Relationships With Chefs Cultivate Celebrity Farmer Reputation


(Press Release) HURON, OHIO, June 25, 2012–Ask Farmer Lee Jones and he’ll tell you that The Chef’s Garden was started when a chef asked him for squash blossoms, a bizarre request to a farmer from Huron 30 years ago. Word spread among the tight-knit culinary community that there were farmers willing to listen to chefs’ needs. It was chefs who prompted the Jones family to rethink the way they farmed, by introducing them to the concept of sustainable agriculture and asking them to grow vegetables, herbs and greens that aren’t commonly available, in part because they’re more difficult to grow. Relationships with chefs have always been the cornerstone of The Chef’s Garden’s business. 

It’s those relationships that led the family to build The Culinary Vegetable Institute, a place where chefs and their teams come to experiment with products from the farm, for teambuilding activities or to participate as guest chefs at the Earth to Table dinner series. The chef and farmer relationship also led the Jones family to found the Veggie U 501(c)3 in 2003 as a way to educate children about healthy eating habits and where food comes from. 

The relationship with Chef Robert Irvine is a superb example of the synergy between chef and farmer. Chef Irvine has relied on the farm to supply some of the extra-special ingredients served at Robert Irvine’s eat! in Hilton Head, S.C., among other properties and special events. 

Farmer Lee Jones explains, “We are fortunate to have worked with some top-notch chefs over the years. They have supported sustainable agriculture and been terrific mentors.  I have known Chef Irvine for about 15 years. He came to us as a customer, but the friendship we’ve established is something I value tremendously.”   

The farm hosts hundreds of chefs each year who want to see firsthand where the vegetables they serve in their kitchens are grown. Chef Irvine took the opportunity to visit the farm while he was filming in the area last summer. He took extra time to participate in a special event called Veggie: Possible on behalf of Veggie U.  Chef Irvine also recently invited Farmer Lee Jones to appear in a special White House episode of Restaurant: Impossible where he was tasked with building a garden for the Horton’s Kids community center in Washington, D.C. 

Chef Irvine returns to The Culinary Vegetable Institute this summer, along with celebrity chefs Amanda Frietag, Johnny Iuzzini, Claire Robinson and Madison Cowan, as a featured guest at Veggie U’s10th Food and Wine Celebration on July 21,; 2012. The event is the organization’s primary fundraiser. 

More information about the Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration is online at