The following article, based on an interview with Morgan Carey, founder of Victorious Green, describes his holistic, healing perspectives on sustainable building, organic gardening, and permaculture principles.
When I tend my garden, I also seek inspiration. Such moments are elusive, fleeting, akin to the search for a writer’s muse. While attending to the more high-profile gardening tasks—planting and pruning—I am attuned to the lessons learned in my little plot of land, such as how the nitty-gritty responsibilities—mulching, weeding, composting—vex me. However, thanks to my conversation with and input from Morgan Carey, founder of Victorious Green, my perspective on the garden has grown outside the garden. Drastically. And I am honored to share this story with you.
Victorious Green gardens provide their clients a wealth of delicious, organic heirloom vegetables—without their having to leave the comfort and beauty of their own personal living space. Offering higher volume yields than traditional garden plots, Morgan’s designs are based on optimal sustainable building and organic agriculture principles.
Tilling the soil
During our initial interview, Morgan was candid about his childhood, speaking openly and plainly. Although he was born with cerebral palsy, grand mal and petit mal seizures, and scoliosis, he sees his childhood challenges as simply “inspiring.” The ensuing descriptions of his challenges and victories as a child were nothing short of mind-boggling.
Morgan recalls that from a very early age, his mother had touted the benefits of good nutrition and mega-supplementation—focusing especially on antioxidants such as vitamin C, which studies indicated was beneficial for epileptics. The aggressive regimen of anti-convulsive drugs prescribed to control his seizures produced so many side effects that, by the age of fourteen, Morgan chose to stop taking his medications, despite the doomsday predictions of his doctors.
Morgan’s conversion to vegetarianism occurred at the tender age of eight when his father returned home from a hunting trip with a deer strapped to the family station wagon. The horrific image triggered a moral outrage in Morgan at such a core level that he swore off meat forever. Decades later, prompted by reading The China Study, a comprehensive scientific report that correlates the consumption of animal protein with higher cancer rates, Morgan embraced a strict vegan lifestyle the merits of which he espouses to anyone who’ll listen.
Morgan’s mother also encouraged him as a child, fortifying him with the wisdom that “there was no such word as ‘can’t.’” He recalls her wise counsel: “She said I could achieve anything if I worked hard enough. I was ‘special’ and had ‘no limitations.’” Morgan’s mother not only honed his self-confidence through inspiration and guidance, but through action and discipline. Childhood violin lessons and judo training imbued him with an overall belief that he could bend reality to his will (a concept that served his super star younger sister, Mariah Carey, brilliantly).
To speak with Morgan, one would never imagine he had such a challenging childhood. Morgan is a picture of health whose photos and articles have graced the pages of Men’s Fitness and other health-related publications in which he describes how his Spartan “no pain, no gain,” “food for fuel,” “take no prisoners” lifestyle helped him overcome his early challenges.
Morgan and Victorious Green were actually late bloomers. After graduating from high school, Morgan explored a diverse journey that included the halls of academia, the New York City’s insatiable night life, the baroque Italian fashion scene, the competitive music industry and the hardcore fitness consultation business. When I asked Morgan for the common thread, he explained that the consistent theme was his uncommon ability to “kill anything. Plants in my vicinity just died, even cactus!” I laughed, knowing that we share this trait in common.
Morgan traces the seed of Victorious Green to Southern California in 2007. While he lived there, he became alarmed by the increasing prevalence of toxic horrors such as salmonella, botulism, E. coli, bird flu, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), water contamination, and radiation in generally available food sources. As a result, he decided to grow all his own food. He cleared and planted his first plot and suddenly, his food gardens were brimming with life and more prolific than ever. Although overwhelmed by the bounty of food his first garden provided him, Morgan’s battles with pocket gophers eventually encouraged him to explore other approaches.
Morgan came to shift his focus from treating his body as his enemy to thinking of it—and the world at large—as his friend. As he described, “Instead of making demands of my body, I started asking with kindness.”Similarly, Morgan sought harmony in his food gardens by minimizing his reliance on external organic inputs for fertilizer and pest mitigation, relying instead on biodiversity by planting Manzanita, Asclepias, Alyssum, Lavender, Bee Balm, and Nasturtium.
By embracing the principles of permaculture—the design and use of land based on ecological and biological principles—he has adopted a much more balanced approach to life, nutrition, training, and Earth stewardship.
Morgan’s aesthetic sensibilities, his concern for the environment, and the need to protect his food supply eventually culminated in the Victorious Green design. “I wasn’t trying to start a business,” he insists, “It just sort of started itself. People just started seeing my garden at home and all of a sudden there was this demand.”
Today, Morgan’s gardens are sustainable building masterpieces. Outfitted with a water filter, timer, and drip irrigation, the design is visually compelling. The boxes are constructed entirely of biodegradable materials, made by hand with mortise-and-tenon joints that require no hardware or glues, sealed with beeswax and finished with food-grade hemp oil to enhance the wood grain’s natural luster. His gardens feature a discreetly hidden bamboo drip irrigation system. The north-facing sea grass trellis support expansive, vining bounties of squash, beans, peas, and melons. Morgan’s original 6’x4’design generally feeds a family of three, but a double-sized premium design is gaining popularity as is a smaller, apartment-sized terrace design. Victorious Green provides intelligent garden design based on permaculture principles and emphasizes vertical growth and biodiversity. Because Morgan plants space-efficient produce like melons and squash, the design is both beautiful as well as a high-volume source of healthy food.
Morgan Carey could be easily described as an introvert and a philosopher, as are many artists. He admits that he feels most at home when surrounded by plants and animals, and he speaks of the “oneness” he experiences while he gardens—when he puts his hands in the soil—as an energetically and emotionally revitalizing experience. He reflects, “Colors become more vibrant, each sound crystal clear, the sun warms your skin and suddenly you are so aware of the majesty of nature and the interplay of all life great and small.” He asked me, “Have you read Rachel Carson?” I admitted that I had not and immediately scribbled her name in the left margin of my notes. I could hear Morgan smile over the phone, asking me what I’m planting, curious about my own projects. I described my xeriscape garden briefly, and then told him of my plans for a butterfly garden next spring, vegetables the spring after.
What you’ve read is just the beginning. Morgan Carey’s visionary approach as manifested in the Victorious Green design principles and practice have taught me more about urban gardening than I can adequately express in a single post. Be sure read Part Two of our interview with Morgan Carey to learn more about his work with high-profile installations, school gardens and non-profits.