You can’t deny people are awesome. Who doesn’t like sitting down with good friends to ask them interesting, insightful, and funny questions? That’s what 11 Questions is about. I’ll be featuring some friends I look up to as well as people within the community I’ve always wanted to get to know. As a bonus, I’ve updated some of the questions!


My happy place is in my modest garden, getting my hands in the dirt. It brings up fond memories of my mom in the backyard, where she delicately attended to her small patch of heaven, all the while imparting her knowledge to me about each plant.

I’ve got no illusions that growing a tomato or pepper is easy (particularly in Orlando). So when Matthew Peddie interviewed Ray Warthen on WMFE (hear it HERE) I knew I had to meet the man. To be honest I was more interested in seeing the garden, picking his brain, and hearing his stories (a camera is a great way to meet people).

Ray’s connection with the land goes back generations and like me his love of the earth ties back to one of his parents. Ray is easily one of the hardest-working people I know. His stories and the infectious excitement about what he’s doing make you want to get back out into your garden, where you can battle the aphids and raccoons in solidarity with him.

Who do you look up to?

I look up to my Father. Growing up I was a daddy’s boy. He taught me the passion I have today for farming and I am the person I am today because of his teachings.

Favorite book, album, or musician who has impacted your life?

Favorite Book: Mastering The Art of War: Zhuge Liang’s and Liu Ji’s commentaries on the classic by Sun Tzu.

Favorite Musician who has impacted my life and why: Rakim…hands down. I have watched him since I was a kid. I don’t think anyone has ever challenged Rakim or even thought to dis Rakim in any Hip-Hop Songs. He was the first artist to rap 300 bars straight, no breaks, no bridge…just raw lyrics!!! He was original, never dissing or degrading women, no “B” words and no “N” words. To me he is the G.O.A.T., don’t believe me?!? All of the Rappers we consider to be the G.O.A.T. give Rakim credit for influencing them and even giving them a model/blueprint to create visual rap.

Here is one of the most classic lyrics:

“Thinking of a Master Plan, because there is nothing but sweat inside my hands. So dig into my pocket and all of my money is spent, I dig deeper and still coming up was lint. So I start my mission, leave my residence, Thinking how could I get some dead presidents. I need money, I used to be a stick-up kid, So I think of all the devious things I did, I used to roll up, This is a hold up, ain’t nuthin funny, Stop smiling , be still, don’t nuthin’ move but the money….”


If you could mate two different species of animals what would they be?

I would mate the water buffalo with a hippopotamus. Why? So when the Water Bippopotamus (Water Buffalo + Hippopotamus) crosses the river and the mean crocodile captures it and tries to down it? The croc won’t realize the Bippopotamus can hold its breath for up to five minutes.

That’s when the crocodile says:

Crocodile: “Ok, what the hell is going on here, this thing is supposed to be dead by now. We have been underwater for over a minute…why is this thing now swimming with me?? TH??”

Bippopotamus: “What’s good with you Playa?!? Oh, you thought I couldn’t hold my breath just as long as you huh? Guess what playboy I’m A Hippopotamus!!!”

Crocodile: “A WHAT?!?” (eyes opening wide)

Bippopotamus: “A Bippopotamus homeboy (while floating and rolling with the crocodile). You see I am a stronger swimmer than you and more powerful than you in the water, that comes from my Hippo side of the family and I’m also a Water Buffalo that has horns and can stomp the crap out of you or puncture you with my horns.”

Crocodile (looking nervous now realizing what he is swimming with while biting down on the Bippopotamus’s butt): “Heyyyy, you know what?!? I think this was a mistake…uh gonna let go and uh just swim away.”

Bippopotamus: “Ohhh No, No, No Playaaa (looking amused), you get to leave after I stomp and beat the crap out of you…GET OVER HERE!!! (in his Scorpion Mortal Combat Voice).”

The End

Who in your life has inspired you?

My wife inspires me. There have been times when I get down or morale is low, my wife finds ways to cheer me up or different ways of navigating the waters in hard times.

What are you proud of?

