Farmer Lee Jones says, “pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later.”
Seem like a bold statement to you? Well, pay close attention to what you’re about to read, because this Ohio-based regenerative farmer is paving the path for the future of our food system.
I had an intuitive hour and a half-long conversation with this pioneering farmer on my podcast FOODSPLAINER which you can listen to here:
Can we just take a moment to admire how Farmer Lee is easily the best-dressed farmer known-to-man? His red bow-tie, white button-up and denim overalls; quite the spiffy man if I do say so myself.
We discussed the pain-staking truths and fascinating wonders of the past, present and future of not only our farming industry, but our food system as a whole. Farmer Lee also delighted us with stories of his family farm and how they never quit when the goin’ got tough.
Prepare to be open-minded and pleasantly-surprised by the stories and discoveries of this farming mastermind. Through many decades, he has stayed true to humane practices, constituting the most delicious, nutrient-dense and vibrantly-colorful produce on the planet.
If you don’t feel like reading, you can skip to the very bottom to learn how you can support Farmer Lee Jones and see the dishes I made with his “Best Of The Season” Vegetable Box.
The Mindless Shopper
It’s become routine. We go to the grocery store less than a mile away from our cozy home nestled in the burbs of a well-to-do county to pick up some groceries for dinner.
Every protein we could think of aside from wild game sits in styrofoam trays tightly wrapped in plastic.
The produce department gives us all the variety we could ever dream of with easy-access to fruits and veggies year-round, most being out of season and shipped in from another country or state. But we don’t care because it’s convenient for us, right?
Maybe you haven’t thought about it or maybe it’s just easier for you to shop conveniently because you’re on a budget or crunch for time. Props to those of you who are already conscious shoppers, even amidst the challenges it can present. But if you care about the future of our food system, the well-being of our planet and the health of our society, it’s time to educate yourself on how a few simple decisions can make a huge difference in all our lives.
We can’t demand Mother Nature
Ever notice how those roma tomatoes you buy for your sliders at halftime on Superbowl Sunday are mostly flavorless, with a crunchy texture and acidic zing? That’s because it’s not normal to have juicy, tender and sweet umami-packed tomatoes whenever you feel like them.
That’s like asking Mother Nature to make sure it’s sunny and dry on your wedding day that you’ve dreamt about since you were a little squirt, even though you planned for it to be smack-dab in the middle of a rainforest. It’s unrealistic to expect optimal flavor and nutrient-density with something that’s out of season and out of your control.
I was in heaven listening to Farmer Lee reminisce about the overflowing quarts of juicy tomatoes resting on the outdoor picnic table. I could just picture tomato pulp and seeds pooling on the warm summer wood. The way he talked about their color, scent and flavor painted a mouthwatering visual – in comparison to Vince Van Gogh’s, A Starry Night. I could almost taste them myself.
“A Tomato-Y Night”
Back to the sad reality of the grocery store tomatoes you’re buying year-round. They’re not only out of season, but buying them gives support to conglomerate food distribution companies already ruling our food system and takes away from the small mom and pop farms that need your support.
What’s The Problem With Organic?
Did you know just because the vegetables you’re buying are organic, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily healthier than conventional vegetables? Sure, they have zero pesticides and GMOs which is what makes them organic in the first place place, but that doesn’t mean they are nutritionally-dense. In order for us to truly benefit from growing and buying ‘organic’ produce, the soil they were grown in needs to be healthy and nutritional.
I know, it’s unfair to be misled with what you’re spending your hard-earned money on. The whole point of buying organic is not just to avoid the presence of synthetic fertilizers and chemical fertilizers…but for our bodies to benefit from all the nutrients and for it to taste delicious!
Imagine if we as humans didn’t get all the vitamins we needed. Overtime, the deficiencies would make us ill. The same thing happens with soil. If you’re growing produce in unhealthy soil, the outcome of those vegetables are going to be mediocre at best with little health benefits to offer and not to mention…lack of flavor.
It’s all in the soil. “Everything we do starts with the soil, the balance of the soil. Healthy soil, healthy vegetables, healthy people, healthy environment.” – Farmer Lee.
Before I dig into this (pun-intended), I want to make it clear that there’s no easy way to distinguish these controversial topics. They are much more complicated than having a simple explanation or solution. My goal is to help give you a generalized understanding so you can be more aware of the bigger picture and start making more conscious decisions based on what you learned.
Organic is a BUZZWORD
Farmer Lee passionately spoke how the word organic is a mixed bag. It has become so overused and “prized” without people understanding the true nature of what it means to be organic.
