By Dan Vanderhoek - Eco Convos with Dan
There’s a good chance you’ve seen his channel on YouTube or seen it passed around through social media, but I had a really enlightening experience chatting with Mr Self Sufficient Me himself, Mark Valencia.
His mantra of “Look, and see the Earth through Her eyes” is an important one when it comes to self-sufficient and organic gardening because it makes you look at things a little differently. Rather than forcing your will upon the earth and trying to make things happen simply because you want them to ie. planting winter foods through summer and wondering why they aren’t working, it’s about working with your seasons, working with your soil types and working with your region. Saying that you want to grow mangos in Tasmania or lettuce in Cairns… while not impossible, it is very difficult to grow some things in some areas reliably.
After Fan-Boying a little, we talked about his time (and his wife Nina’s) in the military and how this was a catalyst to them looking for a new way of life. They bought a 3 acre property in Bellmere as a way to get away from a lot of the hustle and bustle of military life and quiet things down a little for their family. In 2008, Mark retired from his post and was home to spend more time with their boys. Along with this though, came the inevitable drop in income, so producing food at home became a way of supporting the family in a practical sense. He decided to document the progress and this is where the blog began.
His frank, and dad joke style sense of humour was apparent and people began to respond all over the world. Soon, they were asking for his help and opinion and over time grew into the YouTube sensation that he is today. With over 1.4million subscribers and videos with more than 9 million views, to say that Mark has inspired a lot of people (including me) is a severe understatement.
Shooting videos through his backyard with topics we can all relate to like “How to grow a ton of tomatoes” and “7 Things you can bury in your garden to improve the soil”, Mark has encouraged a lot of people to start their gardens at home, showing it’s more than ok to make mistakes, and you don’t have to have EVERYTHING in your garden. To quote Mark, “You don’t have to be self-sufficient in everything, but be self-sufficient in something.” It’s such an encouraging thing and really puts things in perspective. In what can be a daunting task and working out where to start, the most important thing you can do is actually start. Just starting with one garden bed, and working to look after that. When it’s performing well and if you want to expand, that’s the best time to do so. This makes sure that you learn what works and what doesn’t for you without it being such a monumental task to redesign your entire landscape if/when you want to make a change.
Ultimately, just start and have a play. I promise you’ll love it and in no time, you'll get hooked.
You can learn more about Mark and his journey on the podcast in Episode 16. It’s full of great tips and we even go for a tour through his garden on the “Eco Convo’s with Dan” YouTube Channel and make sure you subscribe for more tips through his own YouTube Channel “Self Sufficient Me”.
Happy gardening :)