Hey guys!  Aloha!  Welcome back to another blog interview!  I am so sorry that I haven’t been consistent with posting every week like I was a couple of months ago.  Covid continues to kick my booty and I’ve been doing self-care because I have not been eating raw as much, sleeping or exercising correctly and in a timely manner.  My stress level was at an all-time high that I had to do something, so I’ve been concentrating on going to bed by 10:30 PM, eating and of course continuing to work out with my trainer.  If you follow me in IG, you have seen my stories of how tough my trainer is! Sleeping more has been a total game changer for me and I love sleep!  You’re probably rolling your eyes now and thinking “duh!”, but I do my best work at night and I tend to sleep in, granted, “sleeping in” for me means no more than 8 AM…!  Another of my quirks (wink).

With the extra hours of sleep, I am getting my mojo back and have plenty of motivation to write.  I had a couple of very pleasant days typing away at my favorite Kava Bar and been entertained and spoiled by the bartenders (love you Ellie and Anthony!).  This week’s interview is on The Vegan Model AKA Philip Anthony Mangan, who I met through social media and he happened to be in my neck of the woods, until he moved to Hawaii a couple of months back to learn to farm.  I was, of course, intrigued by this because I cannot keep plants alive.  Although I have to mention that I have managed to keep seven plants alive so far of the indoor-water-once-a-month variety (yay me!).  Another reason for my fascination is that I am a city-girl, I do not get my hands dirty, I don’t enjoy putting my hands in the soil or getting my nails dirty and I do not apologize for that.  Everyone has their talents, I can put in an IV in a hard to stick patient or not get grossed or pass out by blood and other bodily fluids, but plants..nah.      

           

A little background on Philip, he is originally from South Florida who had his own party bus business, somehow decided to become a model in NY(find out more on the SFV Podcast), became vegan, health coach and now is learning how to farm the land in beautiful Hawaii.  Just like my interview with Mikhaila last year, it was through Zoom and we had to coordinate due to the time difference and his planting. 

I call this interview: From Model to Farmer.  Meet P.A.M!

 

Alba:

            “Hey Philip! Thanks for meeting with me (nods and smiles).  Ok, I have to know! Why?”.  

I can’t help but notice that he’s sitting on the ground, shirtless and looking like he was rolling in the soil, with this amazing view as the background. 

Philip:

            (Laughs) “My parents have a garden at their place, and I knew that I wanted to do this work trade program to learn.  I singed up at the website and I started looking at different places; there’s hundreds of farms that do more of the organic, regenerative agriculture.  There’s a lot of action so I was looking in the northeast for an established farm to gain more knowledge.  Then I started looking at Hawaii, and I thought to myself ‘don’t overlook Hawaii, when else are you going to live in Hawaii?’ “

Philip started to reach out to various farms on the various islands, at the time Hawaii was still under quarantine and any travel to the Islands was fourteen-day quarantine.  As of September 2020, there is no tourism and as of October, the Islands are back on lockdown.  

Alba:

            “You mentioned a website that you can sign up for this, who told you about this exchange program?”

 Philip:

            “I think it was from a blog I was in a couple of years ago called treehugger.com (I start laughing so hard here) it was such a great website that I saved it for me to do this work trade program in the future.” 

The pandemic somewhat helped to speed up his decision to do work trade because when he moved back from New York back to Florida, the possibility of a lockdown got him thinking about sustainability and people eating what they grow. 

Philip:

            “I kept saying to myself ‘this is it; this is the time to do this’.  The pandemic showed that we don’t know how to survive; when the pandemic started I hit a realization that everyone was panic buying in grocery stores because most people (including himself) were just in survival mode, as in that we really don’t know how to survive if the food didn’t show up there.  So long story short when I left NYC and headed back to FL to take shelter at my parents’ house, I decided I wanted to start learning how to grow food so I began by creating a garden there; however at the time I did know in the back of my head that I wanted to do the farming work trade program to learn more, but I first wanted to see where my interest took me, as well as gain some courage to leave home during that time scary/uncertain point in time in the world.  We see how the pandemic is affecting people, mainly minorities who don’t have access to healthy food.  It is empowering knowing how to grow our own food.  As a man, and single moms, you have this pressure to provide, with or without money; so when I started working the land here it took that pressure away because I can grow and still provide.  I am independent.”

Alba:

            I laugh.  “So, you singed up, put your profile up and this farm reached out to you?”

