The phrase of “products with purpose” is finding its way into more news stories, more discussions within a company—including at The Chef’s Garden and the Culinary Vegetable Institute—and into more conversations with customers.
The first half of the phrase—products—is pretty easy to define: what a company delivers to its customers. In the case of The Chef’s Garden, it’s fresh vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, and microgreens. The second half—purpose—is more abstract but can be defined as the deeper need that’s being addressed with a product.
When what a company promises (its purpose) is successfully delivered through its products, then it can be said that product and purpose are effectively aligned. Therefore, that company’s goods are products with purpose.
From a consumer standpoint, what’s important is to be clear about what matters to you and then find companies that provide the products you want and need, and whose values dovetail with your own.
From a company standpoint, it’s not just what you produce, but how and why you do what you do. To help chefs and home cooks make choices that reflect their values and beliefs, we’ll share five elements of our purpose at The Chef’s Garden—and, by extension, at the Culinary Vegetable Institute.
Purpose #1: Sustainable Farming
We have long embraced the tenets of sustainable farming, continually replenishing the nutrients in our soil naturally, giving it all the time it needs. For example, we plant cover crops and use rotation practices that farmers have used over the centuries, to create soil health physically, biologically and chemically.
We recognize the profound importance of growing crops in an environmentally friendly way and are deeply committed to “growing vegetables slowly and gently, in full accord with nature.” These sustainable farming practices allow us to grow the most nutritionally dense fresh vegetables possible.
Plus, we go beyond simply considering environmentally friendly farming practices when focusing on sustainability. We also consider how to be socially responsible and viable economically. We participate in socially responsible farming by treating our farm team, plus our customers, vendors, and community, well—and we also place a keen focus on economic viability because, if this isn’t part of the equation, then we wouldn’t be able to keep providing our customers with the farm-fresh produce they need.
Here’s another element of sustainability at The Chef’s Garden. Our mission is to redefine sustainable agriculture in the United States, creating a template that will attract, inspire and retain young farmers. We’re not just focusing on the now, on this generation of farmers. We also want to provide the support, encouragement and information necessary to the next generation so that they can also value, protect and, as needed, restore our country’s farmland.
We want the legacy of The Chef’s Garden to be the establishment of a national farming framework that will ensure safe, sustainable agricultural practices that will protect and enrich consumers of produce for generations to come.
If you agree with this philosophy and want to support growers who practice sustainable farming, then we invite you to look at what crops we have available right now.
Purpose #2 Regenerative Farming
As important as sustainable farming is to us, our purpose goes beyond that to the practices of regenerative farming.
As the conversation about environmentally friendly farming practices continues, the language being used naturally evolves. As part of that discussion, key stakeholders are pointing out how the phrase of “sustainable farming” may imply keeping the status quo when, in fact, farming practices overall need to go beyond what’s being done today.
And, by using that definition, we’ve been putting regenerative farming into daily practice for decades, with our focus being to leave the soil in better shape than how we found it. We focus on making our soil increasingly healthier so that we can grow produce that’s even more flavorful and nutritious.
Now, here’s a regenerative farming definition by EcoWatch; it “improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well-being.”
Under this philosophy, farming practices will:
Here’s another definition: regenerative farming practices will “rejuvenate the soil, grasslands and forests; replenish water; promote food sovereignty; and restore public health and prosperity—all while cooling the planet by drawing down billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil where it belongs.”
Those are goals and philosophies that we wholly embrace and put into practice. So, again, if you would like to get your farm-fresh produce from a family farm that advocates for and practices regenerative agriculture, we invite you to see what’s available now.
Purpose #3 Reducing Food Waste
We’ve been passionate about reducing food waste for quite some time now, growing plenty of crops that can be used from root to tip; advocating for the use of ugly vegetables; and, through the leadership of Chef Jamie Simpson, maintaining a zero-waste kitchen at the Culinary Vegetable Institute.
Here are examples of each.
As a delicious example of using a vegetable from root to tip, Chef Jamie made a stunning carrot puree that used the entire veggie, including the tops. This blog post contains a detailed pureed carrot recipe, along with culinary insights. For example, Chef Jamie love to puree because it’s a wonderful way to balance flavor and texture, and it’s a technique that allows you to use an ingredient—in this case, carrot tops—that’s unexpected. When you puree, you can truly use an entire vegetable without waste. You can, as another example, include all of your fava beans, including the stems, in your dishes.
