Like many in the restaurant business, Culinary Institute of America-educated Chef Ron Harris appreciates the advice of musicians as much as any culinary gurus’. In fact, it was Ice Cube that elucidated Harris’ expansion plan for his Indiana produce market, Locally Grown Gardens, in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood of 54th Street.
“Ice Cube was being interviewed, and they were asking, ‘What advice would you give to young artists coming up?’” Harris says. “He said, ‘Well, in music, I would say you have to keep it focused. Make it hot on your block first. Then you can be hot in your state, then maybe on the Internet, then hot nationally and then hot globally. But you gotta be hot on your block first.’
“I consider our market pretty hot on the block. I believe that – you have to be good where you’re at first. Being good is being humble and sincere at what you’re doing, and trying to be the best you can.”
Being hot on the block also includes “keeping it real.” That’s where the “personal produce” mantra you’ll see on LGG signage comes in. Ron keeps it real by keeping his connection to both his growers and his customers personal. He’ll trek down to the Amish community in Southern Indiana or Garwood Orchard farther north to develop face-to-face relationships with farmers and cherry-pick their offerings.
When he’s not on the road, Ron is eating samples with his customers in the store. You don’t get much more personal than dripping watermelon on someone’s shoe. Not that they usually even notice.
This is Ron’s foray into the Internet. Here, he can update customers on his newest offerings and shed some light on his foods’ histories and recent lives. Like the mystique behind the Decker Melon. Or how to make sense of organically grown foods vs. sustainably raised ones. And why uber-local isn’t necessarily better or worse than produce from around the United States. (Ron studied under Larry Forgione, one of the local movement founders, where “local” meant from our nation’s backyard. Anyway – have you ever tasted a South Carolina peach?)
Comments, criticism and feedback welcome. This is a forum for all interested in the culture-transgressive gift of fruits and vegetables.
Locally Grown Gardens received the distinction of ‘2009 Best Hog Roast’ from Indianapolis Monthly in their ‘best of’ edition.