Tag Archives: vertical farm

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.

604 Arizona - TG farm

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.


Many U.S. Families Thankful for Local Food

The United States’ healthcare crisis continues to spin out of control, with no end in sight. As a result, many families are practicing preventive medicine through healthy living, and are consuming more local, natural, and organic fruits and vegetables.

In fact, the USDA now says: “The local food economy is here to stay and growing”. In early 2013, one of the country’s largest lending institutions to the agricultural community, Rabobank, published a report entitled “Local Foods: Shifting the Balance of Opportunity for Regional U.S. Produce.”

“The demand for locally grown foods has reached critical mass. It has changed the competitive landscape and is now a permanent mainstream trend,” the report’s author and senior agricultural analyst wrote.

The bottom line in Rabobank’s report is: “The local foods trend will continue to expand for fresh produce over the next five years, and growers must adapt their business models to accommodate the desire for local, fresh produce.”

The U.S. has come such a long way. This year, local foods accounted for more than a 10 percent of the California Big Ag leafy green and lettuce market! That would have never been the case even five years ago. Future Growing contributes a significant part of that percentage, providing technology that empowers families and over 100 local farms to grow healthy fruits and vegetables, in places where such growing has never have been done!

Tim Blank, founder of Future Growing LLC, holds freshly-harvested “living” bibb lettuce at The GreenHouse in central Florida.

Tim Blank, founder of Future Growing LLC, holds freshly-harvested “living” bibb lettuce at The GreenHouse in central Florida. (Click photo to enlarge)

I am often asked, “What is aeroponics?” Aeroponics is considered a hydroponic technique or method, so the process is a form of hydroponics.

Inside the Tower Chamber

Inside the tower chamber.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Aeroponics is simply defined as the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium.

The Tower Garden® growing chamber contains no soil or aggregate medium. Instead, the chamber is empty. It’s just roots and air between each irrigation cycle. The tumbling water during these irrigation cycles creates a fine mist, oxygenating the water and bathing the roots of each plant on its way down to the reservoir. This process is continuously repeated with each irrigation cycle, providing maximum amounts of fresh oxygen, water, and nutrients to the roots of the plants 24 hours a day.

The intelligent design of the Tower Garden® system produces extraordinary crops that grow much faster than they would in soil, producing bountiful harvests within weeks of being transplanted into the system.

Tower to Table in ten steps, farming made so simple anyone can do it!

Tower to table in ten steps . . . farming made so simple anyone can do it! (Click photo to enlarge)

One of the main purposes behind Future Growing®’s patented aeroponic design was to avoid clogging misters – which typically plagues traditional aeroponic growing systems – by utilizing high-flow aeroponics.

Another key benefit is the massive growing chamber for the roots. Because the plants’ roots do not run out of space, they continue to grow strong and healthy. There are commercial Tower Garden® farmers producing herb crops for several years now with plenty of room to go!

About our aeroponic plant food:

To achieve our mission of producing healthy food for people, we also developed an all-natural, stable, water-based ionic mineral solution to support the patented vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® technology.

With assistance from leading world experts in plant and human nutrition, we developed the proprietary Aeroponic Power-Gro® and the Tower Tonic® plant food we use today. Aeroponic Power-Gro® and the Tower Tonic® contains a wide range of specially-formulated ionic minerals and plant nutrients. It is the world’s first high-performance ionic mineral solution specifically designed for all types of food and flowering crops. The pH balanced blend of natural plant nutrients helps stimulate plants’ roots, flowers, fruits, and leaves.

Unlike conventional hydroponic fertilizers, the amazing Aeroponic Power-Gro® and the Tower Tonic® can be used to grow everything from gourmet lettuce and edible flowers to beautiful vine-ripened tomatoes. Healthy plants packed with nutrition help create healthy people.

Aeroponic Power-Gro® and the Tower Tonic® are also loaded with trace minerals that are essential to vibrant human health! Jake Kelly, a commercial rooftop Tower Garden® farmer in Southern California, recently grew a 3-foot aeroponic kale plant in a matter of weeks.

Left: 3 foot kale in a Tower Garden. Right: Jake delivers extraordinary aeroponic produce to market.

       Left: 3 foot kale in a Tower Garden.          Right: Jake delivers extraordinary aeroponic produce to market.

