ORLANDO, Fla. — When looking for a meal in the city of Orlando, most people look for restaurants and grocery stores. But not Rob Greenfield.

  • 1-year project to forage, grow or fish food only
  • Rob Greenfield hopes his journey will inspire people to grow more of their own food

“You can eat both the leaves and the flowers,” said Greenfield, as he stands on the side of a road in Audubon Park with a weed in his hand. “But this is actually a very nutritious and medicinal plant.”

He munches on Spanish needle, as he searches the ground for other things to eat. The barefooted 32-year-old man is on a 365-day mission.

“Oh it would be great to be halfway, I am still like 50 days from halfway,” he chuckled.

On the day of the interview, it was day 143 of 365. For a full year, he is foraging and growing 100 percent of his own food.

“And what this lacks in size it makes up in flavor,” said Greenfield, as he pops a small tomato into his mouth.  

He is an urban forager.

“I arrived in Orlando about 15 months ago, and when I arrived here this was just a front lawn,” said Greenfield, now standing in a fully functioning garden.

Before, the lawn was like any other front lawn, he assures us. It had very little soil, mostly made of sand with tough grass on top. Greenfield said to transform it, it took about $500 and five months of gardening.

“Within three or four months, there was more food than me and the homeowners can eat altogether,” said Greenfield. “Our problem wasn’t growing food, it was how do we eat all this food that we have grown?”

This is not his lawn, but a friend's lawn. He works the garden, and they can eat what he grows. It’s a green thumb deal of sorts. Surprisingly, even vegetables that are not easy to grow in Florida, are doing great in this front yard garden.

“I mean you can see there is some dirt on there,” said Greenfield, pulling out a huge carrot and then taking a crunchy bite. “A little dirt won’t do you any harm.”

But aside from normal fruits and vegetables, there are more obscure ones.

“This is Moringa, also called the vitamin tree or the tree of life, and you can eat it right off the tree,” said Greenfield, as he takes a bite full of small leaves.  

But growing food is only 70 percent of his food source. The other 30 percent he forages.

“If people would open their eyes and look at the world through a new perspective, they would realize that food is growing all over Orlando,” said Greenfield. “If I look around and see a lot of fruit on the ground, it is a good sign it is not being used.”

On this day, he eats loquats from a tree near his tiny home he built in a person’s backyard with their permission. Another partnership he negotiated at a different home nearby.

“No grocery stores, no restaurants, not even eating food from a friend's pantry or even a friend's garden. No bars, you name it,” laughed Greenfield.

He also has and tends to a few bee hives around town for fresh honey. To help supplement his diet, he also fishes and grows starchy vegetables too. Plus, he is making sure he is staying healthy by tracking his weight and going to the doctor.

“Now I wake up pretty excited for most days, I have a reason to live. I live to try and have a positive impact on the world,” said Greenfield.

On the shelves his food is stored, canned and dehydrated. You would think this extremist would have years of experience, but in fact he does not.  

“When I started this project I didn’t know how much water to put onto a carrot seed, what time of year to plant, how much sun does a garden need,” he laughed.   

But he is an expert now.

 “I do extreme things to wake people up, inspire them and help them on that path to a more happy, healthy and sustainable life,” said Greenfield.  

He hopes people who see his story or learn of this year-long journey choose to plant a little garden, grow a few greens and try to spend less on big, corporate food conglomerates.

“Don’t be overwhelmed, start small and grow from there,” said Greenfield.

National Geographic has also follow Greenfield’s journey. Greenfield is also on Twitter.