He emphasized that he has too much respect for farmers and the industry as a whole to talk ill of anyone, but he wanted to educate us on a huge disconnect with organic misconceptions.
We are taught to believe organic is the best possible thing we can buy – and theoretically, it should be! But like many things in life, we often lose touch with how things evolve or change and we continue going through the motions without further educating ourselves. We just assume when we see the USDA stamp is slapped on a package that it must be good for us. Truth is, many farmers who paid the heavy price tag to get the USDA organic stamp on their produce still don’t produce a product that is truly healthy and delicious.
And to give you another perspective, there’s a prodigious amount of farmers who have products that meet the USDA organic standards, but simply cannot afford the certification. This creates a rather cumbersome system. As a result of this disconnect, the consumer pulls away from buying a hard-working farmer’s healthy produce because there’s no USDA certified organic stamp – because in our minds, it’s not as good.
The system is not set up to be affordable
A big reason people steer away from buying organic is because it’s too cost-prohibitive. Especially for larger families already struggling to put food on the table for their kids. Unfortunately, the mass consumerism of our economy has driven billions and billions of dollars to company-monstrosities who supply the majority of food to our grocery stores. This makes conventional food even less expensive and drives the cost of organic up even more. It’s a twisted system that we’ve dug ourselves deep into.
I’m sure you’ve all experienced this before, but you go shopping and decide to be ‘fancy’ and buy the best quality products. You put a few organic veggies in your cart and some other small items supporting small businesses and before you know it, your bill racks up to well over $100 and you only have a few items! It’s challenging to say the least when you’re on a budget, but there’s always a way to do it affordably.
How to shop consciously but still fit your budget:
Think of one item you always keep in the house and start by just buying that locally or non-conventionally (ie. milk, eggs, cheese, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, onions). Find a local farm near you and form a relationship with them (usually this means you get better prices because you’re going straight to the source and you cut the middleman out, aka the grocery store).
Buy in-season! Produce in-season will almost always be more affordable than organic out-of-season.
Are you part of the population not pinched for pennies and can afford a few extra dollars to support the little people, but you’d rather save your money for something else? Just know that the lack of nutrients in our food does make a difference on our overall health over the years.
We should be supporting our farmers who are nurturing their produce from seeds to full maturity as they would their own baby, making sure they have all the nutrients, healthy living conditions and daily upkeep that they need. This means delicious and nutrient-dense vegetables for us. Farmer Lee and his crew at The Chefs Garden have this system down.
As Farmer Lee so boldly stated…
Farmer Lee’s farm does not believe in needing to be certified organic to offer the best produce on the market. Instead, he focuses on the sustainable and regenerative farming practices that ensure his produce is top-quality in not just taste and flavor, but in health benefits.
How Farmer Lee Is Paving The Path For Regenerative Farming & Offering Nutrient-Dense Produce
Now that the boring (but very important) info was laid out for you, let’s get to the fun stuff – Farmer Lee Jones!
First off, Farmer Lee does not believe in just being sustainable. He explained how we’ve been fooled into thinking that the concept of ‘sustainability’ is the answer to society’s prolonged future and environmental health. Hate to break it to you buster, but it’s not. Just like organic is a misunderstood word, so is sustainable.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of SUSTAINABLE:
1: capable of being sustained
2 : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently
Okay great, so what does that mean? It means just that! To sustain – to keep things the same and do just enough to keep it out of the red.
Farmer Lee says this is not good enough for the future of our earth and our lives. I agree! We all need to live regeneratively like Farmer Lee.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of REGENERATE:
1: formed or created again
2 : spiritually reborn or converted
3 : restored to a better, higher, or more worthy state
This is good news! To live regeneratively means we are not just living to sustain, but we are living to perpetuate our health and future resources. We need to live as-if and work towards rebuilding and reshaping our future by thinking 10 years ahead.
Farmer Lee says that being a regenerative farmer means working to expand and increase the nutrients in the soil so that the produce we eat is extremely nutrient-dense and we end up living healthier longer lives. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s about community and treating hard workers fairly.
Farmer Lee is passionate about treating the members of his farm fairly by giving them a living wage and making it a healthy and fun work environment. He knows the future of his farm and the future of America’s food system starts with the hard workers in the fields everyday. Farming is extremely hard work and generally underpaid. He doesn’t want anyone to feel undervalued or underappreciated.
How Farmer Lee is putting his people first
Farmer Lee says people should never think, “I’m not gonna work this hard for this little pay.” No one should have to work hard for little pay.
Instead Farmer Lee asks:
“How can we take care of the family members and team members so they’re paid to live their lives so they want to stay and work on the farm?”
