Dan Martin shows off papayas he’s grown in the hydroponic greenhouse he built in east Texas as part of a prototype for his Free Food Factory.

Self-sufficiency expert hopes to open his first Free Food Factory in Detroit.

Dan Martin shows off papayas he’s grown in the hydroponic greenhouse he built in east Texas as part of a prototype for his Free Food Factory.

Free food and groceries? Dan Martin wants to make that a reality all over the world.

He’s a self-sufficiency expert who wants to create a grocery store and restaurant in Detroit where all comers can eat for free.

Martin, 37, grew up in Southfield and attended Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield. He now lives in the Piney Woods area of east Texas.

In addition to writing do-it-yourself books, he has designed and built self-sufficient, shared communities around the world, He is considered one of the world’s experts in self-sufficiency. Through his nonprofit, www.agua-luna.com, he has provided first- and second-responders aid in Haiti after the earthquake and in many other countries hit by natural disasters.

He is considered one of the foremost experts in self-sufficiency. Through his humanitarian organization (agua-luna.org) he has provided first- and second-responders aid in Haiti after the earthquake and in many other countries hit by natural disasters by teaching people to make such necessities as compost toilets.

Now he wants to bring a Free Food Factory to every major city, and believes it can happen.

Alternative Path

Martin’s lifestyle may sound unrealistic to some, yet he’s made it work and now is sharing what he learned with others.

His parents are divorced — his mother, Barbara Seiden, still lives in Southfield. At age 12, in 1979, he won the JN’s Chanukah art contest. When he was 13, he went to live with his father in a rural area of northern Utah, where he learned to hunt, trap and work on cars.

He joined the military at 17 and served in Operation Desert Storm, where he sustained an injury that left him partially disabled. He then studied environmental science, physics, engineering, pre-med, psychology and other subjects at the University of Hawaii, University of Texas and a half-dozen other colleges. He saw no need for a degree as long as he was learning what he needed to learn.

For five years, he worked as an engineer for Boeing Aerospace, but spent his spare time in Mexico, learning about farming, ranching, sanitation and building with natural materials. There he met his wife, Lucia, now, 37, an engineer from Monterrey, Mexico.

When they were 25, Martin and Lucia decided they were sick of corporate America, consumerism and capitalism, and quit their high-paying jobs.

“My wife and I both had very lucrative careers and just got sick of corporate America. Traffic, alarm clocks, Daylight Savings Time, on hold on the phone, waiting in lines, waiting on seating, waiting on people … waiting or working to live life but never actually doing it,” he said.

“So we cashed in our investments, sold two waterfront homes, the cars, jet skis, boat and other toys, burned all the cell phones, TVs, clocks, calendars and computers, and left society completely.”

Martin, holding a baby lamb, and his wife lived “off the grid” for six years in west Texas, not far from Big Bend National Park. They grow their own vegetables and raise animals for food.

For the next six years, the couple went “off the grid” on a 15-acre site in west Texas with no electricity, digital gadgets, clocks or calendars. They built their own home, raised goats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits and catfish for food and grew hydroponic fruits and vegetables. For power, they used solar panels, wind turbines and methane gas made from food scraps.

“We left the world, family, friends and the rest of humanity behind,” Martin said.

Martin says their current farm, with an indoor, year-round growing cycle, is seeing twice the average production rate, twice the size of produce, twice the nutrients and sugar content, four times the quantity — and 99 percent less effort, cost, water use and loss compared to yield reports of industrial food production in the same zone.

“And we don’t have the heartache of bugs, pests, cold spells, heat spells, droughts, fertilizing, pesticides or watering,” he said.

The couple also is developing an animal preserve on their land in east Texas that will allow exotic pets that owners can’t handle and elderly zoo and circus animals to live out their lives peacefully and die naturally.

Helping Others

Martin and his wife decided to return to the world because they thought they could help others learn to live simpler, healthier, better lives. Martin wrote his first few books, got them published, and started doing lectures, seminars and workshops as well as disaster relief work.

Any money he receives for his books or his disability goes directly into research and projects for his humanitarian work.

The Free Food Factory is his latest project. Each 60,000-square-foot facility will run on solar and wind power.

The factories will offer locally grown, organic, non-GMO-quality produce, honey, fish and shellfish, and will be run by trained volunteers. No need for cashiers because everything will be available for the taking.

Martin finishes the wiring of his solar array battery bank.

If his online 3F Project campaign succeeds, the funds raised will cover the startup costs, including land, materials and equipment, labor, and permits and licenses. Martin says there will be no ongoing daily costs of doing business because of the self-sufficient nature of the enterprise.

After honing his prototype at his home in east Texas, Martin plans to realize his first Free Food Factory in Detroit. Then he hopes to branch out to other cities.

“We’ve been contacted by several individuals about repurposing one of the many abandoned factories or warehouses” in Detroit, he said. He feels the city, as it is experiencing resurgence, is ripe for the idea.

“This is not a dream or idea; we are doing it,” he said. “Now we need help from those who want this in their communities.”

 Anyone can be part of the Free Food Factory by contributing to Martin’s $67,000 3F Project campaign. Go to www.freefoodfactory.com to donate. Contributors will receive digital downloads of all 40 of Martin’s do-it-yourself books, including The DIY Solar Panel, Convert Your Car to Electric and How to Build a Free Home. He can be reached by email at martin@dyisufficient.com.

By Barbara Lewis, Contributing Writer



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