A look at what Lisa Sweetman of Earth+City is growing this year

What better way to serve up a truly local meal than to grow the ingredients yourself? In our Garden Party series, we’re chatting with Feast On chefs to bring you the ins and outs of starting a kitchen garden. You’ll also get a sneak peek of what they’re growing…coming soon to a restaurant near you! 
Lisa Sweetman

Co-founder,  Earth + City

Find their Feast On profile here

Tell us about your garden! 

Our garden is located in my backyard, in the west part of Toronto. We affectionately call it ?Harvie Garden? (which is the name of the street I live on). #HarvieGarden is approximately 7ft by 13ft in size.

What are you planting this year? 

This year, we are focusing more specifically on greens and herbs. In 2015, we had a big array of vegetables, but found that some things grew way better than others. For 2016, we are targeting delicious leafy greens like kale, salad mixes, and chard, which are popular for salad bowls and smoothies. We love to grow our own herbs as well so that we have quick access to great flavours, creating new offerings on a whim is easy when we have a plethora of herbs to choose from.

How do you manage all of that?  

The first year of Harvie Garden was 2014 and we were so lucky to have Byron Koss of ChocoSol joining us in the design, construction, and maintenance of the garden. Koss has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to growing food (he runs the green roof at ChocoSol, for example) and was a huge asset in our first year.  Cassandra Rizzotto (co-owner of Earth + City) spearheaded the seed selection and planting plans alongside Ashley Davidson (project manager at Earth + City). Our seasonal staff also joined in early during the season.  In 2015, we tried our hand at running the garden solo, which was exciting and quite the learning curve. Maintaining a garden is a big undertaking and we were still very ?green? to the whole process. We struggled with the slugs in 2015 and are hoping to make changes this season to avoid those issues. Running Harvie Garden on our own was wonderful – but let’s just say that we will be asking Koss back this year for some consulting support. Ha! 

What has been the best part about starting a garden (or really, a farm)? 

The best part of Harvie Garden is two-fold. First, it’s glorious walking out to the garden each morning with some scissors in hand to clip fresh, organic greens for a morning smoothie. We get going early in the day to run Earth + City through market season and when the sun’s up, so are we. Walking outside to start the day, plucking delicious local food right from outside your door, it just can’t be beat. And second, the connection between Harvie Garden and Earth + City, while very small, is a beautiful blueprint for the possibilities that come with growing your own food. When the production kitchen looks outside and sees bright sunny skies, they might text Lisa and say, ?We need a bunch of mint! It’s a mint lemonade day for sure!? There is a dynamic nature to this relationship. We have big dreams of bigger gardens that could provide the ingredients of many Earth + City offerings. Creativity is boundless!

How do you showcase what you grow on your menu? 

We’ve certainly just dipped our toes into this showcasing aspect of what we do. We are trying to find the best way to educate our customers about the usage of self-grown food. When we put ?Harvie Garden? on our sourcing chalkboard at the market, customers are absolutely interested. They love to dialogue about our process and to share about how they too try growing their own food in the city. If anything, showcasing Harvie Garden has been an incredible conversation tool to engage with our customers. Find Earth + City’s carrot and cabbage slaw recipe here

Any tips for a first time gardener?

Ask for help! Do your research! Or wing it! Really, there is no wrong way to run a garden. I mean this in the sense that trial and error is really empowering because you learn so much from just giving it a go.  That being said, there is absolutely much to gain from reading books about urban gardening, checking out gardening blogs, or just reaching out to someone you know who has been trying their hand at city gardening. People have been so willing to help us out and offer insight and suggestion. It’s awesome! Oh, and two more tips: go see Urban Harvest for seeds (Collette is amazing) and start your own seedlings (way cheaper than buying!).  
 

Stay tuned for more interviews with chefs turned farmers throughout the months of April & May!

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