Tag Archives: Montecito Urban Farms

How Tower Gardens® are Teaching Kids the Future of Growing

Since 2006, Future Growing® has been partnering with the nation’s leading schools to create healthier lunches and hands-on science lessons. It’s gratifying to see Future Growing®’s aeroponic technology being welcomed by education, because we know firsthand how students of all ages benefit from learning to grow food in their own schools. These kids will soon be the decision-makers of the 21st century, and will be faced with serious choices on managing our future supplies and quality of water, air, and soil.

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Hope 4 Kids Preschool believes in healthy eating and healthy living. (Click photo to enlarge)

Here are some of the innovative schools—ranging from preschools to colleges—using Future Growing®’s aeroponic technology to teach students about how to grow healthy, sustainable Tower Garden® produce and nourish their bodies in a healthy way.

Hope 4 Kids Preschool in Santa Barbara, Calif., believes in healthy eating and healthy living, and is the first preschool in the world to have a commercial Tower Garden® farm.

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Hope 4 Kids offers tasty and nutritious meals and cooking activities.
(Click photo to enlarge)

The staff at Hope 4 Kids reports: “We love our commercial Tower Garden® farm because it is so simple and always produces amazingly tasty and nutritious fruits and vegetables!

“Tower Gardens® produce far more colorful, better tasting, better smelling, and incredibly nutritious fruits and vegetables. The Tower Garden® is definitely a step toward future gardens, as it is a wonderful, clean, and efficient way to produce utterly delicious and healthy fruits and vegetables.”

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The first preschool in the world to have a commercial Tower Garden® farm.
(Click photo to enlarge)

The school offers tasty and nutritious cooking activities for students, teaching them how to make and eat healthy foods such as Tower Garden® salads, guacamole, pico de gallo, and kale chips. To learn more about Hope 4 Kids’ Future Growing® Tower Garden® farm, click here.

In Destrehan, La., Harry Hurst Middle School’s “Green Team”, led by seventh grade teacher Julie Rexford, was awarded the Healthy Community Grant from the Keep Louisiana Beautiful organization in 2013.

The grant allowed the middle school to start an aeroponic Tower Garden® farm. Students participate in growing produce on campus that is served within the school cafeteria. What an innovative way for students to experience what high quality, chemical-free produce actually tastes like!

This system allows students to participate in every aspect of sustainable gardening. For more information about the Hurst Middle School project, click here.

Newman School

After Newman’s food services director, Trudi Ruppenicker (center of photo) saw another Tower Garden® farm in New Orleans, it did not take long for Newman’s administration to acquire one for their own food service program. (Click photo to enlarge)

In New Orleans, Isidore Newman School’s foodservice director, Trudi Ruppenicker, worked with Sage Dining to bring a Future Growing® Tower Garden® farm to the school.

Students help germinate the seeds and harvest the produce. The students can also learn about sustainability, water conservation, the life cycles of plants, and the benefits of locally sourced foods. Special signs on menu items containing home-grown foods inform the diners and generate more interest in the program. Click here to view the rest of the photo gallery.

The Green Bronx Machine has become an urban farming revolution in Bronx classrooms. Stephen Ritz, a Bronx-born-and-bred public school teacher, is creating a revolution in his community by introducing students to something unexpected—aeroponic farming.

By teaching his disadvantaged students where food comes from and how to grow their own, he is also helping them grow life skills and cultivate brighter futures.

The Green Bronx Machine recently received funding from Progressive Insurance’s “Apron Projects” to build a Tower Garden® farm. Ritz and some of his students are featured in a YouTube video clip, which can be viewed below:

University of Florida

University of Florida scientist researches hydroponic systems for small family and urban farms.
(Click photo to enlarge)

The University of Florida’s Agricultural Extension Center in Live Oak, Fla., is working with sustainable “green” technologies from Future Growing. The Tower Garden® technology has been used in the facility’s research since 2007.

The Extension Center also offers a course where students learn soil-less growing techniques and are given a tour of the research facility to see the growing systems in operation.

