“The best fertilizer in the world is the footprints of the grower.” (philosophy of Bob Jones, Sr.)
Farmer Lee Jones and Bob Jones, Jr. still embrace this philosophy, one taught to them by their father—and so we thought we’d share more insight into what this saying really means to the Jones family. At a high level, it simply means that farmers should walk through their fields because the best fertilizer is what’s on the bottom of their shoes.
Now, let’s go deeper.
“Whenever Dad would use this saying,” Farmer Lee explains, “he also meant that farmers need to have an intimate relationship with the crops they’re growing. So much knowledge can be gleaned by the smell of the soil, the color of a plant’s leaf—and that information can only be gathered by regularly seeing those crops.”
In other words, there can’t be a successful long-distance relationship with the crops you’re growing! It needs to be up close and personal, and it needs to be regularly sustained. “Just as a spouse can’t stop by the house every year or so and say, ‘So, honey, how has the past year been for you?’ a farmer can’t just occasionally walk the fields to check in with how a plant is—or isn’t—thriving. You can’t furlough a relationship with another person and expect all to be well and you can’t furlough fields in your farm.”
Here’s another way to look at Bob, Sr.’s philosophy. Just as a mother can intuitively know when her baby or child is doing well or is struggling, so can a farmer who pays close attention to what is growing in the fields.
“As Chef Jamie Simpson says at the Culinary Vegetable Institute,” Farmer Lee shares, “you need to see what you see. Hear what you hear. Taste what you taste. Be in the moment. Be aware of what is happening right now.”
Bob Jones, Sr. also had another saying. He’d tell his family that their goal was to be as good as farmers were one hundred years ago and, back then, these men and women intuitively knew their fields and could read the signs being given out by their crops.
“They listened to their plants, which are living and breathing,” Farmer Lee shares, “rather than just throwing something at a problem. Although a plant can’t communicate with you verbally, you can pay attention to see if it’s stressed. If there is too much moisture or not enough. You can think about soil compaction.”
The more balanced a plant can be, Farmer Lee continues, the less interest that insects will have in it. “Bugs go after the weak.”
Being ultra-aware of a plant and its growth can also fuel innovation. “One time,” Farmer Lee recalls, “Dad was teaching my wife, Mary, about garlic. To demonstrate a point, he pulled a garlic plant out of the soil and they were looking at it together. Suddenly, at the same moment, they looked up at one another. Mary went over to a hose and rinsed it off and the roots were a beautiful snowy white—and they both realized what a wonderful product garlic roots could be for flavorful dishes.”
At The Chef’s Garden, we grow all our farm-fresh vegetables, herbs, microgreens, and edible flowers in this way, walking through the fields, listening to and caring for the crops we grow. The result? Flavorful, nutrient-dense crops that are a delicious part of a healthy diet. If you haven’t yet tasted the difference, we encourage you to try our Best of the Season Box today.