As you can see, our patented Tower Garden® system helps both large growers and smaller growers to develop highly flavorful, pesticide-free, and environmentally-friendly crops. Whether it is a commercial farm or a balcony in Manhattan, NY, the vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® is putting the POWER back into local food.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

Airports Going Green With Local Food

Harvesting freshly-picked “living” bibb lettuce.

O’Hare farm manager harvesting freshly-picked “living” bibb lettuce.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Future Growing® began working with HMSHost Corp. and Chicago O’Hare International Airport in 2010, to develop the world’s first farm inside an airport terminal. Since then, the O’Hare Urban Farm has become the most successful and productive farm inside an airport. The Farm not only supplies the airport’s high quality and celebrity restaurants, such as Tortas Frontera Grill by Rick Bayless, but also supplies the successful Farmer’s Market at O’Hare.

O’Hare is also home to the International Airports Going Green Conference, which was held last week and boasted a record attendance of 400. Airports Going Green is one of aviation’s leading sustainability forums, bringing leaders together to discuss how airports, airlines, and the aviation industry as a whole can grow while minimizing impacts to the environment.

O’Hare and Future Growing® have been at the forefront of this sustainability and eco-friendly revolution in the aviation industry, pioneering the world’s first commercial aeroponic farm inside an airport.

I am pleased to see that other airports have begun following O’Hare’s example and have incorporated growing as a sustainable component in their overall green initiatives. Check out this recent blog I came across, which reveals how local food is being grown in airports across the U.S.!

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

While rushing to board your next flight, you might not expect farmers’ markets and urban farms among the airport’s fast food joints, mani-pedi stations, and newsstands. At four U.S. airports, however, travelers are encountering exactly that. Check out how the local food movement has arrived at airline terminals in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

JetBlue’s Pop-Up Farmers’ Market at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport:

From October 29-31, JetBlue hosted a pop-up farmers’ market at New York’s JFK in partnership with GrowNYC, which operates the city’s 52 greenmarkets. The market, located beyond security in Terminal 5, featured items designed to appeal to both passengers boarding a flight and arriving travelers who wanted to pick up something healthy to eat or give as a gift. The products were all grown or made in New York state, including baked goods, grains, honey, jams, maple syrup, fruit, pickles, tomato sauces, wine, beer, and hard cider. The market also included education stations, a harvest-themed photo booth, a bike blender for people-powered smoothies, a compost pile with live worms, and a recycling game.

Farmers market at JFK Airport

A pop-up farmers market at the JetBlue terminal at New York’s JFK airport. (Photo courtesy of JetBlue.)

“When you think of an airport, farms and composting do not automatically come to mind,” said Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue’s head of sustainability. “We are connecting the two because we know sustainability is an ongoing cycle. The nutritious scraps of food we compost in T5 are returned to the ground to help make New York produce.” The airline started a composting program in May with Air Ventures, the franchisee that owns and operates the Jamba Juice and Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in the terminal, and Royal Waste Services to separate and haul nearly 300 pounds of food waste each day for composting. Food scraps are transported to McEnroe Farm in New York’s Hudson River Valley, where it is composted into nutrient-rich soil and used to grow produce.

While the JFK farmers’ market was a short-term test, the airline has not ruled out hosting the concept again in New York or in other cities.

O’Hare Airport’s aeroponic garden:

At O’Hare Airport’s Aeroponic Urban Garden, plants are harvested year-round and supply airport restaurants. Installed in the summer of 2011 as a joint collaboration between the Chicago Dept. of Aviation and HMSHost Corp., O’Hare’s 928-square-foot aeroponic garden is the first of its kind to be located in an airport.

O'Hare Urban Garden

O’Hare International Airport’s Urban Garden.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Located on the mezzanine level of Terminal 3, the plants are suspended in 26 vertical towers that employ sustainable “green” technology, developed by Future Growing LLC, to grow more than 1,100 plants, including a variety of culinary herbs, gourmet lettuces, leafy greens, and other vegetables. The plants are harvested year-round and supply airport restaurants such as Tortas Frontera, Wolfgang Puck, and Wicker Park Sushi, meaning the produce may go only 20 feet from farm to table. In addition, some of the “living lettuce”—with roots intact for premium freshness—is harvested, packaged in biodegradable clamshells, and sold to airport guests. By avoiding the need to transport produce over long distances, the O’Hare Urban Garden plants can be picked at the peak of ripeness, thus providing both greater nutrition and more flavorful produce.

Some of the O’Hare Urban Garden’s living lettuce is packaged in biodegradable clamshells and sold to guests at the airport’s “farmers market”.

