May 8, 2020

Farmer Lee Jones is noted as one of the “60 Coolest People in Food”…multiple times. He’s also part of the founding family of The Chef’s Garden. Recently he participated in a live Zoom experience with Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

Farmer Lee Jones – Photo Courtesy of The Chef’s Garden

Included in the hour-long interview were over 150 current culinary and pastry students along with Escoffier Chef Instructors and faculty.

The Chef’s Garden

The session opened with Farmer Lee providing an overview of The Chef’s Garden inception. He discussed his family’s decision to exclusively cater its product offering of unique produce to chefs, nationwide. He went on to explain how the past 35 years of experience in sustainable farming has also prepared them to adapt quickly to the immediate health environment and the Covid-19 shut down of restaurants.

Touching on their ideal location adjacent to influential Lake Erie, he described how the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes creates a micro-climate that positively affects their growing season and soil nutrients.  It also has an impact on developing the most flavorful and healthful produce.

Student Questions

The platform was then opened up to student questions. He addressed the effects of global warming on their crops, and how ‘hard, cold winters’ are valuable in naturally killing off disease and pests. Which then led to answering another insightful student question regarding the use, or in The Chef’s Garden case, non-use of pesticides. Farmer Lee explained that they only practice pest control on an as needed basis. They use a system called Integrated Pest Management. In this process they purchase insects that feed on the pest insects, thereby creating a more natural pest management system. He also went on to explain that when they inventory their seeds for planting they look for heavier seeds which indicate a higher quality and therefore less risk in succumbing to disease or insect infestation. To learn more details about this unique practice, click on the video link below.

Farmer Lee discussed how ancient family farming practices intertwine with new AI technology and how their full-time scientists work to use all appropriate measures, including comparative research on commercially grown produce, in order to continue evolving their farming methodologies.

The Wrap Up

He wrapped up the session by commenting how honored he is to be a member of the AESCA advisory board. We are proud to have him as well, his leadership and guidance is invaluable to us as an institution that focuses on sustainability. And, in the end, he left with students with a heartfelt message to never lose sight of their goals and to follow their passion, no matter what the naysayers think. Commenting that his family didn’t get into this business for the money, they did it because it’s in their heart and when you have the passion and determination, nothing can stand in your way.