About That Garden Guy (Chris Miller)
"Quite simply, I want to help people grow food." Chris, says. His goal is to reconnect people with the process of growing food, allowing them to see exactly what went into it and where it came from. Blending aesthetics with productivity, he aspires to show how beautiful a functioning edible garden can be. Chris encourages educational opportunities for clients and all the teachable moments that come along with a garden.
Being a fan of the culinary world and an avid home cook, Chris enjoys working with chefs. He gets excited helping chefs grow exactly what they want, and offering new and creative uses of speciality products or a bit of edible inspiration out their kitchen door. He aims to help them save money on food costs so that they can be more profitable while offering the opportunity to market the pinnacle of freshness and the flavor that comes with it by sharing the fact that they are growing it on site.
Chris Miller worked for over a decade in landscaping growing up outside Chicago, IL. He also worked some construction, kitchen, and landscape warehouse jobs throughout high school and college. "I've always enjoyed making things beautiful, creating things with my hands and being able to look back at the work that I've done. I have a very romantic "Thoreau'ean" connection with growing food and crafting things that blend functionality with beauty," says Chris.
Miller went to school for Environmental Science and Sustainability on the shores of Lake Superior at Northern Michigan University. Upon learning about all of environmental problems we are facing, he became very interested in and compelled by sustainable agriculture. Chris started out by having a garden and building an aquaponics system as a sustainability project. Aquaponics is the process of growing plants and fish in the same system, utilizing 2 forms of beneficial bacteria that convert the ammonia that fish produce as a waste product into nitrates that the plants can use as a food source. It simultaneously provides the plants with a nutrient rich source of water while cleaning the water, filtering out impurities and toxins that would be harmful to the fish. This project turned into a hobby, and then somewhat of an obsession before he ultimately dropped out of school and ran away to Mountain Harvest Organics, a small sustainable farm in the mountains outside of Asheville, NC.
His goal was to immerse himself with life on that farm for a season, living and learning, becoming involved with every aspect of running a small farm. It is also where he developed his passion for cooking. He would have to cook lunch once a week for the farm crew, using the fresh ingredients from the farm. Learning to cook seasonally and creatively, tasting food at the peak of its flavor sent him down the seed-to-plate culinary path. After 8 months on the farm in Hot Springs, NC, he spent the winter helping put a roof on an earth-bermed house on an urban no-till farm in Kansas City, MO. After that he took a job on a farm outside Chicago, Illinois.
Now at Marigold Hill Organics, working the fields and selling at farmers markets in downtown Chicago. Selling vegetables to some of the best chefs in the city, Beverly Kim from Parachute, Lee Wollen from Boka, Erling Wu Bower from Nico Osteria just to name a few. Rubbing shoulders with these celebrity chefs, and seeing what types of vegetables they were interested in and how they used them only added fuel to the slow food fire. Chris decided to try and learn more about the farm-to-fork movement by moving to Grand Rapids, MI, where he would work at a farm during the day and a farm-to-table restaurant at night.
Miller worked at Ham Family Farm during the day, continuing his field work and helping to sell vegetables to local chefs and at a few tailgate markets. He also worked at The Greenwell Gastropub at night to try and see farm-to-table from both sides. Learning even more varieties of crops and how the talented chefs used them allowed him to hit the ground running when he moved down to Greenville, SC, to help run Reedy River Farms.
When Miller moved down to Greenville, he immediately began to implement all of these specialty crop varieties that he had learned from his previous farm/restaurant experience, along with efficiencies, marketing strategies, and experience working with and talking to chefs. Chris worked with George DuBose to turn Reedy River Farms into a profitable enterprise. Chris helped run Reedy River Farms for almost two years, while also working part time at local farm-to-table restaurant, Bacon Bros Public House.
Volunteering to help grow some food on the back porch of Bacon Bros, and being propositioned to help Alex George of GB&D to grow food at his restaurant gave him the idea to provide a service and to try and progress the local food movement, by helping everyone grow their own food. Chris Miller became, That Garden Guy, blending a decade of landscaping experience with 6 years commercial organic food production to create unique and attractive edible gardens.
Chris looks to work with and employ the underserved and partner with area non-profits such as Feed & Seed, and Soteria. Whether we are working with at-risk youth, high-end chefs, or a family down the block, we work toward a common goal. Reconnect everyone with the process of growing their own food, increasing community food security, and strengthening the local food movement by supporting local farms and growing food everywhere!