Garden Party: Ryan Crawford of Backhouse

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! 

ryan crawford 1

Ryan Crawford

Backhouse

Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
Find their Feast On profile here! 

Tell us about your garden! 

It is a 4 acre garden in the heart of wine country – Ashley Burnie is our Farm Manager. It’s about a kilometre away from the restaurant which allows us quick and easy access.  We call it The Farm @ Backhouse.
 
 
 
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What are you planting this year?

 Everything!  We have over 200 varieties of vegetables that we are planting.  From wheat to corn to potatoes to over thirty varieties of heritage tomatoes.  We planted 60 lbs of garlic last year which will yield us 300 lbs this year! 

How do you manage all of that?  

We are socially responsible and employ a full-time farmer. Also, each member of the kitchen staff is required to work one day a week on the farm. Front of house staff also work at the farm growing all the herbs for our cocktail program. Ashley is our Farm Manager, she has 2 full-time employees. 

Is this your first year running the garden? 

This is actually our 4th year. Our first year was a year of learning.  We have increased the garden size by 400% since day 1.  We are planning to grow enough crops to sustain us for the full 365 days of the year.  We want to explore the changes vegetables undergo through the winter storage season and to experience the different kinds of flavours.  We are also starting to raise animals again this year.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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What has been the best part about starting a kitchen garden? 

It is more than a kitchen garden – it is a job for a young farmer. It is also exciting for the staff to understand what it takes to grow a vegetable — the labour and time. It slows down our relationship with food. We’re more conscious of the textures and flavours. Also, the passion they show towards the food they cook is amazing.

How do you showcase what you grow on your menu? 

Our menu changes daily depending on what is coming in from the farm.  The farm dictates our menu.  If we don’t grow it, we don’t use it.

Any tips for a first time gardener? 

Our motto is “Live Life, Love Life”.  Farming is a labour of love and requires full dedication.  We have gotten to know most of the farmers in our area and they are an incredible resource for us. It’s a great community down in Niagara.  
 
 
 
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Stay tuned for more interviews with chefs turned farmers throughout the months of April & May!

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