By Susan Payne
Gardens serve a purpose, never more than right now.
For Geri Miller, founder and CEO of Home Grown Edible Landscapes, that purpose came to life in 2013 on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, one of the most high-end restaurant and retail streets in Los Angeles.
“My eyes fell on a vacant, weed-infested lot and it inspired me to take my Home Grown Edible Landscapes work to the next level,” Miller said. Along with the support of a willing property owner, Dan Abrams, who appreciated Miller’s vision, she was able to make this dream a reality.
Under HGEL, Miller opened The Cook’s Garden Venice with a mission to shift food production closer to the consumption of food. The practice encourages businesses, landowners, local government and communities to move agriculture back to city centers. The garden features freshly harvested, hyper-local and nutrient-dense food with enhanced flavor in the center of a retail-driven neighborhood, minimizing the time between harvest and plate.
“I turned the lot into a hybrid urban farm, edible plant nursery, greenhouse, classroom, garden shop and event space among a flock of chickens, ducks and turkeys (affectionately called the Girls Next Door),” Miller said.
Chefs, mixologists, clean beauty companies, spas and residential clients directly benefit from the garden by purchasing subscription-based harvest packages that meet their needs. The garden also serves as a powerful outreach and educational tool benefiting anyone who walks through.
“Regardless of age, ethnicity or nationality, people find something in the garden that resonates. For some, it’s a recollection of a distant childhood memory with a lost loved one, and for others, it might be an inspiration to learn something new. “Many of our visitors never purchase anything. They just want to be present in the garden,” Miller said.
Miller believes there is more value in teaching individuals and families how to design and care for their own organic garden, than in the “stop and drop” style of traditional landscaping. The benefit of this approach is a richer experience for the client through four avenues:
• heightening environmental awareness
• reducing the carbon footprint of the traditional landscape
• promoting a healthier lifestyle through better nutritional habits.
• increasing physical activity through gardening.
By hosting workshops, events, group classes and mini sessions, Miller shares her passion for gardening in hopes that more people will become better stewards of the environment.
“Join our harvest subscription programs and enjoy the benefit of a fresh harvest. By far, the most popular option is the Harvest Day Program where we train you to be a harvester. We do all the hard work; you have all the fun,” Miller said.
As one of the only nurseries on the westside specializing in edible plants, Miller’s customers get a taste of hyper-locavorism — the practice of eating a diet consisting of food harvested within a radius of less than 100 miles — with only a few hours between harvest and the plate and as small a carbon footprint as possible. A TCG harvest gives clients the most nutrient-dense vegetables and herbs possible, making every bite count!
Miller is a certified master gardener and horticulturist who discovered her love and talent for gardening as a child. Miller has been introducing eco-friendly, research-based organic edible gardens and landscapes to public schools, hospitality companies, nonprofits and private residences in the greater Los Angeles area since 2001.
From the beginner to the more experienced gardener and home cook, The Cook’s Garden offers support, promotes plant diversity and uses its garden as a teaching tool. For more information, visit thecooksgardenvenice.com.