Behind Every Great L.A. Chef There’s a Great Local Farmer

Meet the growers bringing everything from fennel fronds to squash tendrils to tables all over the city

Windrose Farm + Tartine Bianco

At the Wednesday morning Santa Monica farmers’ market, Barbara Spencer is a familiar sight. Since 2002 Windrose Farm, a 50-acre biodynamic property east of Paso Robles that she and her husband, Bill, operate, has been providing Angelenos with apples, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, melons (among other produce), and a wide array of pristine salad greens. In fact, it is Windrose’s leafy lettuce blends that often show up in restaurants’ kitchens, from MB Post to Lucques. At the newly opened Tartine Bianco in downtown’s ROW DTLA complex, the farm’s peppery red and green chicories are blended with farro to form a base layer for roasted squash and a drizzle of rich tahini yogurt.

GrowGood Farm + Botanica

The one-and-a-half-acre urban GrowGood Farm in Bell is small but mighty. The nonprofit operation, across the street from a Salvation Army shelter, provides fresh fruit and vegetables for the 500 residents who call the place home (as well as jobs and therapy). Recently GrowGood managers Ryley Schlachter and Katie Lewis began selling produce to restaurants, too, including Porridge + Puffs, Wax Paper, Orsa & Winston, Lately Kitchen, and more. At Botanica in Silver Lake, co-owner Heather Sperling loves using GrowGood’s sprouts, fennel fronds, and flowers as colorful garnishes for various dishes. “Whenever they have a banana harvest,” she adds, “we buy them all to make banana bread.”

Girl & Dug Farms + Rustic Canyon

The relationship between Aaron Choi of Girl & Dug Farms—a six-and-a-half-acre organic venture in north San Diego County—and Jeremy Fox of Rustic Canyon dates to 2017, when Choi turned up on the restaurant’s doorstep offering what Fox called “40 containers of the most pristine minigreens and flowers” he’d ever seen. Since then, Fox and chef de cuisine Andy Doubrava have collaborated with Choi on growing tiny gherkin cucumbers, which are pickled to make cornichons for Rustic Canyon’s house charcuterie plate with capocollo, duck bresaola, and a spread of chicken liver mousse. You’ll also see Choi’s brightly flavored turnips used in a rich roasted chicken dish paired with braised greens.

Thao Family Farm + Night + Market Sahm

Based just outside of Fresno, Thao Family Farm supplies some of L.A.’s best restaurants with everything from sprouting cauliflower to Thai basil to fragrant bundles of fresh Sichuan peppercorns. The head of the familial operation is Kong Thao, who catalogs the farm’s in-season produce via his Instagram account (@kongthao03) and regularly updates chefs on his weekly haul. Night + Market Sahm’s chef de cuisine, Intu Kornnawong, says that she will often use “pretty much whatever he has that looks good”—bok choy, squash tendrils, bitter melon leaves, cilantro, or any other leafy greens—for the restaurant’s fai daeng stir-fry, which is flash-cooked in the wok and seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, and bird’s eye chiles.

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