Some of the O’Hare Urban Garden’s living lettuce is packaged in biodegradable clamshells and sold to guests at the airport’s “farmers market”.

Producing and purchasing locally grown foods supports the Chicago Dept. of Aviation’s commitment to sustainability by strengthening the local economy and job market, providing a unique learning opportunity for travelers, and reducing urban sprawl, traffic congestion, habitat loss, and pollution from transportation of produce.

Napa Farms Market at San Francisco Airport

Napa Farms Market inside Terminal 2 at San Francisco Airport. (Photo: Vickie Clampett.)

Napa Farms Market inside Terminal 2 at the San Francisco Airport:

Modeled after San Francisco’s famous Ferry Building Marketplace, the 5,000-square-foot Napa Farms Market inside Terminal 2 at the San Francisco Airport opened in April 2011. The market’s mission is to sell fresh, sustainable products from local brands like Equator Coffee, Tyler Florence’s Rotisserie, Cow Girl Creamery, Kara’s Cupcakes, Vino Volo, and Acme Bakery. The market was developed by Tastes on the Fly, four Bay Area restaurant entrepreneurs who joined forces in 1999 to develop and operate food-and-beverage concepts in U.S. airports. To ensure authenticity, they worked with retail marketplace developer Steve Carlin, who spearheaded the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace and founded Napa’s Oxbow Public Market.

Plans for Farmers Market To Go at Los Angeles Airport:

After nearly 80 years at Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles, the Original Farmers Market is expanding with a new location at Los Angeles International Airport. Scheduled to open early next year in Delta Air Lines Terminal 5, the mini market will offer selected goods from Original Farmers Market sellers, including wines and cheeses from Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market, nuts and nut butters from Magee’s House of Nuts, authentic Mexican cuisine from ¡Loteria! Grill, baked pastries and desserts from T & Y Bakery, Bennett’s Ice Cream, spices from Dragunara Spice Bazaar, and treats for traveling pups from Three Dog Bakery. In addition to the market, meals-to-go and on-site dining will be available. The airport market also will have iPads and kiosks that provide fun facts about Market merchants and their shops.

The article quoted in this week’s blog post is courtesy of Sustainable America (www.sustainableamerica.org), an organization which supports growing, buying, and eating more locally sourced, fresh food, as well as initiatives like locating farmers’ markets and urban farms in unexpected locations to increase people’s awareness of and access to local food systems. Alternative farming methods, which currently total about 3 percent of U.S. food production, have the potential to increase our food supply while reducing energy use. To help head off an impending food and fuel crisis, Sustainable America aims to reduce U.S. oil consumption by 50% by 2030 while increasing U.S. food availability by 50% by 2035.

Tower to Table Starts at Home

Each week, I am privileged to share about a new or current vertical urban farmer making a positive difference in a unique way. However, this week I am breaking the trend and sharing another side of the Future Growing® story, one which demonstrates how homeowners are evolving into one of the fastest-growing sectors of the local food movement today.

Thanks to the partnership Future Growing® established with Juice Plus® for our residential/homeowner division in early 2011, the patented, vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® has now become the most widely-used and successful form of outdoor hydroponics in home gardens across the United States and Canada.

Tower Garden

Tower Garden® vertical aeroponic growing system.

Tim Blank, creator of the Tower Garden

Tim Blank, developer of the Tower Garden® and founder/CEO of Future Growing LLC, blends freshly-harvested vegetables.  (Click photo to enlarge)

How did this all happen? Years ago, before the local food movement had really emerged into what it is today, we began developing the patented Tower Garden® into the world’s first, simplified, “plug-and-play” outdoor aeroponics vegetable garden. Our vision was that every family in America and across the world would someday have the opportunity to grow healthy fruits and vegetables in the comfort of their own back yards or balconies.

We believed that the future of health care would have to transform from “disease care” to establishing healthy lifestyles for disease prevention. Modern science has now shown that more fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet—replacing processed foods, sugar, dairy, and meats—leads to a longer and more robust life with less chronic disease. It is really just that simple.

To help enable families to garden in the modern era, where both parents work and space is limited, gardening had to become fun, simplified, and easy to do—which has now become the Tower Garden® way. Through the process of living a healthier life, each family is also reducing its carbon footprint, water, and land use, while consuming produce that is extraordinarily healthy, nutritious, and free of harmful chemicals or diseases often found in today’s food supply.

