Thirty years ago, The Chef’s Garden would have raised no eyebrows. Farmer Bob Jones and his sons Bobby and Lee grew soybeans and corn, just like their neighbors in Huron, Ohio, a small town west of Cleveland and two miles from Lake Erie. But in 1983 a crop failure forced them into bankruptcy and beyond. They lost the farm and had to sell everything, down to the family car.
But at a moment when other farmers would have given up and moved to the city, the Jones family made a new start with land they managed to lease (across the road from their old land). They saw this challenge as stepping stones, not obstacles. They decided to give up conventional farming and explore new farming methods.
Early on their efforts took a sharp turn when a local chef asked them for squash blossoms. These were virtually unknown in the commercial market at the time and the Jones’ discovered that squash blossoms were not the only exotic crop to interest chefs. They decided to listen to chefs and hear what they wanted.
This led the family to tiny microgreens, infant versions of herbs and lettuces, intense in flavor and with beautifully dramatic colors and shapes. Chefs went wild over these, which clinched it for the Jones’. They gave up conventional agriculture altogether in order to become a resource for chefs and produce exclusively for their needs. In the process, they completely reinvented their family farm.