Grow food where you are.
In your back yard. With your neighbors on an empty lot. In an old, abandoned industrial part of town.
It seems a bit … utopian. It feels a little … fantasy-ish. At least that's what I thought until I interviewed Eugene Cooke, a man behind – and clearly in front of – the Grow Where You Are movement.
Eugene grew up in suburban Los Angeles, helping his parents out with a small garden at the side of their house. But it was his visits as a youth to his grandparents' eighty-acre farm in Kansas that really got his hands dirty.
Perhaps more importantly, those warm days in Kansas planted the seed for truly respecting nature. For truly understanding how to get out of nature's way with some ancestral techniques and let the soil, the water, and the air work together in harmony.
He's based in Atlanta these days, but he travels across America and to places like Kenya or Jamaica to learn new (and teach old) agro-ecological principles. Plus, with his Gebsite initiative, he's helping people grow their own food at homes, schools, churches, community centers, and parks across the world.
For context, here's the simple Gebsite Twitter bio: “Cultivating beauty and abundance through artistic expression and sustainable food systems worldwide.” And for emphasis, do you know what Gebsite's listed location is?
You'll soon realize why this podcast episode is one of my all-time favorites, including the thousands of episodes from other shows I've listened to. Eugene's insight is just so different, so vibrant, and will make anyone say, “Yeah. I can do this, too!”
You're going to get gifts [from helping your community grow their food]. You just need to serve first. – Eugene Cooke
Discover his compelling vision and resources for yourself to revive a culture of cultivation. All you need to do is press play.
You're about to Learn …
- Why you need a food abundance system more than abundant food.
- How to ease poverty with local solutions and no legislation.
- How to make nature your church.
- Why the men who spoke the least influenced Eugene the most.
- How to go from quiet learner to urban farmer.
- Why silence helps you receive nature's wisdom.
- How schools can literally feed our children.
- Why fruit trees are the easiest (and often best) pillars of gardens.
- How to simply – and powerfully – bring a community together by growing food.
- Why native planting mounds (hugelkultur) rock so much – even if you have actual rocks.
- What to plant when water is scarce … and where to get the water.
- How to use city, university, or community gardens to show you what you should grow.
- Why quiet volunteers at local gardens outperform the verbally curious.
Resources and Items Mentioned in This Episode:
- Blog Posts
- Medicine Wheel Gathering (Atlanta, 2014)
- Where to find Eugene on social media:
- [08:27] Eugene's seeds of awesomeness
- [14:16] How Eugene co-created Truly Living Well Center
- [18:05] The meaning of food abundance systems
- [22:20] Agroforestry and what anyone can do to feed themselves
- [26:52] The communal benefits of food sovereignty
- [32:06] The prosperity from having a prominent urban farm
- [34:01] How and why to use native planting mounds (a.k.a. hugelkultur)
- [38:37] Guidance on growing when and where water is scarce
- [42:37] Quick and easy first steps to start your gardening journey
- [49:00] How to connect with and help Eugene
Extra Gratitude and Special Mentions
An Australian listener with the iTunes handle of “HodgepodgeOz” recently left me a review. The title made me feel schuper schweet and it read, “Spreadsheet dude with plenty to give.”
HodgepodgeOz wrote, “Joel's engaging and dry wit make this podcast an enjoyable listen. He's into simplifying and sharing his tips to get you thinking about ways to improve your life. His guests are varied, but I like it best when its ‘just Joel.' His passion and knowledge of the subject matter makes you want to delve deeper down all the rabbit holes his show notes provide.”
As we say in the U.S., thanks! And as I understand they say in Australia, “Goodness gracious, thanks a ton!”
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