By Frances Schwabenland, our photojournalist.
If you are lucky enough to spend time with Chris, you will be in the midst of poetry in motion! An artist of nature!
It was just after sunrise when I was introduced to the Kitchen Harvest garden. I am not a morning person but the thought of missing that golden light awakening those tender baby strawberries and shining on the newly formed dew drops that dotted the lettuce and broccoli caused me to shake off my stupor, run to set up my camera, and not miss this moment of glory. Nature was putting on a show and I was lucky enough to capture it! Our conversation was casual but as Chris started harvesting the fresh vegetables he was going to deliver to his residential customers later that day, his words were poetic and profound. I now had to run to get my tape recorder to not miss a word! I was with a man whose spirit and livelihood are so intimately connected to the movements of nature. He spoke about the excitement of unearthing things growing below the ground. He used the words, “Magic” ,”Surprise”, “Nurture”. He spoke about patience and allowing everything its own time and pace.
Photographing the dynamic light and vibrancy of the garden, I couldn’t help but realize the contrast all around us. We were in the middle of a cemetery. Chris saw an empty, overgrown area and thought growth! Listening to him explain how the garden came to be, I understood and admired his deep appreciation and respect for the interplay of life and death. It has been a guiding vision for him.
On Wednesday, July 13, 2016, the Guardian reported, “Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat because of a cult of perfection, deepening hunger and poverty, and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment.” About 1/3 of all food scraps, about 60 tons, worth 160 billion, is wasted by retailers and consumers every year. According to the EPA, “Discarded food is the biggest single component of landfills and incinerators today.” When I first met Chris and asked him how Kitchen Harvest started, he replied that it has been a bit of a love story and after standing on the side lines photographing all that he does, I couldn’t have said it better. He and his wife, Timi, want/wanted to live differently, not being one of the statistics above. They wanted to give their new child, the freshest food possible while honoring the earth…respecting and not pillaging, renewing and not leaving barren. Thus, their son wasn’t their only birthing…Kitchen Harvest, Inc was started in 2010, the same year Cassidy was born!
The food waste from many residential customers, schools and institutions like Villanova University, restaurants such as The Sterling Pig Brewery and now the DNC all are working with Chris and Kitchen Harvest. The leftover food, grains and lawn cuttings are all collected and taken to Linvilla Orchards where in 6 to 9 months, are transformed into a beautiful, dark, healthy compost, not sitting somewhere in a landfill. The compost is then shared back with the community. The gardens and vegetables grown in this compost can be summed up in one word, “Abundant!” Not only does Chris transform waste products, he transformed me! He and his wife invited me to their home for a meal. I know this sounds corny, but I never saw lettuce so fluffy and had never tasted anything like it. The anemic greens, so long a staple of my diet are a thing of the past! Together Chris and Timi created such a delicious alchemy of colors, textures and tastes. Cassidy, their son, told me that when he helps his dad weed, he takes them and pots them up because you never know what it could become! He was raised knowing that waste can be turned into magic! I wish we all could realize that.
The Untours Foundation , under the leadership of Elizabeth Killough, works to alleviate poverty by providing low-interest loans or equity to individuals and organizations who create employment, housing and valuable goods and services in economically challenged communities. Untours fuels projects that are environmentally and economically pioneering, setting new models for which all businesses can strive. Their low-interest loan to Kitchen Harvest has helped Chris run his successful business. I am so honored to know such caring individuals who go above and beyond to make such a positive and lasting difference.