Magazine article Newsweek

Have Kale, Will Travel; This Family Grows Veggies for the Nation's Top Chefs

Magazine article Newsweek

Have Kale, Will Travel; This Family Grows Veggies for the Nation's Top Chefs

Article excerpt

Byline: Tara Weingarten and Joan Raymond (With Jerry Adler in New York and Karen Breslau in Berkeley)

They are on their way now, by overnight express, nestled in tissue paper and custom-designed boxes, to any place where restaurant menus take more than a dozen words to describe a $14 salad. Peacock kale and baby red brussels sprouts, butterball turnips, bull's blood beets and all the greens, micro- and otherwise, plus 17 kinds of potatoes, in five sizes. From the unlikely neighborhood of Huron, Ohio, where it was 18 degrees last Friday, vegetables from Bob Jones's Chef's Garden are in the air, bound even for places like Los Angeles that are perfectly capable of growing their own salads, challenging the reigning orthodoxy formulated by the great advocate of fresh, seasonal, local produce, Berkeley, Calif., restaurateur Alice Waters. When Waters told NEWSWEEK that "we should try to eat from within a range of an hour or two from where we live," she meant by truck, not jet. The Jones family, farmers in northern Ohio for six generations, has created a model for the 21st-century market garden.

That wasn't the idea back in 1983 when Jones, now 64, went bankrupt after losing a crop on his 1,200 acres to hail. He started over on six acres belonging to his son, Lee, growing vegetables for the local farmers' markets. A chef's offer to buy squash blossoms at 50 cents apiece ("She's crazy, nobody eats flowers," was Bob's initial reaction) got him thinking about growing arugula and radicchio, around the same time that customers in fancy New York restaurants were learning how to eat them. …

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