Between restaurants situated on or near farms to outdoor farm dining and rooftop gardens, some operators are taking the local sourcing one step closer to home.
Since Sara Gasbarra started up her gardening business, verdura, just a couple years ago, she's been busy. Gasbarra's clients primarily include local restaurants wanting to grow some of their own produce and herbs. "This is a new, exciting area for restaurants — some gardens are huge and some are small. Size doesn't necessarily matter — you can still grow a good amount of herbs and other vegetables."
At the Chicago Hilton hotel, 84 earth boxes hold tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and greens radishes. Another local restaurant, Farmhouse, has 25 boxes mainly with arugula and cherry tomatoes for easier gardening. And Acadia grows its own edible flowers, Thai basil and other unique varieties of herb to add interest to a menu.
Gasbarra will collaborate with the chefs and restaurateurs to look at a crop list and decide what to plant, then install boxes on a rooftop or other outdoor space with the necessary drip irrigation channels. She'll come by once a month to tend to the garden, but trains the staff to learn how to manage the growth, especially during peak season, on a daily and weekly basis.
"The garden is not going to replace what you purchase from a farmer or purveyor, but you will cut down on some cost and it's also a great marketing tool," she says.
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