BY ADAM KENT-ISAAC
Diners on the deck at Laughing Planet Café last summer may have been surprised to find their food growing right next to them. The café has installed an edible garden, planted last spring by Bread & Roses Gardens, a company specializing in reducing the distance between people and their food sources.
“We created a number of boxes and planters on the patio that are full of plants they can use at the restaurant,” says Salem Willard, proprietor of Bread & Roses. “A lot of people actually ate things right out of the boxes—strawberries, cilantro, sorrel.”
It’s a key tenet of the concept known as permaculture, “a philosophy for how we make decisions that impact the earth,” says Willard. “It revolves around trying to create a sustainable world.”
Edible gardens in urban areas are not new. During World War II, about 40 percent of America’s produce was grown in “victory gardens,” which were planted wherever possible to support the war effort. Willard calls on people to do likewise in the present-day fight for the environment.
“The closer we are to our food sources, the more sustainable our world becomes, because we’re not relying on trucks from across the country,” says Willard. Something as simple as replacing ornamental plants with edible-berry-producing shrubs, which he hopes to implement at Laughing Planet, could ultimately lessen the environmental toll taken by the mass production, packaging, and transportation of nonlocal foods.
Bread & Roses extends this philosophy to the plants they provide for clients. “We’ve started our own nursery so that we can have all those apples, peaches, and blueberries, and we can source them locally and grow them organically and sustainably so we know exactly what kind of product we’ll be giving our clients,” says Willard. “We can see everything through from start to finish, and it cuts down on having things shipped around.”
Laughing Planet owner Bob Costello says he’s been pleased with the successes so far and plans to repeat them at his other restaurant, The Village Deli, where he intends to have Bread & Roses build similar planters around the recycling area at the rear of the building.
“They’ve done a great job, and we want to continue to work with them in our efforts to provide organic and sustainable foods,” says Costello.