We’re used to listening to the radio, and radio waves travel at the speed of light (slightly less than 300,000 kilometers per second, which means that a beam of light or a radio wave can travel the Earth at its widest point more than seven times every second).
The Boom Supersonic jet will be transporting people at 1,451 miles per hour. In a practical sense, this means that a 15-hour flight from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, California will now take 6 hours and 45 minutes. New York City to London, England? Three hours and 15 minutes. Tokyo, Japan to San Francisco? Five hours and 30 minutes! You get the idea. It’s fast.
If you’d prefer to travel in a way that’s closer to the ground, that’s okay. You can go on a train ride at the rate of 603 kilometers per hour as long as you don’t mind hovering ten centimeters over the tracks on the Japanese JR-Maglev. If you’d like to actually be on the ground, just get a Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 and push the pedal to the metal, all the way to 431 kilometers per hour.
Now, let’s be clear. We’re all for efficient travel and we love listening to the radio. We’re thrilled when we hear that drone technology, as just one more example, may soon be transporting life-saving medicines to poor communities around the globe in just 30 minutes.
In many areas of life, we’re not against speed. In fact, it can often make life better.
Having said that, we just don’t think that’s the concept to embrace when growing farm-fresh vegetables. Here’s more about why, including how fast-growing vegetables are in fact depleting soil and its nutrients—leading to crops that are bland, rather than flavorful, with much less nutrition than what previous generations were able to benefit from.
Modern Agricultural Practices
“While fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are commonly thought to be high in essential nutrients, the majority of today’s produce and grains are grown in depleted soil, doused with pesticides, and stored for long periods of time (all the while being sprayed with more insecticides and fungicides) before being sold . . . some modern nutritionists believe that, in the midst of all this plenty, many people in the West are starving—for the basic nutrients that were once in our everyday food.” (What’s in This Stuff?)
This 2008 book by Patricia Thomas goes on to discuss how conventional farmers have been caught up in a “vicious cycle of production,” using chemicals to increase their crop yields—which in turn makes these crops more vulnerable to pests. The solution for many farmers? More pesticides, which will further deplete the soil and, in turn, continue to damage the nutritional value of food being grown.
These nutritional deficiencies began to be quantified back in 1940 by two British chemists; in the fifth version of this work, published in 1991, a geologist-nutritionist compared the nutritional values of 28 raw vegetables and 44 cooked ones, along with 17 fruits, and ten types of meat/poultry/game, to see how nutritional values changed from 1940 to 1991.
Here were the findings for vegetables:
Boiled broccoli has 75 percent less calcium.
Carrots have 75 percent less magnesium, 48 percent less calcium, 46 percent less iron, and 75 percent less copper.
Potatoes have 30 percent less magnesium, 35 percent less calcium, 45 percent less iron, and 47 percent less copper.
Scallions have 74 percent less calcium.
Boiled spinach has 60 percent less iron and 96 percent less copper.
Watercress has 93 percent less copper.
And, let’s face it. This is a comparison from 1991, which means that chemically treated soil has had nearly 30 more years to deplete.
The book goes one to share how supplementing the soil with targeted minerals, such as phosphorus, can cause the numbers to swing the other way, causing foods to have more of a certain percentage of that mineral than what’s natural—once again altering what Mother Nature has created.
When we read material such as this, all we can think of is—Isn’t it time to stop this madness and return to what nature intended?
Regenerative Versus Degenerative Farming Practices
Regenerative techniques are in stark contrast to degenerative ones that deplete or even destroy resources used. According to EcoWatch, regenerative agriculture is a “holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well-being.”
Degenerative practices, meanwhile:
destabilize the climate
degrade soil and water
have negative consequences for health
have a negative impact on the economy
Again, isn’t it time to stop this madness and return to what nature intended?
Regenerative Farming Practices at The Chef’s Garden
This is also worth repeating. At the farm, we grow vegetables:
In full accord with nature
By using regenerative farming techniques that go far beyond sustainable farming, we leave our soil in better shape, healthier shape than how it once was.
How? One key component is the use of cover crops. These are crops that aren’t grown for the purposes of human or animal consumption. Instead, these are crops that are specifically and strategically grown to enrich soil, to feed and protect it.
As Bob Jones, Jr. likes to point out, what soil needs to be a healthy is a lot like what we as humans need. After all, soil is also a living, breathing organism and it deserves to be treated that way. “It needs,” Bob, Jr. says, “food, air and water to be able to be productive. And, if you really want it to be productive, you’ve got to give it rest. The same things we need.”
Soil is its own ecosystem and, when it’s healthy, it’s more vibrant and alive, which provides the foundation for the health of the crops we grow, the health of the crops that people consume.
When we first began using cover crops, decades ago, we used rye. We then realized that cover crop diversity mattered, and so we now use four to six species, using cover crop seed grown on the farm because that ensures that the cover crops have a remarkable affinity for their environment.
