Millions of Americans received federal stimulus checks to help tide them over during the COVID-19 lockdown. Fears over food shortage led Tampa, Florida, native Michael “Spirit Mike” Chaney to use his assistance to start his own garden.
“I do biointensive gardening, which means planting as much as you can in a small space,” explained Chaney. “I specifically picked these types of fruits [dwarf plants] because they grow fruit fast.”
Dozens of dwarf plants are properly situated throughout Chaney’s .3 acres of land in east Tampa. He said he researched them all to ensure each plant was the right fit for his garden.
“I planted the figs under this banana tree because the figs like to grow in the shade,” explained Chaney. (Fig trees actually prefer full sun.) “It’s very important that you plan your garden. Do your research before you put a dollar down because you want your dollar to go as far as it can,” added Chaney.
Chaney now has collards, papaya, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, cashew apples, and dozens of other plants. He says his garden will eventually grow enough food to feed an entire community. He encourages anyone who receives any assistance from the government to think long term about food security.
“If you use that government assistance all you need is a plot of land; use that assistance and buy 4/5 plants a month and at the end of the year you don’t even need the assistance anymore. You have an orchard.”
Chaney told Atlanta Black Star that the moringa tree bears the most powerful health benefits in his entire garden.
“If you were looking for vitamin C. This has over five times as much vitamin C as an orange does,” he said.
Chaney also has nine chickens that he bought at $3 per chick.
“My aim is to make my food cost zero. So, my food scraps go into the soldier fly larvae bin, they eat that and produce more larvae. Those larvae get fed to the chickens. The chicken produces eggs, I sell the eggs and eat the eggs; life is good,” laughed Chaney.
Chaney told Atlanta Black Star that after he planned his garden it was easy to execute. Now he is able to share his harvest with the community.
“Because I’m in my infancy mode, the few products that come out, I just give them away to the people so they will get a feel for the quality of plants.”
Chaney said his urban neighborhood welcomes his garden onto the block, and he’s happy to be a part of it and inspiring others to grow their own food.
“Essentially for less than the money you got for the stimulus you can have a [chicken] pen, 10-15 chickens, eggs and meat. You have generational food by a little investment, time and effort,” added Chaney.