Story of a… Forager

Activist Rob Greenfield has taken on the challenge of growing and foraging 100 percent of his food for 365 days, with just over two months to go.

Activist Rob Greenfield

Roberto Gonzalez

Curiosity sparked his grand adventure. “I have traveled to six continents, 40 countries and 49 states and have never met anyone who has done this.” Greenfield wanted to know if it was humanly possible in 2018, the year he started, to be entirely self-sufficient. “Secondly, the goal is to inspire other people to wake up and make changes.” Namely, to incorporate more life-based movement into the day, such as bicycling and walking instead of driving. And to eat more whole foods. “Eat apples, not applesauce.” He is currently working on a book detailing what he’s learned from his project.

No late-night Publix runs. Greenfield’s diet requires planning and effort. Before he started this project, he transformed the front yard of the Audubon Park home where he lives into a garden fertile enough to grow sweet potatoes, eggplants, kale and the rest of the bounty he calls breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Door-to-door foraging. Easiest to find is fruit: mangoes, papaya, loquats, mulberries, bananas, elderberries and coconuts. Greenfield prefers empty lots and parks for foraging, as then he knows what’s free for the taking. “Or, if I need permission, I ask permission. Nine times out of 10, people say yes.”

Innovative thinking. Even food items that we take for granted require effort. Take salt for example. Greenfield hitched a ride to the coast to collect seawater, which he boiled down until he could fill his shakers. As much as he’s gotten creative, growing spices like basil, ginger and turmeric to flavor dishes, he’s also learning to live without basics, such as oil. Instead, he boils or dehydrates foods and vegetables, or sautés them in a bit of water.

Food faves. Greenfield, who moved here from San Diego, studied what grows best in Florida’s climate. His number-one plant is one most folks have likely never heard of: moringa. “You can put it in smoothies, soups or dry it. You can eat it fresh in a salad. Most greens are highly versatile.” His second pick is sweet potatoes. “I’ve probably eaten 500 pounds of sweet potatoes so far this year. It’s one of the most calorie- and nutrient-dense foods.”

Clean bill of health. “No health problems so far. It’s day 228, and I don’t think I’ve even had so much as a cold. I’ve definitely been tired plenty of times, but that’s what happens when you stay up until 1 a.m. dehydrating mangoes.”

Late-night snacking is too much work. “Ehhhhh, I have gone to bed hungry—not because I don’t have food, but because I don’t feel like making it. I am hungry a lot.”

Full-time gig. Greenfield estimates that he spends at least 80 hours a week gardening and foraging. “I have all the food I want, but the challenge is that I have to work for it.”

Food surrounds us. Greenfield encourages everyone to consider foraging, given how much fruit falls uneaten. In Orlando, forager Green Deane teaches which local weeds, fruits and other flora are edible. Says Greenfield: “You will look at your yard and community in a different way. So much is edible.”

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