“Right smack dab in the middle of town,
I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof,
Up on the roof”
Carole King wrote it, the Drifters sang it and the Coronado Brewing Company (CBC) is putting it on their menu. Last spring, Kasey Chapman, CBC’s award-winning chef, decided he wanted to grow his own vegetables and spices in order to introduce fresher ingredients to his recipes.
Discussion had been going on for some time about “where” such a garden could go. You guessed it. Up on the roof. With the help of Mark DeMitchell and Michael Tarzian of Infinite Fields, CBC has created an extensive, innovative garden that now produces impressive yields of tomatoes, herbs and spices.
The garden isn’t your usual plot of land. It’s an extremely unique garden system that utilizes hydroponic gardening – where plants are grown in a water-nutrient solution, without soil.
Hydroponic gardening was written about as far back as 1627. German botanists identified nine elements crucial to successful plant growth in the 1800s, which made the process more practical. During World War II hydroponics were used to grow plants on barren Pacific Islands. Slowly it has grown to become an accepted practice on the commercial level, and is a primary focus of NASA as they seek ways to grow food in space, or on the planet Mars.
Advantages of hydroponic gardening include the use of less space, less consumption of water, an avoidance of soil-borne diseases and infestations, and the product carries a better taste, with greater yield.
“We’ve wanted to grow some of our own produce to enhance the freshness of our menu for a long time,” said Kyle Chapman, Kasey’s brother and the general manager at CBC. “Someone suggested hydroponic gardening. When we looked into it, we were amazed at what we could do in such a small space. Our friends at JSix Restaurant had been growing with this system, and were very pleased with the results. Through them we were introduced to Infinite Fields.”
A site inspection resulted from our conversations, and within a few weeks CBC had installed two large hydroponic gardens on the roof of the restaurant. Concurrently the restaurant is growing tomatoes, peppers and spices in both potted soil and hydroponic gardens. The water-grown vegetables are far more abundant, both in quantity and quality.
“We’re making a big push to increase the amount of local ingredients,” said Kasey Chapman. “We regularly shop at places like Susie’s Farm in Imperial Beach to fill our kitchen with organically-grown supplies. All of this allows us to continue to bring fresh, daily specials to our customers.”
The Coronado Brewing Company has just opened a new, and larger brewing facility at Knoxville (near Tecolote Canyon, in San Diego). While some of the beer brewing will continue to be done in Coronado, the bulk of their brewing will take place at Knoxville. With the transfer of large brewing equipment to Knoxville, CBC plans to renovate the Coronado facility by creating a newer, larger food prep area. This will allow CBC to bring much more variety to their restaurant customers.
Menu specials are already reflecting the addition of items from the new garden. The restaurant is open seven nights a week. “Kids Night” remains extremely popular with locals. All children accompanied by adults enjoy a free menu on Tuesday nights.
While CBC’s international reputation is more brew-oriented, the Chapman family has maintained family values at the popular Coronado Brewing Company. “Throughout our 16 years of business,” said Kyle Chapman, “we’ve continued to keep ‘family’ as our priority. This is an important part of what we do and who we are.” On any given day one might find four generations of Chapmans in the restaurant.
To learn more about hydroponic gardens, visit Infinite Fields on Facebook, or their website at http://infinite-fields.com.