We hear from chefs and Freight Farmers about how hydroponic produce is impacting the restaurant industry.
Chefs are unlike most food consumers. They spend hours thinking, planning, and experimenting with ingredients, going through tens, if not hundreds, of iterations on a simple dish before serving it to their audience of eaters. So, when we wanted to know what people really think about eating hydroponic greens from a container farm, we decided that chefs would be the most critical and honest sources of information. The verdict? They love it! Whether it's the year-round availability, the hyperlocal production, the longer shelf-life, or simply the delicious taste, chefs are enthusiastically incorporating hydroponic greens into their menus.
Acre in a Box
Acre in a Box is a two-farm operation in Houston, Texas. The principal operator, Andrew, provides fresh greens to several local restaurants and a major grocer. He keeps his operation "hyperlocal" and only delivers within ten miles of his container farms.
“The greens are a huge hit. It’s allowed us to take our salads and offer a consistent quality across the board. Never affected by weather, never affected by Mother Nature... Our greens here at Relish are the best in town.”
– Dustin Teague, Executive Chef & Owner, Relish
Karma Farm is a combination soil and hydroponic farm in Baltimore, Maryland. The farm is operated by father-and-son duo Jon and Nat Shaw. They sell their produce to restaurants in Baltimore; the addition of a container farm to their soil operations has allowed them to expand their client base thanks to year-round produce availability.
Hear from Mark Levy, chef at the prestigious Magdalena restaurant about sourcing food from Karma Farm:
“As soon as I saw Jon’s products, I knew he had a very special touch with the ingredients and was someone who truly cares about quality.”
– Mark Levy, Executive Chef, Magdalena
“The best thing about being a Freight Farmer is bringing local chefs into the LGM to touch and taste the greens, and seeing their surprise and excitement about the bold tastes and textures it can produce.”
– Jon Shaw, Principal Farmer at Karma Farm
Agora Greens is located in Walpole, MA. Beyond running a successful landscaping business, farm operators Ian Brown and David Pendergast sell to restaurants and country clubs, as well as at local farmers markets.
“Agora Greens has been providing us with some of the freshest, cleanest, and best-tasting lettuces. From a chef’s point of view, the products have a great shelf life and are very easy to work with... the abundant passion and excitement that the Agora team has for their operation is undoubtedly conveyed from cook to diner on every plate.”
– Jeremy DiStefano, Executive Chef, Dedham Country & Polo Club
In fall of 2016, Kimball Musk launched Square Roots, an urban farming accelerator program focused on training young entrepreneurs to grow food year-round in Brooklyn, New York. One farmer, Nabeela Lakhani, brings her hydroponic produce to a market-to-table restaurant in SoHo, Chalk Point Kitchen, where she is a farmer-in-residence.
"[Eating a salad harvested 48 hours ago] is a really novel, memorable, and valuable experience for customers, especially people who are eating at a farm-to-table, local-oriented restaurant. It strengthens the trust in that restaurant and makes for a unique experience.”
– Nabeela Lakhani, Square Roots farmer
Restaurant chefs aren't the only ones seeing value in hydroponic produce. Many Leafy Green Machines reside on school and college campuses, with dining hall chefs and directors incorporation the greens into everyday food services.
"The greens are, well, just that…green. Picked at the peak of perfection rather than before they are ready so that it could be shipped to us. It’s an entirely different product and one look at it tells you that it’s hyper-local."
– Michael Newmark, General Manager of Clark Dining Services
Cumberland High School
“If we pick something in the morning and a student is eating it for noontime, the nutrients are definitely right there. It’s the best way to consume produce that is locally grown.”
– Shauna Spillane, Food Service Director at Sodexo
Want a refresher on what you can grow in a Leafy Green Machine? Check out our growing guide to see all the amazing lettuces, leafy greens, herbs, roots, and flowers that you can grow, along with typical yield data.