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Green Queen is thrilled to have the Hong Kong organic produce pioneer company Homegrown Foods as our sponsor for Made in HK:Local Artisans Pop Up Market. We couldn’t be happier to collaborate with this incredible company who have made it their mission to make it easy for Hong Kong consumers and businesses to have access to high quality, local organic fruits and vegetables and whose presence has reinvigorated the local farmer community. Homegrown Foods will also be showcasing their fresh colorful produce at the market so don’t miss out. We are super excited to showcase our interview with Hong Kong’s organic farm superhero Todd Darling, the founder of Homegrown Foods, in the latest installment of our Green Queen Heroes series. Read on below!
How did you first adopted a greener lifestyle?
At the point that I began to consider a greener lifestyle, I was leading a fairly unhealthy life. I was partying a lot, not sleeping much, eating a lot of red meat and generally not taking good care of myself. I was not considering any of the environmental impacts of my purchasing decisions. For people who work in the restaurant business, this lifestyle is common- it’s what a lot of us get paid to do. Drink, eat, party. During this time I was a partner in a popular Central restaurant. Finally one day I got sick and tired of it. It wasn’t fulfilling even though I was making a lot of money, so I sold it. I took some time off and backpacked with a childhood friend around South East Asia.
Then I had to decide what was next for me. When I began to look at the HK restaurant scene, I came to understand a few things: 1)Everyone uses the same ingredients, and we needed to differentiate the taste of our product by having unique ingredients; 2) Service was poor because restaurant owners keep the 10 percent service charge; and 3) There was a gap for what my business partner and I call ‘Premium Casual Dining’. This was the beginnings of the IHM restaurant group.
How did Homegrown Foods originate?
In order to differentiate our food I began to look for ingredients that tasted better than what was commonly used in the market. I had some contacts with local farmers and began discussions with them and discovered a world of new ingredients that were not being used. Once I began to research and learn more about local organic farms, I understood more about the context of the world that we live in and how our purchasing decisions can have such an impact on our lives and the lives of future generations. From this point on, it all kind of snowballed. Once you start to pull on the thread, the sweater unravels and you awaken to new insights into health and environment, and what is good for you and your customer and what is not From this adventure came Homegrown Foods. our 100% organic online market which fed into IHM: 90% of the vegetables served in our restaurants are organic. Meats are organic, pasture raised or at the very least hormone free.
What is Homegrown Foods’ mission?
Homegrown Foods is my baby. It is a 100% organic online market which feeds into IHM: 90% of the vegetables served in our restaurants are organic. Meats are organic, pasture raised or at the very least hormone free. It originally started because we needed a service to supply our IHM restaurants with fresh organic vegetables. Then our restaurant customers were coming in to see if they could buy our veggies for home. Farmers began calling to see if we could come pick up their veggies. So the initial idea was just to connect farmers and consumers. From there it has grown into a 100% organic online market which feeds into IHM: 90% of the vegetables served in our restaurants are organic; meats are organic, pasture raised or at the very least hormone free. We source from small family-owned organic farms from Hong Kong to Tuscany and even the Alps in Switzerland. We only have products that are 100% organic and exclusive to Homegrown Foods. We only source the absolute best products, not mass market ‘organic’ brands from conglomerates. We think of our products as the most premium on the market, the best of what you can buy in that category, and that means always organic and seasonal but also produced on a small scale by generational family farms that care for the environment.
What is Homegrown Foods’ greenest feature?
The greenest feature is that all of our products are certified organic and we test all fresh produce for chemicals and heavy metals to back up those certifications. Our products don’t pollute our planet.
What is your greenest daily habit?
My greenest habit is eating green veggies every day from local organic farms. But I will say, I still love a good cheeseburger every once in a while. I am not an extremist.
Share a green Hong Kong tip with our readers.
Go and visit farms, they are important- especially for a place like Hong Kong. They protect our natural landscape, they can provide a seed for future development of more farming in Hong Kong and further, they do not get much support from the government or from the broader community.
Where is your favorite place to eat green in Hong Kong?
Aside from my own joints, I love Grassroots Pantry.
Why did Homegrown Foods choose to sponsor Made in HK: Local Artisans Pop Up Market by Green Queen?
I think Green Queen is a good fit for Homegrown Foods– Green Queen’s community cares about the quality of the food that they consume, that it is good for them and good for the planet.
Todd Darling is the founder of the IHM restaurant group which includes Posto Pubblico, Linguini Fini, Pizzeria Pubblico and Stone Nullah Tavern (as well as Homegrown Foods of course).
Green Queen Heroes is a monthly series showcasing the talented and relentless individuals who are helping to make Hong Kong a greener, cleaner, kinder place to live and giving us eco-warriors more accessible options!