With a large organic farm that raises fish along with produce by using aquaponics, Adam Navidi’s Future Foods Farms also utilizes fruit trees, soil beds, and chickens to supply both his popular restaurant and bakery and the local farmers’ markets.
Navidi’s large aquaponic system raises tilapia fish which, in turn, provides nutrient-rich water for thousands of pounds of organically grown produce sold to others or used in his own restaurant, Oceans & Earth, located in Yorba Linda, Orange County, CA.
In 1998, Chef Navidi toured the Culinary Institute of America with famous French chef Jean Louis Palladin and several other well-known chefs.
“Someday great chefs will be known for the relationships they build with farmers,” Navidi remembers Palladin saying to him.
This sentiment stuck with Navidi, and served to form the basis of inspiration for his own work. One of his early visions was to offer restaurant patrons the opportunity to dine inside a greenhouse which had grown all of the ingredients for the meal; years later, and with countless obstacles overcome, he eventually made this idea a reality. The quest has branched outward ever since.
In the beginning, Chef Navidi started out with a small catering service based from his home, and sold the soil-based produce he had grown in his backyard, front yard, rooftop, and any other place that would hold a planter.
Soon, customer demand for more organic fresh produce prompted him to investigate the possibilities of hydroponics, and then aquaponics. In 2008, he expanded, renovating an old greenhouse nursery in Brea, CA, while introducing chickens and goats to the property.
The operation soon spread to include multiple greenhouses, and with the acquisition of tilapia fish he launched what became the largest aquaponics system in Southern California. This system now provides both fresh fish and produce daily, and supplies not only his Ocean & Earth restaurant and bakery, but is also shipped out to other restaurants and local farmers’ markets.
Navidi says that all the produce is delivered with most of its root mass intact, which better retains its fresh-picked flavor and, in turn, provides a better tasting meal.
With more than a dozen employees and interns at the farm and restaurant, Navidi’s vision is now carried through in the effort and mindset of his staff. The overall goal is to provide clean, healthy food prepared by some of the best chefs around and dished up by a talented staff.
The name of the 65-acre Future Foods Farm also serves to articulate Navidi’s assertion that this method of farming is the future of food, and he leads tours of the property to better get the word out.
A staple of their moderately-priced daily menu is the fresh tilapia, prepared with many different options; other unique dishes include stinging nettle pasta served with sea urchin sauce, or a simple burger with chips fried in grapeseed oil. All menu items served utilize fresh, organic, and local ingredients, like grass fed beef purchased from other vendors.
The bakery is located inside the Ocean & Earth restaurant’s kitchen, and takes over the space when the restaurant is closed, so there is almost always something happening on-site. Using only gluten-free ingredients, the bakery both produces goods for the public and all of the baked items for the restaurant, which helps Navidi stick by his belief that a great burger begins with a great bun.
Daily work on the farm clears his mind from the demanding and time-consuming duties of running such a diverse enterprise, says Navidi. “Feeding the fish gives my mind a chance to relax,” he adds.
Whether it is getting his hands dirty in the soil beds, cleaning the fish tanks, or placing seedlings in net pots for the aquaponic grow beds, the chef is always busy.
It’s not hard to see how this style of farming could very well be the future of fresh and healthy eating, with no pesticides, and heirloom seeds providing the best-tasting, non-GMO produce around. Future Foods Farm, along with Ocean & Earth restaurant, are shining examples of what hard work and foresight can offer.