From its inception, Future Growing® has cultivated relationships with schools all over the country, recognizing that the health of our bodies—and our planet—will be in the hands of these bright young students.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


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Americans Demanding Local, Sustainable Tower Garden Produce at Restaurants

As Americans continue to eat more local and sustainable produce and herbs themselves, they are expecting the same from the restaurants they visit.

Tower Gardens at Highland Manor

The chef at Highland Manor in central Florida displays a harvest from the Tower Gardens®. Pictured at right is Tim Blank, founder and CEO of Future Growing® LLC. (Click photo to enlarge)

Nearly 40 percent of consumers surveyed said they would be more likely to visit restaurants that offer healthy options, according to foodservice consulting firm Technomic. And these health-conscious restaurant guests now define “healthy” foods as those that are “locally grown” and “fresh”, instead of the old definitions of “low fat” and low calorie”, Technomic says.

Then, just last week, the National Restaurant Association declared that the top hot trends for restaurant menus in 2014 will be locally grown produce, hyper-local sourcing (restaurants that sport their own gardens), and healthful kids’ meals.

Future Growing® LLC’s commercial urban farms have been at the forefront of this trend for years. Some of our long-time growers—which sport expansive Tower Garden® farms on their rooftops—are among the nation’s finest restaurants, including Primo Restaurant at JW Marriott and Bell Book & Candle in New York City.

Harvesting heirloom tomatoes

Harvesting heirloom tomatoes at Bell Book and Candle’s rooftop Tower Garden farm. (Click photo to enlarge)

Restaurants are the primary customers for our flourishing Future Growing® urban farms. Take Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s O’Hare Urban Garden, for example: It’s the first airport featuring an indoor farm, with numerous Tower Garden® towers that supplies the airport’s Farmers’ Market as well as many of its upscale eateries, including Wolfgang Puck and Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera.

LA Urban Farms supplies fresh Tower Garden® produce to the top restaurants in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

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Pictured above are Jessica Coleman; Tim Blank, founder and CEO of Future Growing LLC; and Wendy Coleman, at an L.A. Urban Farms rooftop Tower Garden farm.  (Click photo to enlarge)

Likewise, Montecito Urban Farms in Summerland, CA delivers the freshest herbs, greens and produce to popular local restaurants such as Wine Cask Restaurant, Bouchon Santa Barbara, and Sojourner Café & Restaurant.

As the locally-sourced produce trend continues to gain momentum in the mainstream, Future Growing®’s urban farms will be at the forefront of supplying the highest quality, chemical-free, nutritious produce to restaurants all over the world. Read about this fast-growing restaurant trend for yourself in the QSR Magazine blog copied below!

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


NRA Rounds Up Hottest Culinary Trends of 2014

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) each year prepares its What’s Hot culinary forecast of menu trends for the coming year. The NRA surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs, members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF), to find which food and beverage items will be hot trends on restaurant menus in 2014.

Wind Horse Cafe

Customers enjoy their outdoor lunch surrounded by Future Growing® Tower Gardens®, at Wind Horse Cafe in Eustis, FL. (Click photo to enlarge)

The top 10 food trends for 2014 are:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Environmental sustainability
  4. Healthful kids’ meals
  5. Gluten-free cuisine
  6. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
  7. Children’s nutrition
  8. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Farm/estate branded items
Chef John Mooney

Chef John Mooney prepping edible squash flowers for evening dinner special.
(Click photo to enlarge)

“Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group. “True trends, as opposed to temporary fads, show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items, unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented, as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.”

“The American Culinary Federation chefs who took part in the survey understand that sourcing locally and environmental sustainability tie in with ongoing efforts to provide more-healthful foods for everyone, especially children,” says Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, HGT, AAC, ACF national president. “Chefs recognize that nutrition is a vital component of the foodservice industry and constantly revise and update recipes to reflect the concerns and desires of a diverse group of consumers who are looking for good food choices to best meet their nutrition and other needs.”

Chefs at Montecito Urban Farm

Pictured here, from left to right, are: Executive Chef Greg Murphy of Bouchon, Chef Brandon Hughes of the Wine Cask Restaurant, and Chef Nik Ramirez of the Intermezzo Bar and Cafe. All three restaurants are located in Santa Barbara, CA. (Click photo to enlarge)

The What’s Hot in 2014 survey also found that the top five alcohol and cocktail trends will be micro-distilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients), and regional signature cocktails.