Philip:

            He nods. “They saw my interests and what I had done in the past with owning my own business and my environmental passion, so I wanted to talk to them.  They were very open and honest, and they said that they had some fruit trees on the property, but they were looking to expand their farming.  I knew what I was getting into, like everything else I’ve done, I was going to teach myself.  It gave me this blank canvas to see what I can do, there’s beauty in this for me because it gave me a creative outlet.  With something that is already established wouldn’t have given me this outlet, I can plant what I want and have the space to do it.  I ran out of space at my parent’s house and here I have thirteen acres and I am by myself planting, I have the control and they trust me here”.

 

 

You guys, if could see how his face lights up describing the different plants he has planted, techniques and planting research he has done.  He looks like a lightbulb; my head is still reeling from thirteen acres…Philip just wanted land to plant and he’s giving me Lost (TV show) vibes of surviving off of the land.  I am seeing another different aspects of Philip, I’ve always know him as a glamorous male model, a coach and environmental activist; seeing him sunburned, full of dirt but with a happiness that is reaching out to me through my iPad is infectious.  He laughs when I tell him and he tells me that he is not only doing this by hand but he’s mainly barefoot all the time grounding and I ask him to tell me more about the plants he’s planting.   

Philip:

            “I have been doing research on plants that are mostly overlooked.”

 

At my eyebrow raise, he gives me examples of spinach, various species of lettuces and kale that will grow year-round and don’t need to be replanted.  These are called perennial plants because they keep producing and is the type of planting that he is most interested in.  I wanted to know why because I am under the impression that soil needs a break, so it does not get depleted; then again, what do I know?  I also wanted to ask about the volcanic soil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, soil near a volcano are some of the most fertile because volcanos produce some of the nutrients that plants need to thrive (What are some benefits of volcanic eruptions?, n.d.).

Philip:

            “I am new honesty; I am learning as I go.” 

Alba:

            “Wait, so these people didn’t give you any basics just threw you on the field and said figure it out yourself?” 

Philip:

            “Yeah.”  Nods with a serious expression.  “I kinda of had some knowledge from gardening at my parent’s house and Hawaii’s climate is similar to Florida, tropical weather.  So, the transition wasn’t so hard, and I was bringing in plants that they didn’t have.  I was alone for the first sixty days.  I’ve been here so far, a hundred and ten days”.

I would go crazy…I enjoy nature and looking at it, but I need the city and noise and people.  During this time alone, he was moving the soil, digging, sifting, and doing all the manual labor before the seeds went in.  Going back to the perennial, during those sixty days, there was very little rain, so all his annual plants, died from lack of adequate water, expect the perennials.  I asked him to give me a couple of examples of annual plants because I know I am not the only one who doesn’t know about planting and the science of farming.  An example is squash, most of these plants will yield crops in sixty days or so and then the plant will die and if you want more, it will have to be replanted.

Philip:

            “Another example is soybeans; even though soybeans are so great for vegans as a source of protein, it is very damaging to the environment because they have to be replanted over and over.”

I was, of course, in shock; I had to look it up…and yes, it seems that commercial soybeans can destroy the environment.  Soy is called “The King of Beans” and according to the World Wildlife Fund, the US, Brazil, and Argentina produce about 80% of the world’s soy; with China importing the most soy and is expected to significantly increase (WWF, n.d.).  The article further continues by stating that the production of soy has increased fifteen times over since the 1950’s.  This has led the industry to cause widespread deforestation and displacement of small farmers and indigenous peoples around the globe.  Soybeans are also used as cattle feed for cows, chickens, pigs, and other farm animals, that are then slaughtered and used for consumption. 

As a vegan and Asian, I have eaten organic(I won’t get into GMO’s in this interview because it is a whole different topic) tofu and soybeans every since I can remember and it has been eaten in Asia for centuries.  Philip states that there has to be responsible overseeing of this because of not only the deforestation but also chemicals like fertilizers, herbicides and other pesticides that go into our water ways.  I have to admit, I am very conflicted…I love soy and it is a big staple in my diet and I was not aware of this.  It is an ethical dilemma.  One that I added on my calendar to research if there is ethically sourced soybeans/tofu out there on the market.

Alba:

            “I want to discuss this term permaculture since you are passionate about sustainable farming.”

 

 

Philip does a lot of activism and videos on his IG dressed as Captain Planet and it got the theme song stuck in my head.  

