Living off the land

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On November 11, 2019,  Rob Greenfield successfully completed living an entire year on foods he either grew or foraged himself. 100% of what went into his mouth had to have been grown by him or personally harvested/foraged by him.  No gifts of food, no bin diving, and no food purchases of any kind except seeds or seedlings.

Think about that a moment.

That includes small things we take for granted like salt, pepper, and oil. For all the details on his self-imposed definitions of foraging and growing his own foods read his Food Freedom Rules at http://robgreenfield.tv/foodfreedomrules/

He took a year to prepare for this venture, including moving to Orlando Florida where he could grow food year round, living in a tiny home parked in a friend’s yard.   And also setting up three hives of rescued bees (for more information on where he got the rescued bees click on this link to see a video about Dennis, the Bee Guy). 

He will have a book out this year (2021) sharing the details of his experiences over his year of being completely responsible for his food production – you can pre-order it by clicking HERE.

Mr. Greenfield is no stranger to sustainability experiments. As the self-proclaimed “adventurer, environmental activist, humanitarian, and dude making a difference. He is dedicated to leading the way to a more sustainable and just world.” Some of you reading this may remember him from “The Food Waste Fiasco” campaign – or his TED talk about that, which you can view at https://youtu.be/w96osGZaS74.


I have been interested in this topic of self-sufficiency with regards to food for a long time and for a number of reasons.

Some were purely selfish, I live in an earthquake prone area (I lived in Northern California during the Loma Prieta quake in 1989) and I go hiking a lot (which means I could potentially get lost one of these days) so I pay attention to plants that grow wild and are edible in my area, just in case.

Some of my reasons are more global – sustainable practices benefit the world at large, the climate, and help to manage limited resources. In many places in the world, this approach to living is the only approach there is; to live on what you yourself have grown or foraged.

And, we, in the United States have grown very far removed from the source of all of the products we consume, whether they are edibles or other product types. I think this distance from the source of our foods is a part of the reason that there has been such an interest in prepping, homesteading and off grid living. There is a subculture of self-sufficiency. 

And so, I challenge you to a short exercise, consider it a thought experiment. I won’t make this an apocalyptic scenario, just a series of questions.

Ready?

  1. If you had to find a source of water within walking distance of where you live (even if it might require purification), could you?
  2. If you had to forage for food (plants, fruits, berries, leaves), do you know what is edible in your neighborhood and when it is in season?
  3. If you had to find a source of naturally occurring salt or a source of salt that you could personally process in order to use, could you?

In consideration of our easy access to these things normally, imagine what would happen if suddenly we could not turn on the faucet and have clean water; go to the grocery store and purchase fruits and vegetables or buy a container of salt.

Not everyone lives with access to a yard, but you may have access to a community garden (or you might organize one). You might have a balcony or a roof top where you can grow some of your own foods. You probably have a Farmer’s Market, where you can purchase foods grown locally.

We don’t need to make as drastic a change as Rob Greenfield, but we can make small changes to our consumption. And maybe if enough of us make small changes, it will amount to a big change in our collective use of resources.  

For more information on Foraging Edible Plants in North America check out these books:

Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman 

Incredible Wild Edibles by Samuel Thayer

Nature’s Garden: A Guide to IdentifyingHarvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants. Samuel Thayer

Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons

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