Next, The Chef’s Garden took a leading role in the creation of a craft beer using ugly carrots as a key ingredient. Here’s the short version. Farmer Lee Jones gave Chef Maneet Chauha a farm tour and, as part of it, he shared his passion for food waste reduction through the use of ugly vegetables to the James Beard Award-winning chef.
Chef Maneet then shared what she learned with her Nashville partner in their artisan ale company, and a new craft ale was created using ugly vegetables as a core ingredient.
In other words, ugly vegetables had been given a purpose.
Then, at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, food waste solutions are at the heart of operations. This includes innovative recycling and composting, becoming a registered cannery, maintaining a rare breed of pigs that thrive on vegetable-based diets and are exceptionally well suited for Northern Ohio winters, creating unique bitters for cocktails and mocktails, putting up preserves in the root cellar, and so much more.
If you’re curious about what else goes on at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, then consider attending an upcoming event.
Purpose #4 Being Connectional
Feeding the planet using regenerative methods is an enormous job, one that takes the efforts of and heart-to-heart conversations between dedicated, like-minded people around the globe. No one person, farm or organization can do it alone (to quote Bob, Sr., “None of us is as smart as all of us!”).
Ways that we participate in being connectional include our Roots culinary conferences. At these conferences, chefs, farmers, academics, food scientists, journalists, research and development experts and consumers have pushed their unique and collective endeavors further to the forefront as they discuss the food they cultivate as it is grown and prepared. Related topics have included how to cultivate supporting teams, how to cultivate the direction and impact of the food and beverage industry and so much more.
Farm visits by groups, such as the Landry restaurant group’s team, give us an opportunity to give tours of the farm, listen to food-related challenges that people are experiencing, brainstorm solutions together, and much more. It was a farm tour, remember, that sparked the creation of an artisan ale using ugly carrots.
When conversations happen between chefs and farmers, each of whom care about sustainability and regeneration, about flavor and nutrition, about providing diners with quality produce, amazing things can happen. This allows the chef to have visibility into where and how the ingredients they’re using have been grown and facilitates chef-to-diner storytelling about those ingredients.
Here are elements of transparency that are vital to have in place when sourcing ingredients:
If you’re a journalist who is interested in discussing food sustainability, regenerative farming, or transparency in ingredient sourcing—or one of a multitude of other interconnected topics, then we invite you to contact Erica Sanicky at or 419-433-4947, ext. 103, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Purpose #5 Providing Specialty Products by Combining the Old and New
We deliver specialty products with optimum shelf life, quality, flavor and nutrition direct from the farm to the world's most discriminating chefs and home cooks—growing them through traditional farming techniques in a way that makes sense in today’s world.
In other words, at The Chef’s Garden, we look back while moving forward. Or, in the words of Bob, Sr., “All we’re trying to do is get as good as the farmers were a hundred years ago.”
These philosophies are our guiding principles as we remain dedicated to growing vegetables in ways that run counter to modern farming culture. More specifically, we embrace seasonal growing and eating, something that was once taken for granted. After all, farmers from a century ago naturally harvested the fruits of the season, trusting Mother Nature to provide them with the ingredients they needed when they needed them.
We follow in the footprints of those farmers, as we walk among the rows of our crops. If you drive past our fields, you’ll see our dedicated team members hand-harvesting seasonal produce and filling their bins with these treasures. When planting, we use vintage tractors that are smaller, slower, and lighter than today’s huge models. They are just right for us as our team gently tucks tiny plants into our regenerated soil.
Many of the crop varieties we grow have come from seeds that we’ve carefully selected and saved over the decades. As just one example, Mr. Frye’s Rhubarb comes from seeds that go back generations, to when William Frye preserved the heirloom vegetables brought to the United States by his immigrant ancestors from Europe. Among the most cherished was a tart and succulent rhubarb with strong stalks and an especially vivid red color that we still grow today.
We hope that you now have a better sense of the purpose behind our products. If you’d like to join our group of treasured chefs, then please contact us online today!