 

Philip:

           “Permaculture means permanent agriculture; you are basically creating an ecosystem where its working in synchronicity.  This means that you are constantly feeding the soil, if there’s pest, another pest will take care of the first pest.  Everything works together and you can grow many different things together.  What most of the agriculture industry does is monoculture in which one crop grows in rows and rows, which is more susceptible to disease, but you are also wrecking the soil.”

 

Alba:

         “How?”

 

Philip:

           “Because you have to clear the soil when the plant dies and re-dig.  Every time you dig back into the soil, it kills the microorganisms found in the soil and it also releases more CO2 into the air”.

 

Mine blown…planting/farming really is a science, and my mind is reeling.  I tell him this and he nods his head and mentions something called tilling.  Tilling is the process of mixing organic matter into the soil and/or by mechanical agitation; it helps to control weeds, breaks up crusted soil, or loosens up a small area for planting.  The problem with this is that tilling can affect the soil quality in a negative way, like soil structure or destroy the organic matter of the soil.  There are methods of no till that soil gets layered.  Philip explains that you recreate a forest-like environment, leaves die, fall on the ground and they start to decompose, and it replenishes the soil.  It makes sense, so many of my neighbors compost their kitchen scraps and then they put that mulch on their plants or herbs.  In a forest, animals also add their bit to this environment with their droppings, everything is a circle and connected.  Speaking of apartment living, I ask him what people can start to grow in their balconies or in their gardens that can yield year around. 

 

Philip:

           ” Microgreens and scraps.  Examples of microgreens can be radishes, peas, broccoli and sunflowers.  You can also save so much money if you regrow scraps like celery, lettuce, chives.  When you cut, grab the stem, put it in some water and let it regrow and you can plant that, and it will continue to yield. 

 

This sounds so nice to do but, in my case, I have neither the time or the desire to regrow and plant anything; Philip suggests CSA’s or Community Supported Agriculture.  I looked it up and there are many organic farms with CSA options in the South Florida are and I am seriously considering joining based on what I read.  The point of a CSA is that you support local farmers and in turn you get fresh, organic produce for a price. 

Philip:

          “One thing I absolutely hate in Florida is that people are more interested in having these picture-perfect lawns instead of using that piece of land in their homes to grow food.  If you are worried about the landscape, many eatable plants are very aesthetically pleasing to the eye.” 

I hadn’t thought of it like that before, but it makes sense; it is unused space that only has well cut grass and does not serve any purpose.  I really wish that schools would teach farming or some sort of planting when I was in school, the pandemic put into perspective how dependent we are on big commercial farming at the grocery stores.  We were also staying home on lockdown and this time could have been used to grow things on our yards or in pots if you live in an apartment.   Philip nods his head and because I knew he had to go back; I ask him for a quick virtual tour of the land.  He shows me sweat potatoes, hibiscus, passion fruit, various types of kale and spinach.  I could also see the ocean on the other side of the property and palm trees, and I so wish I was there; not to grow anything but to enjoy the beach and admire the work that he has done.

Philip:

          “Farming takes patience, but the reward of the hard work is seeing the plants work and waiting a couple of months or up to a year for a banana or papaya tree to yield is worth it in the end.  You need to have patience.”

That is another thing I am not good with: patience.  I would hate to wait a year for a papaya tree to grow…that could explain why the pineapple I tried to regrow didn’t take…Philip only has a couple more weeks at the farm before he comes back to Florida.  I ask him what this experience has taught him and how he will use this in the future and does he plan of going back to modeling in New York.

Philip:

          “The goal is to take what I have learned and to teach other people how to grow their food on any type of scale.  I am still open to doing modeling and shoots because of the creative outlets it gives me and supporting sustainable brands.  I do not see myself returning to live in New York full time because I am happier when I am working outside in the sun.  I’ve never liked the cold in New York, and I love the Florida weather”. 

 

I can relate, I hate the cold; unfortunately Philip had to get back to work because it was going to be sundown soon.  Thanks to Philip for his time and knowledge, I learned a ton and envy his time in Hawaii.  For more information on Philip, coaching or bookings, go to philipanthonymangan.com or follow him on IG at the_veganmodel or email him at philipanthonymangan@gmail.com

For anyone that is interested go to Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms wwoofusa.org for opportunities and more information on work trade programs.

 

With love and gratitude,  

 

 

 

 

References

1. Soy Overview. (n.d.).  World Wildlife Fund.  Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/soy

2. What are some benefits of volcanic eruptions?  (n.d).  U.S. Geological Survey, Science for a Changing World.  Retrieved from https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-are-some-benefits-volcanic-eruptions?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products