Hello Reddit! Rob Greenfield here. I recently finished a yearlong project of growing and foraging 100% of my food. Last month an interview I did with BuzzFeed about my project was on the front page of r/videos and I saw that there were a lot of questions. I've decided to do an AMA to answer them! So please ask me anything!

Here's a YouTube playlist of videos from the project:

A bit more about the project: For one year I grew and foraged 100% of my food. Every. Single. Bite. No grocery stores, no restaurants, not even a drink at a bar. Nature was my garden, my pantry and my pharmacy. I lived in the city of Orlando, Florida in a 100 square foot tiny house. With no land of my own I turned front yards into gardens and shared the bounty of food with the homeowners. Over the year I grew over 100 different foods in my gardens, foraged over 200 foods from nature and I grew and foraged my own medicine and vitamins too. The purpose wasn't just to grow my own food, but to do something attention grabbing to create a conversation about the reality of our food system and inspire and instigate people to take back control of our food from Big Ag and create food sovereignty in our communities.

[Proof photo:]

(https://www.instagram.com/p/B939v6RIIl1)

UPDATE: It was nice to spend time with you all on here. Thanks for your questions. I hope I was able to be of service to you. I'll do it again in the future. Wishing health and happiness to you all. Love, Rob

Comments: 104 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

toeaway-28 karma

Have you eaten something that made you sick or gave you an allergic reaction?

robgreenfieldreddit40 karma

During this project no. However I did have an allergic reaction the last two summers, both around the time I was harvesting hundreds of mangos. I learned that mango is in the same family as poison ivy, which I have a strong reaction to sometimes. So I think that my rashes and hives may have come from the exposure to the mango skins and bark, but not from eating the mangos themselves. This is just an idea though and I'm not certain of it.

moschmo655 karma

I had the same thing happen to me with mangoes! You are correct. The skin of mangoes have the same oil that poison ivy does which is urushiol.

I LOOOOVE mangoes. They were my favorite fruit until I realized I couldn't eat them because of the skin.

I got a terrible, blistery rash around my mouth and finally figured out it was from mangoes. I'm also very allergic to poison ivy so that it makes sense 😅

However, I did read if someone else prepares and cuts it for you or if you get it frozen and eat it very carefully and wash your mouth out afterwards, you should be okay. I've not been adventurous enough to have someone else cut it for me, but I have had some frozen mango with no rash!

robgreenfieldreddit6 karma

I would guess if you just get someone to peel them for you, you'll be fine. Just find a way to barter some work with them. :)

lancelotschaubert16 karma

What foods are people most likely to have access to in their backyards that they don't consider edible? Like top 10?

robgreenfieldreddit15 karma

Well, it really depends on where in the world you are. We live on a very diverse earth with millions of species. However across much of the USA and my temperate climates I've visited (such as France right now) I'd recommend: Greens like dandelion, plantago, purslane, sorrell, stinging nettle, lambsquarter, amaranth, mint, wild onion/ garlic/ leeks, clover, brassica's like mustard and radish. Berries like raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, serviceberry and hundreds of others Fruit trees like apples, pears and plums. These are sort of beginner plants to forage. I hope you find that useful!

lancelotschaubert5 karma

NYC, Illinois, and SW MO are my habitats.

Only know like half of those. Are there easy identifiers. Didn't know about clover.

Any favorite recipes with those?

robgreenfieldreddit14 karma

Then, everything I listed applies perfectly to you. For greens I lightly sauté them all together with olive oil and salt. With nettle I make nettle tea by lightly boiling them. I don't teach identification of plants over the internet and encourage seeking local sources such as foragers and books for that. I recommend Sam Thayer's books: https://www.foragersharvest.com/

micolnator14 karma

Hi Rob! I've actually followed you for a while, do you still collect & donate the food that supermarkets throw out? That was a very inspiring movement at the time (back when you had that OG tiny home) and it's what made me a fan today. Thank you for staying true to your values!

robgreenfieldreddit19 karma

Hi micolnator, That's great to hear. Glad to connect with you! I still do a lot of dumpster diving, although during this year I did not eat from dumpsters, so I did a lot less diving. However I do still teach a lot of people how to dumpster dive and give a lot of food away. As long as there is quality food in the dumpsters I will be there redistributing the food and keeping it out of the landfill!