Tim Blank speaks at Juice Plus conference

Tim Blank speaks at the recent Juice Plus+ Leadership Conference in Orlando, FL.  (Click photo to enlarge)

Last weekend, I attended and presented at the Tower Garden Juice Plus Leadership Conference at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Florida. What an amazing event! More than 5,000 health and wellness individuals attended, including several hundred medical doctors, nurses, and health professionals.Tower Gardens at preschool

Walking the halls of this event, I observed the extraordinary vitality and health of people that consume a diet filled with fruits and vegetables. I had the opportunity to learn from several of the country’s top doctors about current research and the practical application of adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet. I was excited to learn from Dr. Bill Sears, “America’s Pediatrician”, who spoke on children’s health.

Dr. Bill Sears

Dr. Bill Sears

Dr. David Katz

Dr. David Katz

Then, Dr. David Katz enlightened the audience as he spoke about “Sense, Science, and Bridging the Gap of our Nation’s Diet”.

Dr. Sears and Dr. Katz were just a few of the amazing doctors presenting at the conference. The common thread all the expert health professionals shared was that eating more fruits and vegetables is essential to good health, and we now have an established mountain of modern science to prove that.

If you want to learn more about the amazing Tower Garden® for home use, you can visit http://www.TowerGarden.com. Our mission: Inspiring Healthy Living Around the World.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

California Entrepreneur Leads Rooftop Tower Garden® Farm To Extraordinary Success

Chapala Gardens

This week, I am re-posting a blog I shared in April, about Chapala Gardens’ rooftop farm. Since my visit this spring, Jake Kelly’s farm continues to expand and realize significant success.

This extraordinary young woman has really become an important part of the local food scene in Santa Barbara, Calif. If you live in Santa Barbara and want to buy local food, you can find Jake and her delicious, chemical-free local produce at the Sunday Farmer’s Market in Goleta from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Chapala Gardens is also open for shopping on Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and on Thursdays from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

For Chapala Garden’s address and directions, visit www.ChapalaGardens.com. If you live on the east coast, see Jake in Orlando, Florida on Thursday, October 17. She will be providing training on the patented Tower Garden® technology at the Tower Garden/Juice Plus Fall Leadership Conference at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, October 17 through October 19.

Chapala Gardens

Chapala Gardens’ rooftop farm in Santa Barbara, CA. Almost a ton of produce can be harvested annualy from this small rooftop. (Click photo to enlarge)

Now in its second year of operation, Chapala Gardens has been extraordinarily successful in making local, healthy, chemical-free, low-carbon footprint food readily available to its friends and neighbors in Santa Barbara.

Behind every successful “green” business is a person with a passion, and that is certainly true for 25-year-old Jake Kelly, the head grower for Chapala Gardens. Jake has been passionate about growing healthy food since she was young girl. She grew up in Waldorf Education, where farming was part of the curriculum. After she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, she went to Europe to work and learn on organic farms.

Jake Kelly

Jake Kelly holds a bouquet of lettuce.
(Click photo to enlarge)

While she was away, her parents Joy and Sandy decided to open California’s first vertical aeroponic Future Growing® rooftop farm. When she returned home, Jake immediately took on the role as head grower of Chapala Gardens and launched the thriving business.  Jake was recently nominated for Young Female Entrepreneur 2013 in Santa Barbara CA.

Now, Jake’s rooftop farm is home to 40 commercial Tower Gardens® with 44 plants per tower.

Jake’s successful business has 3 main areas of focus:

  1. Providing food for the community through the local farmers market.
  2. Leading a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.
  3. Educating and training people how to do the same thing right in their own back yard.
Jake Kelly

Jake Kelly with freshly harvested “living” lettuce.
(Click photo to enlarge)

As a young woman with a big heart who cares about the planet and humanity, Jake is on a mission to show people that there is a solution to the environmental challenges we all face with new and innovative green technologies.

At a recent health and wellness event, Jake shared, “We are simply running out of water in California and no one knows what to do! I do know what to do, and I have a solution. I can grow an enormous amount of plants vertically on my rooftop and patio with as little as five percent of the water as the farmers up the road. I don’t use contaminated water, herbicides, or harmful chemicals. My food is nutrient-dense, clean, and free of harmful pathogens. We can all do this; it is really simple and it’s the right thing to do!”

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

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.

