The state of Florida is widely known for its rich agriculture, but what often falls below the headline is the quality soil.
“This is beautiful soil,” said Florida farmer Cephas Gilbert. “I have four acres of land here, and you can find every type of herb and vegetable right here.”
Gilbert is a Jamaica native, and he told me the most important part of planting your seeds is making sure your soil is ready.
“These [are] French drains; beautiful dirt. This dirt right here is like gold, but you have to drain it.”
French drains are trenches that are effective at removing moisture and allowing water to naturally drain from the land.
Gilbert grows over 60 fruits, herbs and vegetables on his four-acre lot in the east Tampa community of Palm River, Florida. But before he got passionate about gardening he was a businessman.
“Go and look on my YouTube channel, everything is there,” explained Gilbert. “I owned a Caribbean restaurant and a juice bar.”
The Jamaica native has lived in the Sunshine State for over 40 years. In that time, he has opened up a Caribbean restaurant and a juice bar, where he became known for his aloe vera shakes.
“Aloe vera is a body signature,” he explained. “It gives you circulation, builds your immune system and [has] a natural enzyme that breaks down the food in your system.”
After the 71-year-old passed on ownership of both the restaurant and juice bar, he decided to get more serious about growing his own food.
“The greatest investment is in your health,” said Gilbert. “No medication. Detoxication. If you can detox your body you don’t need medication.”
Gilbert told Atlanta Black Star that he wanted to change his diet to only eat things he could grow in his garden.
“I also drink a lot of tea; first I drink my liter of aloe vera every day and then my tea,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert told me that he taught himself how to garden by researching the land and the foods he wanted to grow. He encourages his community to start small and grow big to eventually create their own food sources.