Garden to Fork
Exploring Sustainable Produce
More and more, chefs are choosing produce that is grown closer to their kitchen, often by themselves. Whether in a greenhouse on raised beds, in growth containers in the summer, or on a hydroponic farm, produce is reaching the table with less of a carbon footprint.
When chef Devon Quinn was planning his restaurant Eden on a sprawling industrial property on Chicago’s near west side, one thing was certain: He wanted a greenhouse.
“I saw an opportunity to limit how much we spend on herbs, greens, flowers and other specialty items,” he says. “These are extremely expensive, so I thought why not produce these items ourselves?”
He soon designed and hand-built the 12’x30’ facility just steps from his kitchen, and today grows an array of beautiful ingredients in raised-beds ready to be used on his plates. “We were able to contain 10 of our 18 4x4’ boxes, and continue our growth program year-round,” he explains. “Each year, we add components to make it more efficient and sustainable.”
With a fondness for gardening stretching back to her childhood, chef Daria Parish of Reinhart’s La Crosse, Wis., division has been cultivating her summer bounty in growth containers for two year
“We have towers to maximize growing space in the backyard and are currently designing some new contraptions to add hanging pots for upside down growth of strawberries and tomatoes above garden beds,” she says. “We are working on designs for arches for summer squashes.”
Nathan Hefti, director of Superior Fresh, a Wisconsin hydroponic farm specializing in organic greens serviced to chefs throughout the Midwest, leads one of the most advanced operations in the country. Recirculating water between the hydroponic farmhouse and a recently developed aquaponic farm—the first and largest land-raised Atlantic salmon facility in the United States—reduces water waste to zero.
“We collect water that does need to be discharged into a pond that irrigates alfalfa fields,” Hefti explains. “The other half of our business is actually an 800-acre native restoration project where we are bringing back plant species that have been lost.”
Sustainability comes from the heart of all these methods. “We have been looking to expand by creating a much larger scale urban farm,” says chef Quinn. “The idea is to produce a much larger volume of what we use daily, as well as to employ people from our community.”