EcoMusiEduAdv12 karma

I think I first heard about you from Zero Waste Chef, Anne Marie, a little under a year ago and have been inspired by your activism ever since! Do you think you would have been able to do a year of growing and foraging 100% of your food if you were in northern US states? If so, how would it have looked differently?

robgreenfieldreddit10 karma

Hi there, That's great to hear! When I embarked on this project I was very inexperienced, so I wanted to choose a location where I thought it'd be easier. Having a year around growing season in Florida provided that. With my experience, I now believe I can do this in a colder climate and I plan to do it, likely in the state of New York. I have met numerous people / families in cold climates who grow 80% of their food and of course this has been done for a very long time. The key is to grow a lot and harvest the bounty in the summer and fall and store it to make it through the winter. That is exactly what I will be doing and I'm very excited for it!

knufflelala10 karma

I know you don't want to encourage travel so you aren't revealing your exact location in France, but can you tell us a little about your daily life right now in the midst of this pandemic?

Also, I just want you to know that the only reason I have an instagram is to follow you for inspiration!

robgreenfieldreddit16 karma

Hi there knufflelala! I'm glad to be a positive inspiration in your days. I will keep doing that for you. Right now I am going for daily walks in the woods, which I am very thankful to have access to from the property I am on. Yesterday, I spent 6 hours in the woods reading and walking. I am spending 8+ hours per day on the computer writing and researching. I am using this opportunity to catch up on a lot of work and to provide helpful information to people during these difficult times. I offered to do video calls with people in isolation and have done that most nights since last Tuesday. I am staying with a family of 4 and they have been very nice to stay with. We eat meals together and they are wonderful cooks. I'm teaching them the edible plants that are in their yard. They are teaching me French and I'm helping them practice their English. It's been a nice experience. I also do spend a lot of time keeping up with what is going on in the world right now, which is very challenging. But I aim to be a positive light in the situation for people. I am embracing the situation as I can.

asoror9 karma

Do you feel a great sense of security in this strange time, knowing you have been self-reliant and can continue to be? And maybe show others how to be as well? What are your general feelings about what’s going on right now in the world? (Edited for grammar, sorry I’m on my phone)

robgreenfieldreddit11 karma

I probably feel a greater sense of security than the average person. However in a true state of panic, I would still be extremely vulnerable. 7 billion is a lot people and most need resources and many would do what they need to live. So these skills do not necessarily put me into a high state of security. I am not on the land in Florida anymore and am caught in the middle of this in France as I was on my speaking tour. So I'm not in a place where I can live off the land, which is somewhat ironic. But in the state of the world I do feel like I can truly be of service to a lot of people and know that I have been.

moschmo658 karma

I watched your YouTube videos on this and loved them!

What are your best tips for someone who lives in a city (where growing crops isn't as accessible) who wants to grow their own food? Or at least some of their own food?

robgreenfieldreddit12 karma

I would really recommend joining a community garden. In the United States you can check out the American Community Garden Association to learn about them and find them. There are thousands across the country. communitygarden.org At home you can grow herbs in a windowsill, put pots on your balcony, grow on the roof (see if the landlord of the apartment building will allow a rooftop garden). Those are a few ideas. You can also talk to neighbors who have yards and see if you can grow food in their yard and share the food with them. You can also guerrilla garden in empty lots and edges of parks.

centrafrugal8 karma

Your sign is sending me mixed messages. Should I grow my own food or just rob a green field?

robgreenfieldreddit7 karma

I don't encourage robbing anything, green field or not. :) I do encourage being a steward to the green fields and harvesting sustainably from them. I'm pretty sure this is a joke, but just to make sure, my name is Rob Greenfield. Birth name is Robin Julian Greenfield :)

asoror7 karma

How difficult was it socially/psychologically to do this year? I imagine it took so much willpower. Did you have to separate yourself from people who live more status-quo, to avoid the temptations and habits they have? Could you maintain friendships?

robgreenfieldreddit5 karma

It was both extremely difficult and also easy.
I have been embarking on projects that separate me from the status quo for quite some time. So I am quite used to it.
This was difficult as I was alone a lot, but I also chose to be alone a lot anyway, because I really like time to myself.
I did miss potlucks with friends and cooking with and eating what everybody else was eating.
But for me it was all so worth it. What I missed out on was replaced by other gains from the experience.
Yes, all my friendships were maintained and I spent an incredible amount of time with friends. I brought my food with me when we hung out and for the most part all remained normal for me.