Kale at Montecito Urban Farms

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

El Encanto Hotel by Orient-Express Becomes the First in the Portfolio to Boast a Futuristic Vertical Aeroponic Farm

Each week, I have the privilege of sharing a new urban growing adventure that revolves around a vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farm by Future Growing®. I am always amazed by where the adventure takes us and the new and exciting venues that will be home to one of our farms. This week is certainly no exception, as the world-renowned Orient-Express adds a Future Growing® farm to its El Encanto Hotel in Santa Barbara, California.

The Orient Express

The Orient Express

The Orient-Express story, in their words:

“There’s often more to a name than meets the eye. We’re fortunate that ours has symbolized the world’s most romantic railway journey for over a century. But today it stands for so much more.

“Since the acquisition of Venice’s Hotel Cipriani in 1976, new hotels, trains, and river cruisers worldwide have joined our collection. Many of these, such as The Ritz in Madrid, St. Petersburg’s Grand Hotel Europe, and Rio’s Copacabana Palace, are destinations in their own right.

“Beach resorts, safaris, restaurants, and luxury trains have joined the portfolio as it has expanded over the years. All have their own names and personalities and are managed by local teams who regard them as ‘their’ properties. The teams are encouraged to innovate and to contribute new ideas.”

The El Encanto Hotel truly embodies the Orient-Express vision of local management contributing new ideas and innovation at each location. In the news article below, Chef Patrice Martineau of El Encanto shares how “fresh”, “seasonal”, and “local” have become the undisputed culinary buzzwords at top temples of haute cuisine.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

Hotel Restaurants Get to Gardening, by http://www.departures.com

Over the last few years, some hotels around the world have turned to on-site kitchen gardens, growing herbs and maybe the occasional tomato, to stay abreast of the “fresh and local” trend. But these early efforts often felt like window dressing—initiatives that didn’t affect the food all that much. You might find some homegrown basil on a caprese salad or a few microgreens atop a sous-vide heritage-breed pork loin, but it seemed like hotels continued to procure most major produce by more conventional (read: “corporate”) means.

Patrice Martineau

Chef Patrice Martineau of El Encanto, who is holding a tray of seedlings at his Tower Garden® farm.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Not any more. A handful of hotels, both new and old, have begun building more serious chef’s gardens—quasi-farms that are leading to big-picture reevaluations of restaurant concepts and top-to-bottom menu overhauls.

One of the most recent arrivals is at iconic El Encanto in Santa Barbara, California (800 Alvarado Place; 805-845-5800; http://www.elencanto.com), which reopened this spring after a seven-year, $134 million renovation by Orient-Express. Here, chef Patrice Martineau planted not one but two gardens: A traditional plot for the likes of eggplant and peppers, and a vertical Tower Garden® farm started in partnership with Montecito Urban Farms.

The Tower Garden® farm was sourced from Future Growing LLC, and is used to grow a variety of lettuces, kale, arugula, herbs, and edible flowers. On the inside of each growing tower, plant roots are suspended roots in midair, letting them soak in a natural, nutrient-rich solution that allows them to mature faster than normal. The results have turned up in a dish of Provençal-style vegetables, chilled tomato soup and lemon-basil risotto, with more planned for autumn.

Spring also saw the addition of a large garden on the park-like acreage of Il Salviatino (21 Via del Salviatino; 39-055/904-1111; http://www.salviatino.com), a three-year-old villa hotel just outside of Florence, Italy. Chef Carmine Calò—who has worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants—designed a growing space for the necessities of Italian cooking. Already the 300 plants (eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers) are producing a quarter of the vegetables used in the restaurant, whose concept Calò will adapt as the vegetation develops and expands. Fall menus will feature dishes using yellow pumpkin, black and savoy cabbages and chard. By spring 2014, Calò says he expects nearly two thirds of the restaurant’s produce to come from the garden, with new plantings of celery, carrots, spring onions, garlic and zucchini.

In the English countryside, on the pastoral border between Dorset and Northampton, the country house hotel Chewton Glen (New Forest District, New Milton; 44-14/2527-5342; http://www.chewtonglen.com) debuted an expansive chef’s kitchen garden last year, plus a newly planted orchard of some 200 trees. Overseen by an in-house, full-time gardener, the plots provide the hotel with thousands of pieces of fruits and veggies every week, including radishes, beans, ruby chard, black kale, fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, herbs and edible flowers. Chef Andrew Du Bourg’s stuffed zucchini flowers were one of the most popular items on the menu this summer; this fall he’ll pair homegrown borlotti beans with a dish of braised lamb brisket and crispy sweetbreads.