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Ex-Dolphin Trainer Starts His Own Business Helping Communities Grow Food. Meet Matt!

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Check out the interview below to learn more about Matt Hall of Midnight Harvest!  See how he got started with his own business and why he believes it is important for everyone to grow their own healthy food.

From all of us at SeedsNow we are proud to introduce you to Matt!

Our crew! #family #dog #wheaten #terrier #sunset #forever #tcmi #traversecity #michigan

A photo posted by Matt Hall(owner) (@midnightharvest) on


 

How would you quickly describe yourself to others?

I am a small business, essentially me, working towards getting more people to grow their own food. By means of installing gardens and being active on social media, I try to inspire more people to grow more food.


 

What were you doing before you started your own business?

I’ve been in the service industry for more than 15 years but my first passion/job was to train dolphins. I got this opportunity at Disney Orlando in 2004 as an advanced intern to actually work with dolphins and manatees. I can say that I actually did get to experience my dream but chose another.

 

Have you always been growing your own food? Did you know much about this lifestyle before getting started?

I have not actually. This is a recent passion/fixation! It was in the spring of 2012 that it all clicked for me and the light bulb went on - so to say. I had watched some key documentaries about food and food systems and then became very involved in doing research and just witnessing the miracle of food. So in 2012 I had this idea I wanted to one day at least raise my own food and rely on my own efforts.

Have you always been this way?

I definitely have not been always a foodie centric person. I’ve been around it but never appreciated the idea of home grown food so much and or fresh organic food. Now I am definitely a certain way about food and I am finding most people don’t know much about their food - which is sad because we kind of need it.

 

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Did you have any obstacles at the beginning? Was anything holding you backbefore getting started? How did you overcome those obstacles?

Obstacles tend to happen every day owning a small business. I think the biggest hurdles still come in the form of ‘recognition’ and how to get my brand/business out there.

Most often times it would seem obvious to advertise of course but that is an expensive road and often not the way to go about things.I have found that if I can volunteer my time explaining my passion for showing how great home grown food can be it is the best way to get my word out there. Whether that be classes or farmers’ markets that I don’t earn money so much but put me in contact with the right people.

Once I had the ‘concept’ of Midnight Harvest in mind I jumped in really - but what I do and what it is becoming I am happy with! I would have never imagined myself getting into so many projects all centered around food as I am now.

What's your goal/vision for the future? In 10 years what would you like to see happen for the things you and your team are working on?

The main goal is to start an organic farm!

Within the next few months I’d love to find and buy property (5-10) acres and start our farm dream. The farm will consist of 4 parts.


Part 1. The ‘Sustainable Harvest’

Mushroom production. One of my real passions is mushrooms because they truly are more sustainable than most things and require very little but give us a lot! Plus pound for pound bring in more money than veggies. And to quote Ron Finley “the funny thing about sustainability is you have to sustain it.” basically saying we have to make money.

Part 2. The Educational Greenhouse.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan there is a greenhouse called the Frederick Meijer Gardens and it features a lot of plants, animals, and so on and most of which are not native and are not possible to grow without certain environments. But it is inspiring! So I want to construct a greenhouse that showcases food! Walking into a greenhouse filled with 20 different species of tomatoes or beans or any species and we show kids, teens, adults where and how their food comes to life! We can grow a lot of veggies in Michigan even in the dead of winter using organic practices and in the summer it’s all the better! I want a greenhouse dedicated to educating people about food year round!

Part 3. Outreach and Education and Install.

We’ll continue the goal of installing gardens but with our own farm and own place to hold events we will bring the public in and teach them how to grow their own food. Holding events like this help the community whether or not they actually end up growing their own they at least walk away with more knowledge than before! I am always surprised by how many people don’t know about determinate tomatoes!

Part 4. Social Media.

This is already happening but we want a presence on the web with instagram, youtube, Facebook because we want the younger generation to step up and find an interest in their food. So we’re doing some unconventional things and some very in depth things all in the name of inspiration. We have no idea if it’s working or not - we just keep at it.(I say “we” a lot and mind you - this is just me.)

In the near future I am currently putting a photography portfolio together all about food from pics I’ve already taken. But the goal is not to showcase food but to plant food. So if people buy a squash flower photo - they get squash seeds. If you buy a basil photo - basil seeds. Get the idea?

Our end goal is always planting more seeds and more gardens. And we’re about to bring more ways to grow from home by doing some more retail items locally and expanding if we can. All/any proceeds from Midnight Harvest or my Michigan Grow brand go towards the farm dream.


Have you ever made mistakes or failed doing something?

Mistakes are the best. If people who run business saw a mistake as a failure then they wouldn’t be in business long. Mistakes are every day but accepting failure happens once. Sorry - that was preachy. But in all honesty mistakes are some of the greatest teachers and business plan/model aside you have to make mistakes. Then come later on - you won’t.

I tend to take the Thomas Edison approach to failure: “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.”

“One of our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Have you ever dealt with a person who disregards your life style?

Not so much disregards but does not understand my passion for growing my own food. The close friends understand but I am finding a lot of my generation is starting to come around about food and where/who it comes from which is nice!

 


What are some things you would like to have other people understand about living a healthier and self-sufficient life style?

I wish more people would make the connection of whole foods and health. I slightly smirk in the fact that I rarely get sick and don’t take OTC meds at all. My remedy for small on coming sore throats is garlic and typically the best medicine is water. The funny thing about whole home grown food or even whole foods is that plant life is 90-90% water!! When we give credit to plants we often give credit to it’s amount of nutrients in the actual plant which is great for our immune system to build up vitamins but in all reality a majority of what we are consuming is water. How much water can be found in processed and dried foods? Almost none and no actual/natural nutrients are found so we are completely removing the nutrients and base upon which they reach us. And with no nutrients we are depriving our immune systems causing us to be unhealthy.


What tips and tricks could you share with other people?

Start small - grow big. Gardening or farming is an every day learning experience and mistakes and disappointments can ruin a season or make you wait for up to a year to - try again. Don’t over do it!

Grow things of plenty! Carrots are great but carrots need to be planted, thinned, and succession grown. You only get one carrot from one seed. Whereas things like determinate tomatoes (romas) grow to a set height, and fruit all at once, and 3 roma plants are plenty! Zucchini is amazing because it will grow and grow and grow but require very little training or pruning like fellow winter squash such as acorn.

Inter-plant and break the rules. Use all space both on the soil and above the soil. Vertical gardening can mean you have radishes below your beans and your beans below your tomatoes! Spacing was largely decided upon for big farms to have room for tractors to come through and perform necessary operations without disturbing soils and plants. You have your hands not a tractor - fill spaces in! Tomatoes tend to want lots of space but basil don’t mind bunching so fill in the gaps between plants.

Plant flowers or early flowering varietals to attract beneficial bugs. And learn to love spiders - they're your friends (well some are). And install a bat house - they work all night long on the bug barter system.


What are some of your greatest rewards with a lifestyle such as the one you live?

There is likely nothing better than raising a seed all the way to harvest. It’s about as cool as it gets for me knowing I took care of this correctly and now it is providing me with health.

There is nothing better than home grown anything - flavor is key and home grown food tastes the best done right.

I find myself tuning into natures’ patterns and I make my judgement largely based upon observation which I enjoy because then I am following it’s guidelines rather than trying to re-write the book.

 

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