YuruMemer7 karma

How do you get started with something like this in an environment where people aren’t good with that idea? I receive backlash from my family and friends when I say that I want to grow my own food or live sustainably. It’s tough to keep that dream alive.

robgreenfieldreddit7 karma

I do understand where you are coming from and this is not an uncommon situation too be in. For me its a little easier because I care less what people think and am ok with going against the grain of the society I am in. It's more important to do what is right than get approval. However I don't live at home with my family and really feel for those that are young and still do.
So how I got started though, is I started small. I started to spend time around new people who accepted me for who I was. I left Wisconsin and went to San Diego and started new.
You could look for local gardening groups to join, a community garden, Facebook groups, etc. Seek out likeminded people to find refuge from. Books can also provide refuge. The library is a wonderful place. So are the woods.
Wishing you strength to keep the dream alive.

YuruMemer3 karma

Thanks for your response, Rob Greenfield! I’ll see what I can do. Time to tip the scales, so we could tell the tales, of a food garden’s worth, for a more greener Earth.

robgreenfieldreddit3 karma

Right on my friend!

ArachisDiogoi6 karma

What were your favorite non-domesticated foods that you think would be nicest to see cultivated for the average person? I personally like serviceberries and mayapples, although the toxins in mayapples are a bit of a problem. And eastern black raspberry, of course, those are always a favorite.

I tried to grow a nannyberry once but the stupid viburnum beetles destroyed it. Once had a really cool chequer tree, but my neighbor dumped a few tons of soil on it. Goumi fruit is nice though, and their relative the autumn olive is okay. Before realizing just how much anything that wasn't corporate corn or soy monoculture was detested in the plant genetics community, I had aspirations of getting a molecular genetics PhD working with these sorts of things.

robgreenfieldreddit4 karma

That is a question that I do not have an answer to. I had plenty of foods that I grew and plenty that I foraged and did not deal with this situation, although I understand it where you are coming from!

Norgeroff6 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

robgreenfieldreddit7 karma

Usually green lately, but I have a bamboo one right now.

spr07985 karma

Did you lose weight?

robgreenfieldreddit8 karma

I started the year at 153 pounds. The lowest I got down to was 149 pounds. I finished the year at 152.6 pounds. So I would say I held my weight about as steady as I could possibly hope or expect. Some fluctuation is generally standard no matter what we are doing.

robgreenfieldreddit7 karma

153 pounds is 69.4 kg and 149 pounds is 67.6 kg for those that use kg.

SimplifyThyLife5 karma

Hii Rob :) have you ever read Walden by Henry David Thoreau?? If u did, can u give us your thoughts on it? Also, you travel quite a lot and seem to be on a loww budget! How much money would u say one needs to travel for about a year with a similar lifestyle to yours? (Feel free not to answer this one if u think it's kinda indiscrete)! I really admire your works! Hope to meet u someday! Sending u love from Portugal :)

robgreenfieldreddit6 karma

I have not read that book, although I would like to.
The traveling I am doing is a speaking tour and the transportation is covered by the organizations that are hosting me. I stay with hosts in their home. So my costs are very minimal. It's a unique scenario so not a model for all.
But I have also traveled on a very small budget prior to arrangements like this.
If you want to travel on a budget I would recommend traveling to one region and spending a lot of time there rather than trying to go to many places.
Here's one blog I wrote about traveling on a budget:
http://www.robgreenfield.tv/travelfree
Sending love back!

GypsyToo5 karma

Hi Rob!

I recently started to follow you on YouTube. Can't believe I missed you in Orlando, I'm in the area.

I have a pretty large yard and have been wanting for a long time to grow some food on it, but it's always something. I get overwhelmed I think.

How do I make the transition from watching people doing it on YouTube to actually doing it myself? What do you recommend a baby steps to get started?

robgreenfieldreddit4 karma

Start really small. Grow some herbs in a pot.
Join a community garden where you are surrounded by others.
Go to the Orlando Permaculture meetings.
Volunteer in other people's gardens to get motivated.

EmperorOfFabulous5 karma

Why didnt you attempt to make homemade wine?

robgreenfieldreddit4 karma

I made honey wine, also called mead.

Solid-Tumbleweed4 karma

Hi Rob! Did you ever run into areas of contaminated soil. If so how did you overcome this obstacle? I’d love to start growing more in my yard but I’m leery because I’ve found some items that suggest it may have been (personal) dumping grounds. Should I worry or will plants simply not grow in contaminated soil? Thanks!

robgreenfieldreddit5 karma

I grow in soil that is likely contaminated. The food at the grocery store is likely contaminate too. If we're talking about a "brown site" such as a former gas station, that's a different story, but minor contamination I don't worry about as I generally assume most of the world is minorly contaminated.

