Meet your growers - Lazy Willow Farm
Quality over quantity—a chef’s passion
Food is more than just a necessity for life at Lazy Willow Farm—it is a passion, and one that extends beyond farming.
Ben LeGette grew up watching his parents garden and cook their own vegetables, but the hobby was never meant to become a livelihood. After two years of studying civil engineering at Georgia Tech, however, Ben’s love for food led him to London, England where he attended and graduated from the culinary school Le Cordon Bleu.
Upon returning to the U.S., Ben began growing vegetables of his own, with the intention of using them for his new catering business. It was here where the hobby of farming turned into a full time job. He explains, “I began to sell my excess veggies on Athens Locally Grown (an online farmers market), and made more money there than cooking.”
It was not the end of the road for his culinary life, however. In fact, it is the love of cooking that inspires the farming. “Even though I’m not catering, cooking is still very important to my family. Because we cook what we grow, we only grow varieties that we value and like to eat.”
And that is where the intriguing part about Ben’s story comes in: “the farm has been embraced by the family.” The pastime has truly become a family business, and one everyone is excited about and enjoys.
Ben’s mom helps with all the plotting and planning, while his dad loves doing the big projects like building the barn and driving the tractor. His sister Melissa takes care of the online marketing, runs the website, and can usually be found at the farmers market helping out. “People have specialties,” Ben says, “but everyone helps harvest, plant and weed.”
The operations at Lazy Willow Farm seem pretty picturesque—especially if you check out Melissa’s beautiful photos on Lazy Willow’s website—but, what is next for this young farm of only three years?
“More vegetables and fewer weeds.” And in five years? “Lots of vegetables and NO WEEDS.” Realistic and straightforward. Ben says there is no intention of expanding the farm area because that would require more hands, and being able to do it all themselves, as a family, is important.
Besides the family, and of course cooking, Ben and his family feel passionately about preserving genetic diversity of vegetable varieties, especially heirlooms. Ben explains, “Even though we grow butternut winter squash, we also grow a large assortment of Thai, Italian and Japanese winter squash that look very different, but are just as good—if not better—tasting than the butternut.”
So many kinds of winter squash alone! It’s no wonder that Lazy Willow is a full-time job for the whole family. In addition to their crops, they raise most of their own meat, including lamb, pork and chicken (for eggs).
This traditional family farm that would have once been seen as the norm, however seems unique in today’s world of individual success and corporate ladder climbing. It is truly refreshing to see a family working together towards a passion they share, and with only the desire to improve—not expand. The phrase quality over quantity comes to mind, and for that (along with the fact that a good chef always knows the value of good crops) Lazy Willow Farm stands out for their dedication to local and sustainable food.
Find out more about Ben and the entire LeGette family on their website www.lazywillowfarm.com. Even their website is devoted to their love for cooking, heirloom vegetables and raising livestock, not to mention Melissa’s photography and writing is spectacular.
by Carly Nash - AFM Public Relations