THIS is regenerative thinking. Farmer Lee’s thoughts are not just focused on doing what’s good enough for right now.
He’s focused on not only making his produce become more nutritionally-dense, but on the well-being of his team so that they’re happy and can provide for their families without struggling. He wants his team to actually want to work on the farm because they enjoy being a part of a revolutionary farming business.
The BRUTAL Effects Of COVID
Farmer Lee has spent the majority of his career on his family’s farm catering to the world’s best chefs. These talented chefs quickly acknowledged the quality of Farmer Lee’s produce and started sourcing their main menu items from the farmer himself. There has not been a shortage of business for the busy farmer in decades, but since COVID, a new set of challenges presented themselves.
COVID hit over a year ago now and the restaurant industry was deeply affected as I’m sure you all know or have experienced. Over 110,000 restaurants (and counting) have permanently closed their doors. But restaurants weren’t the only ones affected. Since the majority of Farmer Lee’s business was coming from reputable chefs and many of those chefs have sadly closed their doors or have reduced business due to 25%-50% capacity rules, Farmer Lee had to change his strategy.
But no worries, it’s a blessing for us. The general consumer has wanted access to Farmer Lee’s produce long before COVID, and finally we get what we asked for.
The most nutritionally-dense produce in the world shipped straight to your door
You read that right. Now, we get to experience Farmers famous veggies for ourselves! Normal consumers from anywhere in the world can easily purchase his pristine produce and it’s conveniently shipped straight to their front door.
Farmer Lee says the best kind of chef is the one who calls him and says, “Hey farmer, what’s on the menu this month?” This means the chef knows the importance of using what’s in-season and relies on Farmer Lee to provide that. What’s great is that now you don’t have to worry about what you should and shouldn’t be buying. Rest assured, you can count on Farmer Lee to offer the highest quality and delicious in-season veggies.
I’m not just boasting because of things I’ve heard or because I’ve had a conversation with this fine man. I’ve actually tried these vegetables myself and I will stand by its reputation. I truly believe if every grocery store was replaced with Farmer Lee’s quality produce, we would all be happier and healthier as a society and have many more memorable meals at home.
How Does It Work And How Do I Order?
The great thing for us is that Farmer Lee’s team has made it SO EASY for us to order.
Just simply click here to choose from a wide variety of top-tier vegetable packages they offer. I also encourage you to browse their website further to learn more about the history of the farm.
GOOD NEWS! I can offer you a 5% discount if you use the code ERIKACARSELLA
But if you prefer a step-by-step visual, allow me to help you!
#1 – Go to Farmer Lee Jones website (click here)
#2 – Click on Home Delivery
#3 – Hover over ‘SHOP’ to see your options: Vegetable Boxes, Wellness Collection, Farm Favorites, Gift Collection, Subscription Boxes.
#4 – You can stroll through the many Vegetable Boxes they offer which range from $69 to $370. (You can also explore all the other goodies they offer.)
#5 – You can even subscribe to get monthly boxes so you don’t have to manually order them every time!
#6 – But my favorite part is that you can donate a Vegetable Box!
#7 – After you’ve picked out your favorite, click ‘Add to cart’
#8 – Click ‘Check out’
#9 – My discount code should already be applied, but if not, you can add it in this box and it will show you your savings underneath
There have been a total of 225 donated boxes donated since November, which accounts to 1,800 pounds of vegetables given to people in need. My hat is off to anyone who has kindly donated and please donate yourself, if you can.
It’s really as simple as that. Farmer Lee Jones and his team have worked hard to make the shopping and buying process easy and hassle-free for you.
My Experience With Farmer Lee’s Vegetable Box!
My Chef’s Garden produce box was delivered swiftly to my doorstep in less than 2 full days. Super fast! It came in a sturdy cardboard box with The Chef’s Garden branding and a cute bow-tie sticker. Upon opening, the contents of the package were securely wrapped inside an insulated bag. In the bag, there was a beautiful abundance of produce and it was all kept cold, fresh & crisp with ice packs. Each vegetable was individually wrapped with their own bag and a product label.
I had a blast cooking with such high-quality and nutrient-dense vegetables. It wasn’t hard to make them shine on their own. Here are the dishes I made!
Not a means to an end, but a means to a new beginning
I hope that this blog helps you to make better decisions at the grocery store and educated you on how you can support people like Farmer Lee Jones. He is one of many farmers you can support and he’s made it easy for you to support him too, even if you don’t live close.
Farmer Lee Jones is truly one of the most wholesome and humble people I’ve ever met. He speaks with his heart and puts the well-being of others before his. I am proud to support him and I think you truly are missing out on something special if you don’t try out his goods for yourself.