Solid-Tumbleweed4 karma

That’s a great point! I suppose finding “sterilized” soil, defeats the purpose of soil in the first place! Thanks for the response! Love what you’ve been doing! Keep up the great work!!

robgreenfieldreddit4 karma

You definitely don't want sterilized soil! Soil is alive with billions of organisms. Healthy soil = healthy plants!

musical_hog4 karma

Hi Rob, I really found your journey inspiring and hope to transition further toward sustainable food consumption in the future.

When the thought of eating squirrels crossed your mind, did you have to take any time to learn about laws surrounding "urban hunting" or whatever you would call that?

robgreenfieldreddit5 karma

No. As long as I do something in away that doesn't harm others then I put common sense over laws.

jo_bo_bo4 karma

Thanks for sharing! I hadn't heard of you, but am interested in this subject. We've had failed gardens in the past few years due to deer and groundhogs and the like eating it all. We put up a decent fence this year and hope to be able to be less reliant on grocery stores. We also raise egg chickens and will doing our second foray into raising meat chickens.

Do you have any tips for raising chickens without using a lot of feed? We do a mobile coop because we have so many predators around, and they can't forage as well as we'd like them to be able to.

Also, for those interested, there's a yearly event in Oklahoma sponsored by the national wild turkey federation that encourages women to learn about the outdoors. The event is aptly named 'Women in the Outdoors.' You get to pick different classes to attend and learn all kinds of neat skills. The teachers volunteer their time and students pay for class materials.

robgreenfieldreddit5 karma

I have not raised chickens so I can't advise there.
Best of wishes for your garden this year!

doh_tee_horne4 karma

Living in Florida, how do you naturally repel biting insects?

I know you use very little soap, but in a recent video you mentioned biodegradable soap, what brand do im you use? Or do you have a recipe to make your own?

Thanks!

Huge fan in Florida.

robgreenfieldreddit5 karma

The best way I naturally repel them is by wearing enough clothes that they can't bite through and by staying inside when I didn't feel like getting bitten.
I haven't found a natural spray that keeps them off.
The easiest brand to find is Dr. Bronner's and they are a great brand. But there are lots of options out there.
Glad to hear from a friend in Florida. I do miss the place. :)

grogggohi4 karma

Do you have a list of the edible plants that grew well for the area? I'm not too far from Orlando.

robgreenfieldreddit5 karma

Yes, I have a whole guide for Central Florida: http://robgreenfield.tv/grow And here is a list of the 300 foods I grew and foraged: http://www.robgreenfield.tv/foodfreedomfoods

I recommend going out foraging with a local forager such as Green Deane and more are listed in that guide!

citysity4 karma

What’s the hardest (or one of the hardest) aspects of the project and eating only what you grew/foraged?

Or if you want an alternative, what did you miss most? Ie: Did you miss a particular processed food like a pastry, or sausage, or something.

And what did you like to eat for breakfast?

Fascinating experience. Kudos.

robgreenfieldreddit6 karma

One of the most challenging was that I was not successful at making oil. And that tied perfectly into your second question. I missed olive oil and coconut oil the most.
I also yearned for nut butter like almond or peanut butter.
Mostly I yearned for convenience though.
I like to eat fruit smoothies or left over dinner for breakfast.
Sending love!

BurzGurz3 karma

Hey Rob! Been binging your videos since December.

I live in a house with a big yard. I can't rightly guess the size but it is way larger than the yard (front and back) you used for your 1 year project.

I also live in a country which is almost certainly about to enter an economic recession (at best) or crisis, and I have no job. I plan to survive by expanding my current small edibles setup to avoid need of a supermarket. However, I've had a hard time finding soil or matter for composting. No companies offering mulch or anything of the sort. The soil is purely sand so it is not great for planting, either.

I am unsure of where to go from here. I have a bunch of money saved for a rainy day. I could spare some to buy soil, but the only thing sold around here is peat. I'm not sure it is worth buying if I cannot mix it with anything else. I guess my question is what would you do in my situation, but that's way too broad, so perhaps, if you have any online survivalist food resources I'd be grateful.

