Don't Be Afraid of a Leaf

At least once a day at Farm.One, we give tours to visitors. Normally, three or four. These might be chefs, ICE students, friends, candidates, kids. It's always a fun experience because we get to introduce new flavors to people (like a strongly-flavored, richly textured mustard green or a plant that numbs your mouth). Even chefs with multiple Michelin stars are often surprised and intrigued by a novel taste.

It's rewarding too, because we can teach people how things grow indoors, how our lighting and nutrient systems work, and answer the dozens of questions that come up. And yes, even Michelin-starred chefs always ask us "Where do you grow the marijuana?". The answer is "Sorry, we don't" of course :)

One of the most surprising things is how often our visitors have simply no idea how things grow. Where food comes from. How a seed becomes a sprout becomes a plant. Even visitors in the food industry. So showing them this simple but fascinating process is not just information, it's a way of understanding our food. Understanding our food makes us pick better ingredients. Allows us to know the difference between something outstanding and something so-so. Or more simply, the difference between cilantro and parsley.

The most challenging thing now? Everything in our room is edible and there's nothing to be scared of. But people (young and old) who aren't used to being around fresh produce, of being around plants, are often afraid to bite into a leaf. You might not believe me. But I'll hand some people who are totally new to the farm a fresh basil leaf and watch them take the tiniest, most tentative bite. When they might happily bite a McDonald's chicken nugget or a hamburger with no trepidation.

So that's why having the farm right here in the middle of Manhattan is such an exciting opportunity. It's awesome because we get to bring this stuff right to the people who have often never seen something really growing. It's inspiring because we get to let people learn about their food. Which is why we strongly believe in having urban farms. Yes, we get all the benefits commercially, but simply as a learning tool to connect people with food, it's invaluable.

Long-term, we need to reconnect people with their food across our society. Factory-farming wouldn't happen if everybody lived next door to a mass chicken farm. Excessive pesticide and herbicide use wouldn't happen if we got used to picking leaves off plants and eating them (as we do on the farm all day). Our diets improve massively when we get to know our herbs, greens and vegetables, and get involved in producing them.

So yeah, don't be afraid of a leaf.