Agricultural Research: Leading Us Forward

Agricultural Research: Leading Us Forward

The future of The Chef’s Garden is in our research.
Early in 2019, we opened up our brand-new agricultural research facility, located on site to expand our team’s ability to use new light intensity spectrum equipment and more to study how to maximize the flavor, color, and nutrition of our farm-fresh vegetables.
We’re doing this to continue to provide you with delicious and nutritious vegetables, ones that are even more amazing than what we can deliver directly to your home today.
Since we’ve built our new agricultural research facility, we’ve already conducted significant amounts of soil and tissue tests, as just one example. This has allowed us to efficiently gather information about our crop’s nutrient content, soil health, and other flavor-influencing factors without wasting precious time. We’ve learned plenty about natural fertilization techniques, as well—and realize how there is still much more to learn.
Over the next year, we’ll focus strongly on soil biology, isolating each segment to see what we can learn and improve. One goal is to find out which types out of biology—and there are many types—affect flavor. Like with natural fertilization, we recognize that we’re just beginning our work in this uncharted territory, which makes this exciting work, indeed.
Another one of the main goals of our research team is to source new types of plants that might have better, or different, flavors than those currently available. We have tested over 500 varying plants in our research greenhouse so far and, out of those, we've gotten about ten plants that have really made a difference. It’s a slow process, but certainly worth all of our effort.
We believe that we already have the best tasting vegetables now, but we know that we can make some even better through natural means. The future is bright, thanks to our perseverance to continue with our extensive agricultural research program.
Science of Flavor
When our research lab was new, we did a deep dive on our blog about the science of flavor. We pointed out how the freshest vegetables—the most colorful ones, those with the most nutrition—are also bursting with flavor. There’s science behind all of that, which keeps our team of researchers eager to experiment with better ways to improve those qualities.
Our researchers are also testing for shelf life, finding ways to naturally extend it for the produce we grow—and deliver to you. As just one example, for some crops—but not all—when it gets more light, it gains more dry weight. This, in turn, slows down the cellular respiration process once it’s harvested and packaged. In short, more shelf life and more value for you.
Using technology called an infrared gas analyzer (IRGA), the team has packaged samples of our crops, measured them for key factors, and then refrigerated them. Each day, a bit of the gas is removed and then measurements are taken again. Through this, the research team is able to help the farm team to provide you with the freshest vegetables, herbs and more with robustly delicious shelf life.

Research lab

Cover Crops and Flavor
At The Chef’s Garden, we use cover crops to enrich our soil, making the soil even more alive and vibrant. As we experiment with our cover crops to see how to further optimize our soil, our research team lets us know how that influences the aroma and flavor of our vegetables. As just one example, we use more diversity in the cover crops we use now, with even better results.
More about Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants
Healthy soil contains healthy microbes and there isn’t enough known about how these microbes impact the flavor of crops being grown. So, our research team is looking forward to adding to this body of knowledge as we culture microbes to see how we can improve color, aroma, and flavor.
Because our soil is active with microbes, a state of “competitive exclusion” exists. What this means in plain English is that some of the bad things we don’t want, such as some e coli bacterium, can’t gain a foothold. Why? Because there’s so much positive activity going on in our carefully tended soil that the bad stuff can’t take hold. It needs to go elsewhere, far away from the crops being grown at The Chef’s Garden.
Here’s another bonus to our regenerative farming techniques. Plants grown in healthy conditions (like at our farm) develop immune systems that are strong, less susceptible to disease or insect problems. To keep our soil healthy and strong, we continue to research to take ours to the next level.  We never stop looking for ways to improve.
You can compare this philosophy and these techniques to the type of conventional farming that strips the soil of nutrients, creating an environment where crops can become sicker. Which is better? To us, the answer is clear.
Research micro samplesFor more info, here’s an in-depth post we created on this topic in honor of National Soil Health Day.
Setting the Bar High 
Our on-site agricultural research lab is something of an anomaly—and so is our use of cover crops. We don’t want to simply meet minimum standards. We don’t want to just be okay. We are establishing and following best practices, with an ongoing focus on setting the bar even higher.
This isn’t the least expensive route to take. But it’s the right thing to do, well worth the investment.
We also set the bar high when it comes to food safety protocols. First, we have three cleaning cycles in our packing and shipping areas each and every day: at the start, middle, and end of the day.
We use 54 standard operating procedures (SOPs) that govern our farm’s growing practices. Plus, there are 58 additional SOPs that guide our packing and shipping facilities.
In additional to those 112 SOPs, we use PCR testing of the water to wash our produce—which is something that fewer than 1% of the farms in our country does. Add to that our cutting-edge air purification system by Extreme Microbial Technologist that allows everything touched by air molecules to be sanitized in our packing and shipping areas—and can see how seriously we take food safety at The Chef’s Garden.
A Final Thought
Here’s the thing. People typically believe that a carrot is a carrot is a carrot. Why not think that, right?
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Some carrots are limp with a flavor that reminds the diner of gnawing on cardboard. Others are somewhat better—in other words, they’re okay.
When regeneratively farmed in healthy soil, though, using the best of today’s science, a carrot can be wonderfully sweet, simply melting in your mouth.
Right now, we’ve got the best tasting carrot available. We’re happy about that. And we think it can be even better.
We invite you to test this out for yourself today! Order one or more of our home delivery boxes for the freshest and most delicious vegetables available. We farm in harmony with Mother Nature, providing our friends with the best the season has to offer.

1 comment

  • Joan Jensen

    Thank you so much for this introduction to your research approach to farming! I’d like to visit it someday and understand just how you test for nutritional value. I grew your cover crops and covered them with my compost this year on my little home veggie garden in the hopes that after 37 years of vegetable gardening (with poor results for at least 10 of those years), my greens will be tastier and more nutritious than in the past! I’d be very interested in a seminar to learn all the other ways I gan accomplish that goal in the future. Thank you,
    Joan Jensen

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published