billions of people all over the world are facing desperate and critical times. Many are perishing because of the virus, and economies are devastated. There is confusion, anger, despair, and sorrow, but there is always hope.
The US issued federal stimulus checks to citizens to help them cope with the devastating economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, and the lockdowns. It surely helped, though was not quite nearly enough. Most individuals spent the money on basic necessities like food, rent, utilities, mortgage payments, and other essentials. Any assistance is appreciated, but more has to be done.
One man from Tampa, Florida, decided to do more. He invested in a long term project – building his own garden at home to provide food for himself…initially. He is now teaching his community about the substantial benefits of food independence. It’s his way of helping the community thrive during these desperate times.
Michael Chaney, nicknamed “Spirit Mike,” has always been interested in gardening. But it wasn’t until the pandemic hit, and local groceries were affected by the crisis, that he got motivated to turn his hobby into a passion and a mission. Upon receiving his first stimulus check, he decided to purchase pots to start growing some tomatoes. He sought the advice of seasoned gardeners at the nearby A Land of Delight Natural Farm, to get the right materials and supplies to help him grow his own food. He explained this in an interview with the local radio station WMNF.
From tomatoes he prospered into growing eggplants, collard greens, mustard greens, onions, papaya, ghost peppers, apples, lemons, strawberry guava, lettuce, yucca, sugar cane, and other plants, on his 3 acres of land. He said, “I do biointensive gardening, which means planting as much as you can in a small space…I specifically picked these types of fruits [dwarf plants] because they grow fruits fast.”
His pride and joy are the moringa trees which he values for its high vitamin C content and legendary medicinal properties – as well as antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-depressant qualities. “That is the Michael Jordan and the Kobe Bryant together,” he says with pride. “If you were stranded somewhere and all you have is this and water you would not only survive, you would thrive.” Chaney adds, “I don’t work out. All I did was add this to my diet and add flax seed fiber and I lost 65 pounds.”
But he hasn’t turned vegetarian, he also has 9 chickens, which he purchased for only $3 a chick. “My aim is to make my food cost zero,” Chaney explains. “ So my food scraps go into the soldier fly larvae bin, they eat that and produce more larvae. Those larvae get fed to the chickens. The chicken produces eggs, I sell the eggs and eat the eggs; life is good.”
This Tampa man made sure to carefully plan his garden so that managing it and ensuring its success would be less difficult. “It’s very important that you plan your garden. Do your research before you put a dollar down because you want your dollar to go as far as it can,” Chaney advises. He named his garden New World Growers, and it’s an example and inspiration of food independence and community self-determination at a time when food insecurity is on the rise.
Yes, desperate times call for desperate measures – extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Chaney did the extraordinary…in a time of uncertainty and trouble. It may be a sign of the “new normal” that our planet is facing. We all have to do what we can, within the bounds of legality and decency, to survive and beat this pandemic. Times will eventually get better, but it can only get better if we work to make our lives better.
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