Making It: Healthy Vegetables At Home From The Chef’s Garden

Making It

Editor’s note: This is part of a series exploring how Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs and small businesses have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and their plans for moving forward.

Grower: Farmer Lee Jones
Business: The Chef’s Garden

You grew up having a passion for food. Explain what it means to you to be able to have a role in the community of providing people with fresh food.

You know, I think of that old saying of “do what you love and you never work a day in your life.” Well, it's not completely true, but it sure rings true. I had the privilege of getting to work with my father for over 50 years, from the time I was five or six years old on. I knew that I wanted to work with my dad and grow vegetables. This is a vegetable growing community, even though many of the vegetable farmers are gone. The soils are right. It's in our DNA. It's what we do. It's what we love. I just can't think of doing anything else.

The Jones family has been delivering specialty vegetables to chefs around the world for over 30 years. [Michelle Demuth-Bibb / The Chef's Garden]

Your business at The Chef’s Garden has been to supply fresh vegetables direct to restaurants. What was going through your mind when restaurants began shutting down in March?

The reality is, is that there's one thing for certain and that's change. And we either figure out a way to change and adapt to the times or we die. And we were aggressively looking for ways to be able to survive. As you know, the restaurants have been in trouble. And we hurt and feel for all of those workers and servers and chefs and owners of these small restaurants. There's been a ripple down effect to us and our team here on the farm as well. We felt like there was a real need to be able to reach out to end users, people that were afraid to get to a grocery store or couldn't because of the pandemic. And so we offered a nationwide home delivery program early on in March. We pivoted. We felt that there was a real need and a demand for people to have safe, healthy vegetables delivered at home.

The "Best of the Season" home delivery box offers the season's freshest vegetables. [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

How do you handle those days when things may feel especially difficult?

You know, of course, there are days that we get discouraged, and days where we'd like to have a rain when we don't get it. My brother always has a saying that “nothing's ever as bad as it seems and nothing's ever as good as it seems”. Farmers are eternal optimists. The most famous saying that a farmer says is, “We're gonna get ‘em next year!” And spring brings new hope every year, and so we're kind of refreshed in each season. And because we're so close to nature and so close to the rhythms and the cycles, I think that it allows us a regeneration or recharging. Sure, we get discouraged. But, you know, the sun is going to rise and we get a new shot and a new chance at making a great day every day. Regardless of what the situation is, we've got a shot at affecting the outcome. You know, if you help enough other folks around, good things will come for you.

Farmer Lee Jones has a deep passion and commitment for growing nourishing and healthy foods on the family's three hundred acre farm. [Jean-Marie Papoi / ideastream]

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