One of the season’s most anticipated openings is Volver (Spanish for “to return”), Jose Garces’ jewel-box restaurant at the Kimmel Center. Volver is Garces’ passion project, an intimate setting for guests to experience a tasting menu designed and (if you come on the right nights) executed by the chef himself. But if you venture some 45 miles north on Route 611, you’ll find another of Garces’ passion projects: Luna Farm.
Located in Ottsville, Pa., just north of Doylestown, Garces’ 40-acre farm serves as both a weekend getaway for his family and a small-scale organic farm, producing a selection of vegetables and eggs for his East Coast restaurants.
“We go through 30 pounds of microgreens a week at the restaurants,” Garces explains while walking though a balmy greenhouse lined with tables topped with trays of tiny arugula sprouts. The greens will make their way to Distrito, Amada, Tinto, Garces Trading Company and JG Domestic.
On a recent visit to Luna Farm, tomato season was tapering off but a greenhouse was filled with tall plants that were heavy with heirlooms. Heartier cold-weather crops like Walla Walla onions, shishito peppers and varieties of lettuce like Salanova and Rhazes were in the works, courtesy of Jillian Herschlag, Luna Farm’s head farmer.
Heading down to the mobile chicken coops at the bottom of the field, Garces explains that when he bought the land, cultivating anything on it was a bit of a challenge because of the natural moisture content of the soil. To counter this, he had a natural soil-conservation agency come in and sort out the situation. Approaching his brood of black-and-white speckled Barred Rock hens, Garces tells us that the mobile coop helps the hens produce upward of 300 eggs a week. The eggs make their way into egg-centric dishes, like crème brûlée and tortilla española, at Amada. “They recently moved,” he says of the hens. “I hope they’re happy girls.”
Beehives were recently put into place and lambs are on the not-too-distant horizon, but Garces also has long-term plans for his personal plot. “This piece of land will grow food for the next 100 years.” And with a rapidly growing restaurant empire like Garces’ this return to the land is as idyllic as is it sustainably sound.
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