When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list, followed by local sourcing, health-nutrition, children’s nutrition, and gluten-free cuisine.

The five items with the highest ranking as a waning trend in 2014 were foam/froth/air, bacon-flavored chocolate, fish offal, gazpacho, and fun-shaped children’s items.

Playa Rivera rooftop

Street view of Playa Rivera, a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles, CA with a Future Growing® Tower Garden® farm on its rooftop. (Click photo to enlarge)

The five items with the highest points as perennial trends next year were fried chicken, Italian cuisine, frying, barbeque, and eggs benedict.

The five items that gained most in trendiness since last year in the annual survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The five items with the largest drop in “hot trend” rating were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, grass-fed beef, and organic coffee.

Compared with five years ago, items that have remained top 20 food trends include locally grown produce, healthful kids’ meals, gluten-free cuisine, sustainable seafood, and health/nutrition.

Latin peppers being dried for the evening dinner.

Latin peppers being dried for the evening dinner at Playa Rivera in Los Angeles. (Click photo to enlarge)

Items that have dropped substantially down the list from the top 20 food trends in 2009 include gelato, micro-greens, flatbreads, tapas/meze/dim sum, and dessert flights.

Also included in the What’s Hot in 2014 survey were questions about other trends. Nearly six out of 10 (59 percent) of the chefs said they always make efforts to adjust dishes and recipes to be more healthful, while one-third (33 percent) said they cook with nutrition in mind, but that not all recipes are easily adjusted.

Blog originally published by QSR Magazine on December 3, 2013.


Let’s All Welcome National Kale Day: October 2, 2013

Kale growing at Montecito Urban Farms

Kale power at Montecito Urban Farms, Summerland, CA. (Click photo to enlarge)

Last spring, a band of kale lovers that included Dr. Drew Ramsey, formed a team to spread the message about the benefits of kale. Kale and other farm-fresh, nutrient-dense, whole foods are arguably more available than at any time in recent history.

“Team Kale”, composed of chefs, nutritionists, doctors, farmers, food advocates, parents, health coaches, and activists, went to work building http://www.nationalkaleday.org, a site that is full of recipes, resources, and a free “Kale Hero” Toolkit.

Iron Towers Urban Farm

Iron Towers Urban Farm in Middletown, CT.
(Click photo to enlarge)

The inaugural National Kale Day was October 2, and President Barack Obama has been petitioned to officially make Kale Day the first Wednesday of each October. You can aid this effort by visiting http://www.nationalkaleday.org/petition.

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Kale “Tower of Power” at Montecito Urban Farms, Summerland, CA.
(Click photo to enlarge)

On this remarkable date, the “Kale Heroes” celebrated kale around the country and the world. School cafeterias, hospitals, restaurants, and farmers’ markets participated.

I had a chance to visit with Dr. Ramsey during the Google event on that day. See what the excitement was all about!

Tim Blank

Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

Chef John Mooney Takes N.Y. Restaurant’s Success to the Rooftops of Washington, DC

Last month, I shared how the world-famous roof-to-table Bell Book & Candle eatery sports New York City’s most successful and longest-running hydroponic farm. Chef John Mooney and partner Mick O’Sullivan feed an 80-seat restaurant with their vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farm, which is now in its fourth year of producing chemical-free, highly flavorful fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

The extraordinary success of the Bell Book & Candle restaurant and Tower Garden® farm in Manhattan has created international interest, and has restaurant owners and chefs asking, “How can we do this here?”

US Capitol Building

Chef John and Mick have had many opportunities to expand their success, and they recently chose our nation’s capitol as their next roof-to-table endeavor.

While many restaurants greenwash with a few pots of herbs or a small garden bed, they don’t achieve the skyrocketing success of John and Mick because—very simply—the food just isn’t getting from garden to table. What the restaurant industry is beginning to learn is that customers can no longer be fooled by good marketing and a “show” garden. They now know and understand what locally grown food is, and they want it on their plates every day.