Examples of cover crops that we use include:
Returning to the elements of our regenerative farming philosophy, using cover crops is a slow-grow process. At any one time, two thirds of our fields contain cover crops, rather than produce that we sell to chefs and home cooks—and this overview will show how slow and gentle this agricultural process really is.
We plant a diversity of cover crops and then tend them for a reasonably short time. If we include oats, for example, we’ll let them grow until they’re about six to eight inches tall. Then, rather than harshly tilling the cover crops, we carefully and gently work them into the soil to feed it and control weeds.
Rather than rushing to the next stage of the process, we repeat this stage as many times as necessary. We then lay out beds for the crops, allowing weeds to germinate. Our farm team then carefully watches the beds, shallowly tilling the ground before they emerge. We just want to disturb the hairs of the weeds, getting rid of these white root hairs by allowing them to quickly and easily desiccate in the wind.
We repeat the process as many times as needed before we even begin to plant our crops.
At the farm, we also maximize cover crop effectiveness by:
rotating where they’re planted
consistently and repeatedly planting them
planting a diverse mix of cover crops
harvesting and saving cover crop seeds for successive plantings
Do we rush through any of these steps? No.
At The Chef’s Garden, we’re growing vegetables slowly and gently in full accord with nature.
Here's more about how we continually focus on creating the healthiest soil possible as we produce healthy, nutrient-dense products for chefs and home cooks without harming the land for future use.
Looking Towards the Future
We’re happy to see a focus on regenerative farming and healthy soil in Mintel’s Global Food & Drink Trends 2019, with the report saying the following: “Healthy, nutrient-rich soil provides the foundation for life, yields healthy food, and is important for water management and climate change. Yet soil is being lost faster than it can be replenished . . . Taking a holistic approach . . . regenerative agriculture is designed to improve soil health and fertility, as well as increase biodiversity, enhance ecosystems, improve water quality, reverse climate change and empower farming communities.”
Clearly, we’re thrilled to see this philosophy gaining global prominence—and we’d also like to add a caution. As the concept of regenerative farming becomes more prominent in the news, and as increasing numbers of consumers voice a demand for products grown this way, greenwashing will almost certainly creep in.
Greenwashing is a marketing strategy focused on making consumers believe that a particular company is being more environmentally friendly than is really the case. So, to help prevent your restaurant or company from buying produce that claims to be regeneratively farmed, but isn’t, it’s key to develop a relationship with the people who grow your food.
During the last three decades, The Chef’s Garden has never wavered from our commitment to farming that is environmentally friendly, socially responsible and economically viable. So, when you serve products that are regeneratively farmed by The Chef’s Garden, you’re demonstrating your own commitment to the environment and to the health and well-being of future generations.
Partnering with The Chef’s Garden by choosing us to be your personal farmer also allows you to embrace fossil-free cuisine®. And, because winter is right around the corner, it makes sense to share examples of how we’re reducing reliance on fossil fuels in a way that allows us to care for the planet. One way is how we’re farming with cold frames, which are small greenhouses built over an area. We plant crops in the autumn and then slowly and gently grow those crops under the cold frames using solar energy.
You can see an example of farming with cold frames in this video about our ice spinach:
“After we plant the spinach,” Farmer Lee Jones shares, “we work in harmony with nature, using what she gives us. The sun can heat the inside of the cold frame to 45 to 50 degrees—although, some days, it doesn’t warm up that much.”
During the winter, ice spinach typically freezes at night and then thaws out in the daytime, with its leaves acting as solar receptors that convert light energy into chemical energy, forming sugar. Because of this process, ice spinach is our sweetest and crispest variety.
We also sustainably heat greenhouses with a renewable source of energy: corn cobs that a neighboring farm used to pay to have hauled away. “So,” Farmer Lee says, “a product that is normally seen as waste—one that our neighbor used to have to pay to have taken away, remember—is now a way for us to grow our vegetables slowly and gently for your Fossil Free Cuisine®.”
More About Our Farming Philosophy
At The Chef’s Garden, we recognize and embrace traditional farming philosophies and techniques that have sustained farmers for generations and, since we recognize the profound importance of growing crops through a natural, environmentally friendly way, we are deeply committed to growing vegetables slowly and gently, in full accord with nature.
By implementing regenerative farming practices, we replenish our soil with vital, life-giving nutrients, resulting in hand-harvested fresh vegetables, microgreens, herbs, edible flowers and more packed with extraordinary flavor, optimal nutritional profiles and a long shelf-life.
The Chef’s Garden’s mission is to shape and redefine sustainable agriculture in our country by creating a template that will attract, inspire and retain young farmers. Through our own traditional farming practices and philosophy, we hope to encourage the next generation of farmers to value, protect and, if necessary, restore America’s farmland in order to ensure that our fields continue to produce the safest, most nutritious and flavorful products possible. We hope that our legacy will be the establishment of a national farming model that ensures safe and sustainable growing practices that serve to protect and enrich the consumer for generations to come.
If you’re a chef or home cook, and this philosophy resonates with you, please contact us today!