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Part Two: The Gourmet Heart of the Heartland

Part Two: The Gourmet Heart of the Heartland
(Farmer Lee Jones (Michelle Demuth-Bibb/The Chef's Garden)

By Monday, 01 March 2021 11:28 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The following is the final installment of a two-part series. The first-part can be found here.

Farmer Lee Jones saved his Ohio family farm, The Chef’s Garden, during the COVID-19 pandemic by opening sales of his exquisite gourmet vegetables to the public. These prized heirlooms were formerly destined to the restaurant kitchens of the most celebrated chefs in the United States. Even when the economy fully reopens, Farmer Jones vows to continue selling to home customers.

The farm still hosts The Culinary Vegetable Institute, a combination that is part think tank and part practicum. Here, chefs can research, experiment with rare and newly rediscovered vegetables and herbs while discussing emergent issues, such as combating food waste, nutrition, ancient and modern cooking techniques.

Many of  his customers have contributed to an extensive online recipe library. Though one might be excused for thinking the cooking suggestions would include gold dust and pearl garnishes, the ideas are simple and clean. Many of the dishes call for enjoying raw or lightly roasted vegetation; Edible flowers make everything from cocktails to a simple dinner plate feel fit for royalty. Sddenly, staying at home feels a lot more enjoyable.

But it’s not just about the aesthetics of the dish. The farm adheres to the ancient philosophy of Hippocrates, a Greek physician who was born around 460 BC and is considered the "Father of Medicine." He is credited with the saying, "Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."

The Chef’s Garden has discovered that a result of their regenerative farming practices, their produce can contain up to 200 to 500% more mineral content than the USDA average.

The farm even has a specialized "Wellness Collection," which makes for a most appropriate gift during these times.

Farmer Jones’ new book, "The Chef’s Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables – with Recipes," is available for pre-order.

I had the opportunity to interview the Ohio farmer via email: 

Do you also farm and sell fruit?

We are not currently growing any fruit. We have wonderful fruit orchards in the surrounding area that we sell at our Seasonal Farmers Market.

Tell us about your charity work?

We support culinary and agricultural initiatives such as The Trotter Project, Mentor BKB and provide fresh vegetables to families in need with The Hunger Network and Second Harvest.

Do you have working animals on the farm? What are they and what do they do?

My wife Mary raises a litter of golden retrievers every year, We have a team of Belgian draft horses we use for hay rides and sleigh rides and just love having them here , a pair of peacocks and a handful of chickens they are not integral to the farming operations.

What kind of cuisine do you enjoy? Has that changed over the years?

There is not one cuisine I would choose over the other. I’ll try anything once!

Are you a good cook?

I am not a chef, but I can cook OK!

People may have a certain idea about "home cookin'" . . . has the country style cooking in your local area changed with the introduction of rare produce?

The ability to provide fresh, flavorful, and nutritious vegetables to the surrounding area has been gratifying. Here is a quote from one of our regular Seasonal Farmers Market customers:

"The most amazing assortment of beautiful veggies. Things I have never seen before, like Oca. And the flavors! NOTHING like what you get in the stores. Doesn’t even compare. Flavor, flavor, flavor."

Were you in 4H Club or Future Farmers of America? Do you participate in State Fairs?

We never were much involved in the 4H Club, Future Farmers of America, or state fairs.

[As kids], we were always working. It was deemed as a luxury to be involved and took valuable work time.

But, [now] we are asked to judge vegetables at the local fair and fully believe and support in 4H and FFA.

Tamar Alexia Fleishman was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s youngest female solo violinist. A world-traveler, Fleishman provides readers with international flavor and culture. She's debated Bill Maher, Greta Van Susteren and Dr. Phil. Fleishman practices law in Maryland with a J.D. from the University of Baltimore, a B.A. in Political Science from Goucher College. Read Tamar Alexia Fleishman's Reports — More Here.

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The following is the final installment of a two-part series. The first-part can be found here. Farmer Lee Jones saved his Ohio family farm, The Chef's Garden, during the COVID-19 pandemic by opening sales of his exquisite gourmet vegetables to the public. These prized...
chefs, agriculture, covid, ohio, farmerleejones
Monday, 01 March 2021 11:28 AM
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