Cultivating a following
Homemade videos raise interest in backyard gardener
BY PATTIE DURHAM
Corey Paul’s life changed a lot in the last few years. He added six young children to his family and developed a new interest in life, producing videos and providing gardening information for what he calls his Green Thumb Gang. Social media, nothing strange to this 36-year-old, provides a way for him to reach his many followers.
Paul, whose nickname is Goo, went from spending his free time fishing to setting up raised garden beds in his backyard and encouraging people to grow their own food.
“I started in 2018,” Paul says. “I kinda got started because I started to have more children and needed to stay home more of the time. I used to go out fishing all day. So, I started gardening.”
Paul, who posts on Instagram and Facebook, has produced several YouTube videos on gardening tips. One lengthy video shows how to build a raised garden bed like one of his that once produced about 20 pounds of vegetables.
PLENTY OF VEGETABLES
His garden is more elaborate now with paths between the beds that are chock full of foods he brings to his table: collard greens, Swiss chard, kale, lettuce, bell peppers [both red and green], cayenne peppers, lavender, lemongrass, scallions and chives.
An empty bed was once filled with okra plants, he says, but the season ended and he is thinking of what to plant there now, adding that the banana trees he rescued from a neighbor’s trash pile have sprouted up and are throwing a lot of shade on that section of the raised garden.
“I am looking for something that doesn’t need a lot of sun,” he says.
He also grows a multitude of spices, including rosemary, thyme, and basil, along with spicy cilantro. He harvests his lavender, drying the blooms in clusters.
“They are great to put in the dresser drawers,” he says. “They make your clothes smell nice.”
Paul orders his seeds mostly on line from rareseeds.com and has a notebook where he keeps the seed packets in plastic pocketed pages, much like one used to display photos.
“Sometimes I will pick up a packet of seeds when I am at Home Depot,” Paul says. “But, mostly my seeds come from Rare Seeds and are organic.”
He often plays music in the garden for the plants. And Paul once made rap videos with his twin brothers, Myron and Byron, and some friends.
Anyone who has watched his gardening videos will remember his catchy greeting: “Do what you love and love what you do. It’s Gardening with Goo. If you’re gardening with me, then I’m gardening with you.”
Paul initially started with a garden in the ground. There was some problem with shade and it didn’t do as well. Then he built the first raised bed, which is the subject of one of his videos. In it he walks novices through the steps on how to build a raised garden bed, starting with a trip to buy the supplies.
Gardening has played a major role in his family’s history. His mother, Ida, used to work in the tomato fields as a youngster, earning 50 cents or so a day. His father, Pierre, who emigrated from Haiti, grew up raising food for the family in small gardens. As a tribute to his heritage, Paul has a small Haitian flag at the back of his garden. Living in the same house for 30-some years, Paul remembers his father had a garden in the backyard.
“I remember him growing sweet potatoes, beans and bananas in the backyard,” Paul says. “He probably grew other things, but I wasn’t into gardening back then. It was his thing, the vegetable garden.”
Paul recently applied to become a Master Gardener. He is one of about 10 gardeners selected and is taking Zoom classes during the pandemic.
“I was looking at everything the Master Gardener Program has to offer,” Paul says. “Not so much just for the vegetable gardening, but also landscaping, trees that are native to Florida and studying different invasive plants that are here in Florida that shouldn’t be here. Just trying to get to know my own backyard.”
VOLUNTEER WORK REQUIRED
Part of the program requires Paul to either volunteer at the county’s botanical gardens, with the city’s community gardening program, or take calls at the state’s agricultural extension program west of Indrio Road where he would answer homeowners’ questions about their yards.“I was approached by people from the school system,” Paul says. “They reached out to me a couple of times saying that everyone was talking about Gardening With Goo and would I come talk to the students. Then, COVID hit and everything got pushed back.”
Paul also posts nutritional information on his Facebook page, but says he has no formal training in the subject. He adds that he does his own independent research on the subject.
WiseTribe, a grassroots nonprofit in Delray Beach, invited Paul to a farmer’s market. A community-focused group, WiseTribe is action-oriented and works to impart food knowledge to the community and encourages residents to learn more about what they are eating and how to make wiser decisions about food.
The group gave Paul an aquaponics set-up. “That’s a project I have to get working on,” Paul said.
Between his job at the Fort Pierce Housing Authority, his gardening and his family life, Paul is a busy man. Yet, there is still time for fishing. Another of his Gardening With Goo videos explains how to use fish remains for fertilizer.
Paul attended Port St. Lucie High School, where he played the heavy bass drum in the band all four years, then later in life he spent two years in the Job Corps in Jacksonville, receiving certification in facilities maintenance.
“My first job was at the St. Lucie County airport,” Paul says. “I replaced lights on the runways, cut the grass and things like that. But about two months later, I was hired by the Fort Pierce Housing Authority as a maintenance person and I’ve been working there for 15 years.”
GROWS WHAT FAMILY LIKES
Paul says he selects the vegetables he grows based on what he and his family eat. He has vines with pigeon peas that grow up around the banana trees behind the raised beds.
“They are native to the Caribbean,” he says. “There are four to five peas in a pod. They are a lighter green than English peas. They eat them all over the islands. They call it rice and peas.
“My mom likes me to grow bell peppers. She cooks with a lot of bell peppers. She fixes collard greens. She cooks with the hot peppers. I grow what she eats. I grow what I eat. I grow what my daughter eats. I grow what my uncle wants. I want to say that we don’t have to go to the store [produce department] for nothing.”
Paul’s advice for young people: “Be persistent.”
“Once I got into this gardening thing and people liked it, I saw that I could inspire this person, help that person, so why stop?” Paul says. “I stopped a lot of times on different projects; I shouldn’t have. I didn’t give them a chance to fail. I didn’t give them a chance to succeed.
“So, to young people, I say: Just be persistent. Don’t give up!”