The Chef’s Garden returns with a new permanent farmstand

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 1:16 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - During the pandemic, The Chef’s Garden, which primarily shipped to restaurants and chefs, opened a pop-up farmers market.

They felt like it was something they could do to keep their team fed and employed and get healthy food into the hands of the community. And as it turns out, their comeback story comes full circle.

“If you go back in the history of the farm, The Chef’s Garden, we lost this family farm that I’m standing on when I was 19 years old. Interest rates at 22%. We had a devastating hailstorm that just completely wiped out all the crops. The banks foreclosed and we stood and watched as the entire farm was auctioned off,” said Farmer Lee Jones.

Thirty-seven years later, it’s come back into the family name. And the pop-up farm market that helped get the chef’s garden through the pandemic that crushed their customer base of chefs and restaurants is moving in on the original farm as a permanent fixture.

The Jones Family has just opened the Farmer Jones Farm Market in Milan, Ohio, on the site of...
The Jones Family has just opened the Farmer Jones Farm Market in Milan, Ohio, on the site of the family's former farm.(WOIO)

“It’s just beyond words how much pride that we have in being able to open the market, the new market on the original homestead,” Jones said.

Farmer Jones and his team were in a desperate way at one point in the last year, with 155 families involved in the operation.

“You don’t furlough a farm. You don’t walk away from a farm and say, ‘We’ll come back to you when this thing is over,’” Jones said.

In order to keep the place afloat, they launched nationwide home delivery, diverting perishable vegetables from restaurants to doorsteps.

“We made a lot of lemonade last year. Because we had a lot of lemons,” said Jones.

Chef Jamie Simpson took product that wasn’t going to restaurants and wouldn’t keep, and he got creative.

“Preservation and waste management, these are things that we’ve been doing for a long time, just never scaled them. Never had the opportunity to say, ‘Here’s 6,000 pounds of vegetables.’ Let’s turn them into something else,” said Simpson.

Their restaurant clientele is now recovering, but Jones says the home delivery and farmstand are here to stay.

“We recognize it as a miss in the past. And I guess it took a pandemic for us to realize that this was a tremendous opportunity to really support and embrace the community,” said Jones.

“Some of the most important things that got us through this are some of the things that we’ve been doing forever. And those include relationships. The relationships that got us through this were everything,” said Simpson.

“This year at this time, it’s so much more optimistic than it was a year ago,” Jones said.

With the new farmstand up and running and recovery within reach, they’ll continue to grow locally and think globally.

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