As a bonus question, I have seen you've visited a lot of self sustainable communities. I am considering moving towards that if things go south. There are none I know of here and the internet yields no resources. So what should I look for? I know little to nothing about how they work

robgreenfieldreddit2 karma

Hey mate,
Thanks for asking that question. I don't have experience in your area so you are right, I don't really have a solid answer for you.
Mulch is the cheapest source of carbon in many regions. You could get a chipper of your own and offer to take downed trees from your neighbors land. You could also manage forest if you have it by thinning. Check out Joel Salatin for an example of that.
For compost you could try dumpster diving large quantities of wasted food or start a community drop off site on your land where people can drop their compost, or you could pick it up from them.
Here is my guide for Central Florida where I lived that gives more tips on finding mulch and compost: http://www.robgreenfield.tv/grow

Check out https://www.ic.org/ for communities and https://wwoof.net/ for organic farmers in the area that might also be on a community.
Sending love my friend!
Rob

todredditanon3 karma

I live in Wisconsin and I have been binge watching your videos. They have inspired me to be as environmentally friendly as possible. I try to pass on the things you talk about to my friends but they just say they don't want to change the way they live. Is there anything that I can say that will make them open their eyes and see how important it is to reduce our impact on the environment?

robgreenfieldreddit2 karma

Glad to be a positive part of your day fellow Wisconsinite!
Here's a blog I wrote a few years back that could be of service to you:
15 Tips to be a Positive Influence on Others
http://robgreenfield.tv/positiveinfluence/

RyuugaDota2 karma

Neat project. Any chance you've ever heard of a children's book called "The Man Who Cooked For Himself"?

robgreenfieldreddit2 karma

I have not.

RyuugaDota2 karma

One of my favorite books as a kid, it's very short (think the length of a Dr. Seuss book,) if you wanna take a peek. The book aims to teach children about the value that nature's bounty, hard work, and gardening can bring to your life.

The super short synopsis is: A man who lives in the country with no car or telephone runs out of food, so he goes out for a walk and discovers all sorts of wonderful foods. He fishes and forages and creates himself a fantastic meal with fresh ingredients better than any he'd cooked for himself before. Eventually the friend of his who normally brings his food returns and he gets the friend to bring him seeds so he can grow his own garden and be further self-reliant for his food.

Basically what I'm getting at is you're the man who cooked for himself! Pretty cool.

robgreenfieldreddit2 karma

Sounds fantastic!

LoremJesusIpsum2 karma

Megacorps has a lot of evil business practices, but they also have the economy of scale, which helps minimize the ecological footprint of agriculture. Sustenance farming is much less efficient. It needs way more land and can't provide enough food for the world, besides, not everyone wants to be farmers. A balance has to be stricken somewhere in the middle. What do you think is the optimal size of a farm?

robgreenfieldreddit1 karma

I think that the "fact" that you stated is not correct and that small scale farming actually produces more food per space, while inputting fewer resources and not depleting the land. I would recommend looking a little deeper into this idea you have.

ipeccacjera2 karma

What's your favorite color?

robgreenfieldreddit2 karma

I especially like natural colors of the earth, rather than artificially designed colors.

IamAlsoARobot2 karma

Did you try and plant anything specific that you just could not get to work? Love all your projects.

robgreenfieldreddit1 karma

I failed with sunflowers because the squirrels kept getting to them. But I honestly didn't try hard enough. I was also pretty unsuccessful with peanuts, but also didn't try hard enough.

Ashe_Faelsdon2 karma

Did you have external monetary support while you were attempting this? Did you work a full time job oustide of this?

robgreenfieldreddit3 karma

I do public speaking to make the modest amount of money I need. In 2019 I made $9,760 and in 2018 I made $8,000.

Tobgay2 karma

Hi Rob. There is one aspect of your life that I think was never explained in your videos. You have minimised your possessions to the extreme, and have even let go of your computer and phone. Given that you live away from family, and also move cities occasionally, I am curious how you have managed to fulfill your needs for community, social contact, and entertainment without any digital tools. Do you generally meet a lot of new people as soon as you move to a new place, and see them regularly while working on your projects? How smooth was your transition to living analog?

robgreenfieldreddit1 karma

I have a computer and I have for most of my life. I got rid of it three years ago and after about three months got one again because I was not able to be as productive as I wanted to. Up until recently I've always had an ipod touch to use for wifi and video production.
I've shown these items and talked about them quite a few times.
I currently on a 2013 macbook air that I bought used on craigslist for around $350 in 2016 I think.
I definitely don't live analog, but I strive to have a good balance and I dream of one day having no electronics.

MarziNam2 karma

I might have missed the AMA boat but what made you choose Belper as your tour destination in the UK?

robgreenfieldreddit1 karma

I go to where I am brought and where the energy is strongest. They contacted me and said they had an excited community and would have a good turnout.

turbo_time2 karma

I forgot to set a reminder to come and ask this yesterday! Maybe you'll see this at some point. What's your favorite wild edible plant? What's your favorite "domestic" edible plant?

robgreenfieldreddit1 karma

My favorite is whatever is extremely abundant at the moment. :)