I am proud of how far we have come as an organization. Friends and family laughed at the idea of farming & gardening 5 years ago when we first started in Apopka. Many wanted us to fail, many ignored our hand for support and ignored emails from us until now.

I am proud of my wife, a New Yorker, who joined and supported me on this venture on the farm.

I am proud of my mother and father-in-law and family for showing support for us from the beginning.

Proud we stayed the course and continued to work in the face of doubt, fear, working in lightning storms to save crops, sleeping in our vehicles on the farm because we were too tired to drive home, overcoming failure, after failure after failure learning, evolving, and growing.

Proud of OG’s (Original Gangsters) who helped build the foundation of Zion, you know who you are. And the suckas that doubted us…doubt and hate only motivates me, fueling the fire.

Proud to be the first group to successfully build an Urban Farm from nothing…literally NOTHING…and I mean nothing as in not even having electricity or even having a bathroom to use. I had to ask homeless people in the area where was the best spots to use the restroom, LOL.

Proud we moved over 25 Tones of earth, rocks, boulders (that weighed 300lbs), lifted (2) power poles by hand, excavated to install them, receive the leftovers from a USDA Grant with only (1/4) of the funding remaining for the grant, start a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture Program) with the City of Orlando, that we have never done before. And successfully completing it while building what is now called The Emerald of the city!

Proud to be a local food hero. What the movies never tell you is there is no glitz or glamor being a hero; only sacrifice and hard work. The rewards come much later. YEARS LATER to be exact.

Proud to have gained the respect of the Historic Parramore District. It is great looking back at what was once an abandoned garden and a street filled with trash to now a clean Hicks Avenue and a thriving corner where local residents and the homeless now take care of the block and also volunteer to help us.

Proud to have the title of “O.G.” and “Black Mamba Farmer.” I literally shed blood, sweat, and tears… no I mean literally shed blood as in almost cutting my finger off in the shed.

Proud to be a place and source where the homeless can work and earn instead of panhandling.

Proud to be a place of peace, good vibes, and community.

Proud to be a place of refuge for veterans who deal with PTSD, volunteers who have dealt with or dealing with traumatic life experiences, anxiety, and depression.

Proud to stand as a food source for the community and kids who didn’t have a meal during the COVID crisis when there was no school.

Proud to stand on the shoulders of my ancestors who were the pioneers of agriculture in America and redefine the “Black Farmer.” Not only just a farmer but also a professional. We are redefining what farming and urban farming are.

What rejuvenates you?

Seeing my family happy. No matter how tired I am, when I get home my daughter is in her high chair looking towards the front door smiling like she was expecting me and my son is running around the house, playing in their dinosaur tent, or reading books.

Is there anything you haven’t done yet which you feel compelled to do?

Yes, skydive or lightweight aircraft… Just have to lose some weight.

How do you balance your personal and professional life?

One of the toughest balances to achieve. Managing a multi-billion dollar project, managing the farm in downtown Orlando, and now a new 10-acre Citrus Farm. Almost impossible. Family support has helped me balance through it all. I am thankful to my father and mother-in-law.

Best place to eat in Orlando?

Bikkuri Sushi on East SR 50, gotta have it at least once per month! Order the Volcano Roll, The Bikkuri Roll, and my ALL TIME FAVORITE the Spicy Tuna Bowl (All Protein).

How do you hope to be remembered?

I want my legacy to be that I was a young Black man and farmer who became an inspiration for a new era of educated Black farmers. Earned the name “The Black Mamba Farmer” aka “The Black Elon Musk” and a local Food Hero who was featured in an exhibit in the Orlando Science Center. That helped to spark the name change of Division Avenue (which has a racial history) to Unity Way or Zion’s Way, and that I could help to bring an untold history and culture into the Parramore and Groveland communities. Also, that I could help to bring the first high-speed rail into Central Florida and work on some of the largest projects in the region such as I-4 Ultimate.

If you were to choose a different career what would it be?

Hemp and medical marijuana research in tissue cultures. I would love to go strain hunting all over the world to discover possible cures for cancer, autism, and developmental delays.

Click HERE to read more “11 Questions” columns by Brian Carlson.

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