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Roof-to-table produce you can smell and taste! (Click photo to enlarge)

Mick says it best: “I seat repeat customers every night because they know and can taste they are getting the best from us. If they weren’t, there are hundreds of other choices just down the street in Manhattan. Our repeat customers are loyal because they enjoy the experience each time and, more importantly, we have a real farm on our building that actually produces healthy herbs and vegetables!” A Future Growing® farm produces massive amounts of vertical food with extraordinary flavor and does not slow down. The farms get repeated results throughout spring, summer, fall, and even into winter, year after year!

I had a chance to sit down with Mick and Chef John in Manhattan, and here is what they had to say about their new project in Washington, DC:

Washington Monument

Chef John and Mick, why did you choose Washington, DC?

What better place to launch our second roof-to-table farm than our nation’s capitol! We were looking for partners that truly understood Chef John’s passion for responsible sourcing of local food and believed in this vision that has created genuine success for Bell Book & Candle.

Mick, tell me a little more about this new project.

We are going to save much of the details for our opening this fall, but I can tell you that this new eatery will be an even bigger success that what we have accomplished in Manhattan.

Heirloom tomatoes

BB&C partner Mick O’Sullivan tends to his favorite crop, the heirloom tomatoes! (Click photo to enlarge)

Our new roof-to-table farm will be 50% larger and, because of the higher parapet walls, we can grow our Tower Gardens® much higher than in Manhattan!

Chef John, what is the most important learning experience you take from the Bell Book & Candle farm to your new rooftop?

The vertical farm itself is an amazing machine, but each year we learn how to fine-tune the crop cycles with the seasons. For example, we discovered the heirloom varieties that grow best in our region. After four years, we have really learned how to maximize every inch of our rooftop and have watched our food purchases dramatically decline compared to other restaurants in the area.

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Chef John Mooney checking the fruit quality on his next strawberry harvest. (Click photo to enlarge)

Like Manhattan, Washington, DC is a city that leaves a huge carbon footprint on our planet: food travels thousands of miles to get to the typical restaurant table. At this new farm, we count only 100 footsteps, from roof to table. More importantly, we are growing on what was once dead rooftop space with 90% less water and NO chemicals.

Mick, tell me more about what you and Chef John learned about eliminating the use of chemicals and how that works.

We learned in Manhattan that bugs, both good and bad, do make it up to the rooftops of a busy city. During our first year in business, Future Growing® created a program that incorporates an army of good bugs into our farm. Every three weeks during the heavy pest season—mid-May through August—we release special microscopic beneficial insects specifically designed to combat the harmful bugs in our region. The best thing about this army is that they work 24 hours a day and require no pay or benefits from our company! During the warmer months, these guys are doing their job keeping the farm totally free of food-eating bugs. As a result, the produce stays clean and, more importantly, free of harmfully chemical sprays. This is good for our customers and good for our local environment.

Integrated pest management

Left: Releasing beneficial insects onto the farm in early summer. Right: Native pollinating bees naturally establish and thrive on a NO CHEMICAL farm! (Click photos to enlarge)

Chef John, I know you are not dishing out the entire scoop on your new place right now, but can you tell me a little of your concept and vision?

Our menu will revolve around meeting customers’ needs with local, organic and sustainable food, and overall responsible procurement. The menu will be seasonal and heavily influenced on production from the aeroponic rooftop Tower Garden® farm. The food will be original, and we will have the best-tasting and freshest plates in the city.

Mick, do you feel this is the future?

It is not only good business for us, but it is the future and is a necessity if we are going to live healthy lives and sustain this planet for the generations to come. We are excited to be pioneering this movement, and we are seeing an explosion of similar farms across the city and country!

It was great talking with you both and we look forward to the excitement of your grand opening!

You can learn more about Chef John and Mick by clicking here.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

Future Growing® Farmers: Changing the Local Food Movement Globally

Future Growing® farmers all over the U.S. are re-shaping the standards for local food production by utilizing vertical aeroponics and quality plant nutrition, while eliminating the use of harmful chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Check out the September issue of 805 Living below and see how two of California’s top vertical farmers are setting global trends and changing the way food will be produced on planet Earth in the future.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

805 Living