The following article, based on an interview with Morgan Carey, founder of Victorious Green, is part two of a series describing his holistic, healing perspectives on sustainable building, organic foods, and permaculture principles. For more information on Morgan’s background and beginnings, read part one.
Helping guide clients toward living a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle is a key component of Victorious Green’s mission. “We live in an age of detachment and sensory overload; when we put our hands in the soil we reconnect with our energetic legacy. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to help people embrace the cycle of life and do my part to impress on them the difference that one human being, one voice, one garden can make.” Through his dedication to greening the planet, living healthy, and teaching others to become more self-sufficient, Morgan has already made a significant difference.
Morgan’s gardens are largely an aspirational creation, supplemented with a comprehensive white glove service. Over time he realized that gardens have increasingly become a social hub in many households, starting with the children. He explains, “Our gardens are very bio-diverse, we mimic nature and celebrate its design. We plant gardens that speak to children using color and scent to engage the entire family. Imagine a miniature jungle packed with a variety of flowers, vines, vegetables and herbs; black and fuzzy peach tomatoes; lime green squash; rainbow radishes and dragon carrots. Every child can find something to spark their interest and stimulate their imagination in our gardens.”
Inquisitive and receptive, young people are naturally drawn to the aesthetics of a well-tended garden. As Morgan notes, “There is an overwhelming sensory standpoint with a garden, especially when you choose vegetables like rainbow radishes and Japanese trifeles. Planting gardens that speak to children and to the imagination make the garden come to life for the entire family.”
Family and service mean many things to Morgan Carey. Because one healthy garden can comfortably feed a family of three, his clients often produce overage. In such cases, Morgan works with local food banks to distribute the surplus to those in need. He recently donated and installed four garden beds at Dorsey High School in southern Los Angeles. Dorsey High is now one of the few predominantly African-American high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, with 55% of its students African American and 45% Hispanic. Morgan also teamed Dorsey High up with Intelligensia Coffee, a fair trade coffee organization that donates their compostable materials.
While building the gardens, Morgan shares his philosophies with the students. He often underscores ideas such as interdependency, inter-connectivity, symbiosis and cooperation—values that ensured the success of indigenous societies for ages and continue to be exemplified in the natural world every day. To build the future, Morgan shares the past, telling the students of the Iroquois legend of the Three Sisters to ground them in a holistic relationship with the gardens, the food they will grow, and the inherent symbiosis of nature.
The Iroquois believed that corn, beans, and squash were gifts from the Great Spirit, each the caretaker of the others, each working with the others to achieve a harmonic balance when planted together. Corn provides a natural trellis for beans to climb. Beans in turn supply nitrogen to the corn’s roots, improving the soil conditions and stabilizing the plants. Shallow squash plants are living mulch, preserving moisture and discouraging pests. Nutritionally, the Three Sisters are a symbiotic system as well. Corn and beans support a carbohydrate and protein balance, while squash provides high levels of vitamins and minerals. By planting the Three Sisters together, a garden supports long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet.
Many of the kids that Morgan mentors in urban environments have never seen a garden before, have never seen a wide selection of fresh vegetables before, and have no access to organic foods at their local grocery store—even if their family budgets allowed. Morgan has often been asked questions such as “What is an eggplant?” Such poignant reminders of limited choice and access drive him calmly but relentlessly toward an integrated vision. Morgan does not ascribe to a philosophy of sustainability, not wanting to accommodate the current wounds of our planet. “It’s not about sustainability; it’s about regeneration and building a better planet.” He searches for opportunities to fill in the missing links, nutritionally and spiritually. Besides growing organic produce and creating a direct path to access, he attends to the food’s healthful preparation, educating students not to “reach for the Twinkie” and instead imagine a world where the grocery store is in their backyard and a product of their own hard work.
Victorious Green’s simple approach is a compassionate energetic system of connectedness and intentionality toward the planet and our selves. The practice and philosophy of permaculture heals the planet as we heal ourselves—they are one in the same. Morgan’s healing began as a child; as he works with children now, this healing is evident and ever present. Morgan explains that this was not always the case but is a result of creating intention in his life. You see, he admits to previously having what gardeners refer to as a “black thumb;” at first, Morgan couldn’t grow anything. Through his energetic practices, he recalibrated his energy and clarified his intention. It was at this point that Morgan began building communities with his gardens. He states, “Where I used to see conflict, now I see commonality. This is the lesson that nature provides.”
All Victorious Green outreach efforts are built on Morgan’s singular question: How do I celebrate my connectedness to others?
I found myself thinking that if we all searched earnestly for commonality and connectedness in our lives, the planet might have a chance to heal.
Planning for the future
When I asked Morgan what excited him about the future, warmth and passion emanated from the phone. “Edible forests,” he quickly replied. I was fully confused. He explained that “We have entered a period of profound transformation. I’m looking forward to celebrating a universal adoption of new economic paradigms.” He then outlined an expansive list of progressive ideas:
- tracking environmental costs of production,
- repurposing urban landscapes and architecture,
- developing and expanding barter systems like time banks,
- remediating pollution and radiation damage using mycelium,
- reunifying and empowering families and communities through permaculture principles,
- embracing renewed optimism and creativity advocated by visionaries like Vandana Shiva, Van Jones, and
- replacing lawns with organic gardens and edible forests.
He further expounded that, “In our society, it’s all about ‘mono-cropping,’ which sends a message to pests that we’re having a party. But in nature, you don’t see a corn forest for example. We need to mimic nature and push biodiversity. In nature there are guilds, which are symbiotic. Edible forests create harmonic diversity by fostering and supporting naturally occurring relationships. Similar to the Three Sisters legend, edible forests rely on the system of companion planting, a more combined pest management and crop yield system that integrates select plants to create a more productive use of the garden.
It struck me that Morgan is forever looking to improve, searching to fill in the spaces. How can he further develop his ideals? How can he nurture even more than he does? How can he expand and fulfill? Just like a garden, Morgan grows. So I asked, what else? Morgan explained that Victorious Green is considering an expansion of their business model and a decrease in the price of their gardens so that average households can access organic living choices. Morgan wants to bring these gardens to the general population by investigating alternative options so that the garden is not a luxury purchase. He is investigating compressed bioresin and beetle-damaged “denim” wood for alternate source materials.
But he soon returned to the bigger picture, referencing renowned octogenarian vegan philosopher and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, a man who noted recently that “between him and his wife, they have one prescription in their medicine cabinet.” Morgan, who grows medicinal herbs in his garden, feels that this is an attainable goal for everyone. He insists that we have grown to accept the readily available pharmaceutical medications and processed foods at face value rather than digging deeper to find a better way. As he succinctly states, “We need to reconnect. With our food, our planet, and our intrinsic energetic system and treat our bodies, each other, and our planet with love and care.”
As I finish this article while sitting in the morning sun on the back deck that overlooks my own garden—which is currently disheveled due to a construction project and depleted from the past six weeks of 100+ degree temperatures—I now imagine how I can create more meaningful connections in the garden and within myself. This is what gardens and gardeners do.
Would you like to learn more about Victorious Green? Are you interested in trying your hand at participating in a community garden? And be sure to check out some of the numerous information resources available on urban gardening and organic lifestyle choices.