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“Plant-Powered” Farmer

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Asim Muhammad, Owner, Beneficial Fitness

Newark, NJ - Interview May 24, 2022

For further Information:

Instagram: @therealbeneficial

YouTube: Beneficial fitness

Satisfaction of Success

Ribbed with muscles and full of energy both in body and spirit, Asim Muhammad acknowledges the life he now enjoys stems from his work(out) experience on the farm. A loving, devoted father of three, Asim now runs his own fitness and wellness training and coaching business. While working for the farm, he started a side job doing fitness training. It wasn’t long before he had so many clients that he realized it was time to branch off and follow his passion. With the money he was making, he realized he needed to start his own business to take it to the next level. Managing his life coaching company Beneficial Fitness, Asim is able to share his passion for fitness and his knowledge about how to eat a healthy, plant-based diet. Asim shared, “It keeps on growin’, and it all tracks back to the farm!” But life wasn’t always this good. Awakening to life’s realities and his own sheer willpower enabled Asim to make a dramatic transformation that is still empowering Asim to positively impact more people’s lives.

Grasping Life in Prison

In April 2008 as a young father with a new baby, Asim was charged with committing a violent crime and robbery. He finally decided to plead guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison. “Those four years were like going through hell on earth.” Asim recalls. “I was at the lowest level you can be in life. But, in the long run, my prison experience ended up being a blessing. In prison, you either learn from it and become better or you get worse. There are no in-betweens.”

Seizing a Second Chance

Asim continued, “On Aug 14, 2012, I was finally out, but somehow I needed to put my life back together. Thankfully, through a friend of my father’s, I learned about the ‘Second Chance Program’ for those fresh out of prison. That’s when I came in contact with the Greater Newark Conservancy and their farming program. There we were, 30 of us, either cleaning up the streets or turning an abandoned lot into a farm. We got to choose, and I chose the farm.”

“Mark Kearney was my supervisor at the farm on Court Street. The great thing was I was able to be paid! That kept me coming. It wasn’t until later on that I began to see the benefits of what I was learning on the farm. At the very beginning of the three-month program, they emphasized the importance of working on finding a job after the farm. I worked hard, but I didn’t have energy to try to find another job after work. Just at the time when the program was about to end, a guy at the Conservancy was fired. Mark recommended me to be hired as Community Garden Maintenance and Support Manager. We had a bunch of farms all over Newark and 14 community gardens to maintain. Our job was to cut the grass, pull weeds, water plants, deliver soil, prepare beds, and plant seeds. Through the ‘Adopt-a-Lot’ program, we would turn these lots into community gardens.”

Changed by the Farm

Reflecting on his farm experience, Asim commented, “While working on the farm, I noticed whenever I was outside, I would instantly feel better. Even now, it raises my vibrations, and I just feel good. It almost feels like a form of meditation - a mood of focus and yet being relaxed. It almost feels like a high. One of the first things I realized from just planting seeds was that you can grow a lot of peppers from just one seed! You plant it in that dirt and you can grow multiple vegetables! We had rows of raspberries, squash, and peppers. I realized I could grow enough vegetables to feed to my whole family.”

Asim continued, “I also grasped the analogy of the plant and me with my goals in life. When you plant that seed, you have to keep watering it. It’s about being consistent. You gotta have patience. If you don’t have patience, you’ll come back next week and your plant that you were supposed to care for is dead. That means you have to put enough work in to reap the benefits.” Asim wishes his 13-week farm experience was longer. He recalls, “Lucky me. Because I got hired full time, and it turned into longer. I really began to enjoy farming.

Turning 'Hard' into 'Building'

Asim explained, “Being on a farm isn’t easy. At that time, I was into fitness. So thinking about the farm in a different way, as a good workout at the farm, was right up my alley. At the Hawthorne Farm we were building paths with wheelbarrows full of gravel. Since we had to constantly work, I placed in my mind that this was a work-out. Only, this workout was an all-day workout - so tiring! Many days straight were very, very strenuous, so I put together a system with the other guys. We encouraged each other.” Asim realized, “The more you do that, the more your body starts knowing what is going on and adapting to it. Your hands start to build up calluses, and that helps you take more on.”

Further Life Commitments: Plant-Based

Asim noted how his mental and physical health improved. He shared, “I consider myself an athlete. I run, jump, and lift weights. Exercise is my life. My health includes how I eat. Normally, I would buy some junk food at the corner store and then feel sluggish after eating it. Between 2013 and 2018, it was a struggle to change my diet. I would lose so much weight. But then I decided ‘It’s about longevity’. In 2018, I did this 30-day challenge where I cut out meat and dairy. The first time I did that, I didn’t feel good. But as soon as I put meat back in my body, I felt so sluggish. It was a clear sign to me that this meat was killing me - destroying my body! Now I can eat a whole bowl of chickpeas and feel clear energy. My 16-year old son spars with his martial arts class, and I am there right with him! I was able to make that transition, and I am thankful for it.”

Asim continued, “Since the summer of 2018, I’ve been eating plant-based, and I feel so good! I try to teach my kids how to garden. In our food classes, we watch documentaries about how your health is linked to the food you eat. At the farm job, we would have volunteer days. I got to teach them how to grow food and garden. I taught them how to eat well.”

My Life’s Mentors

When asked “Who had the greatest impact on your life?” Asim told me about his father. He said, “My father has given so much for me, but my father didn’t know about gardening. It was Mark Kearney, Farm Manager, who helped me understand how important diet is. Your body isn’t just a shell; it’s your temple! It changes the way you feel, you think, and how you act. Without Mark in my life, I may not have come across being plant-based. He taught me how to eat and live. Being able to grow food yourself. It really all started there. Now I am teaching my kids how to properly nourish their bodies and how to garden and take care of themselves. I am the only one in my family that is plant based. I am breaking the cycle of what was taught to me.”

Advice for the Younger Generation

When asked what advice would you give to young people, Asim paused. Then he spoke, “Learning how to garden is not just putting seeds in the dirt. No, - there’s so much you can learn from that! You can learn life lessons that you will need for the rest of your life. Then you can make progress faster in the outside world. When you apply for a job, you got to be patient… They won’t call you. Patience, diligence, and discipline - that’s what you learn on the farm or in the garden. Those skill sets are the number-one things you need to succeed in any area of your life: marriage, your health, learning at school, and going to college. When you learn how to farm, you automatically learn that.”

Asim added, “Learning how to grow your own food is a survival skill. It doesn’t get better than that! With technology and how things are these days, things are going the wrong way - separating us from the Earth and planting seeds. This whole new generation doesn’t have patience. This is considered the “microwave era”. Algorithms for social media show that if you don’t capture people’s attention in seven-second videos, they’re not interested. Farming is not about that. In fact, it is the opposite. It is real life! Farming is about taking your time, trusting a process, and being observant and ready to respond.”

Author: Farmer Karl

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