KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An East Tennessee man known online as "Garden Guy" is on a mission to help people grow their own food.
Benj Meeks is an edible landscape designer based in Knoxville.
"I really like taking the beauty that's already in nature and bringing it around people's houses," Meeks said.
Meeks teaches his clients how to grow their own fruits and vegetables using the space available to them. That includes backyards, front yards, porches and even windowsills.
"My tagline is, 'I help people take their available space and steward it toward beautiful and fruitful abundance,'" Meeks explained.
Most people can utilize the existing general landscape around their property. "If they can find little niches in their landscape where they can put a blueberry bush there or raspberry bush there, they're not adding a bunch of extra added work," Meeks said.
Not only does this give people direct access to nutritious and unprocessed food, according to Meeks, but it can also help them save money on groceries long-term.
For example, organic heirloom tomatoes are currently retailing for an average of $4 to $5 per pound.
Meeks buys one tomato plant for 50 cents.
From that one plant, he grows an average of 20 to 30 tomatoes or 10 pounds.
That's roughly $40 to $50 worth of tomatoes. Sometimes, that one plant can grow even more.
Saving money isn't the only perk of growing fresh fruits and vegetables.
Meeks has seen his customers reap internal benefits from growing their own food.
"There's something that happens to your heart, whenever you do gardening and you get your hands dirty and get into the ground a little bit. A lot of folks have a lot of healing that happens, whether it's emotional trauma or whatever else has happened," Meeks said.
Meeks offers free gardening advice and tutorials on his YouTube channel.
For those wanting hands-on guidance in East Tennessee, Meeks offers packages beginning at $150 through his business GardenGuy Edible Landscape & Design.