For locavores who are fanatical about knowing where their food comes from, buying organic produce at a nearby farmers’ market is no longer enough: Now they’re hiring personal gardeners to tend backyard vegetable plots, shortening the distance between farm and table to mere feet. “People are realizing that food grown in their yard is better than anything they can buy,” says Jimmy Williams of Hayground Organic Gardening in Los Angeles. “Just about all of my customers tell me they never knew lettuce could be sweet.” Gardeners like Williams interview clients to find out what they cook, how often and for how many, then they plant accordingly. Many of these gardeners also do weekly maintenance, including weeding, composting and harvesting, leaving washed produce in a basket on the client’s doorstep. Williams has several customers who strictly eat only produce that grows on their own land, so he plants a range of varieties that reach their peaks at different times to ensure that fresh fruits and vegetables are available nearly year-round.
Here are profiles of three top personal gardeners around the country, along with superfast recipes from F&W Assistant Editor Kristin Donnelly that use the produce they grow: