So, with those thoughts in mind, we decided to talk to Farmer Lee Jones about modern farming, especially focusing on the differences between summer crops grown in the field and greenhouse crops. Lee started out our conversation by saying it’s “wonderful” that so many options exist for commercial production. “But,” he adds, “as for us at The Chef’s Garden, we’re dirt farmers, through and through. We grow our crops in soil with a special bias towards those that are field grown.”
At The Chef’s Garden, the team mixes its own soil and grows most of its produce from seed. The team also uses environmentally friendly farming techniques, leaving the soil in better shape than how they found it. “In a natural environment,” Lee says, “with roots in the soil, vegetables and other crops have better flavor, with more nutrients and longer shelf life.”
Then there are the weathering effects caused by sun and wind. “These weather conditions help the crops to really stand out on the plate,” Lee says, “which we like. Hydroponic crops, meanwhile, can be quite soft.”
“The ground is not dead. In fact, soil is its own ecosystem, and the more you can do to keep it vibrant and alive, the healthier the crops will be.” (Steve Giles, The Chef’s Garden)
We recently blogged about how The Chef’s Garden uses cover crops to prepare the soil for the planting of summer crops. In short, crops such as oats, rye, buckwheat and sorghum are planted in a field and grown for a short period of time. Then, the cover crop is harvested and worked into the soil. This feeds the soil, and the process is repeated as many times as necessary at the farm.
“The cover crops that are re-harvested into the ground,” Lee explains, “all contain energy gathered from the sun. When we plant the summer crops into the soil, those plants pick up that energy. Nothing can replace this process when the goal is to grow flavorful, nutrition-rich produce.”
Then there are greenhouse crops. “We always want to give our chefs a consistent supply of the fresh vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and more that they use in their dishes,” Lee explains. “So, our greenhouse crops are basically those grown in plots of land that are covered to extend the growing season.”
Crops grown in our greenhouses are still planted in rich soil. “We want to minimize the differences,” Lee says, “between our field-grown crops and those in the greenhouses.”
Find fresh vegetables, microgreens, herbs and edible flowers that are at peak season.