Cottage Food Kitchen
As defined by Illinois law, a “Cottage Food Operation” means an operation conducted in a home kitchen. Cottage Food Law was created with the intent of supporting the growth of small businesses by creating regulations that allow food entrepreneurs to use their home kitchens to make food products. Cottage Food Operations are limited in the type of products they can make, the places they can sell their products, and require particular labeling/signage.
At Gard Mo we also think of Cottage Food as a cuisine. One that is seasonal, local, and practical. Ben first experienced this sort of cuisine during a tour of small farms in southern Europe. The food that filled these farmer’s tables is what Gard Mo draws inspiration from; food that ebbs and flows with the season, highlighting it at its peak, while also preserving and extending in order to make the most of the bounty that well-cared-for land and hard-work provides.
Interested in learning more about Cottage Food Law? Check out this guide from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance
In French, ‘Garde Manger’ literally translates to “keeping to eat” but more commonly translates to “pantry.” In pre-revolutionary France, the term came to refer to the kitchen worker responsible for the storage of large amounts of foodstuffs, an extremely important position prior to refrigeration. In modern restaurants, Garde Manger (often reduced to Gard Mo) is the title of the cook in charge of the salad station who is also usually (no-pun intended) the greenest cook in the kitchen.
We chose the name as an homage to the original French Garde Manger, who used clever preservation techniques to extend the seasons of bountiful produce, but also to the “green” cook who’s just getting their footing.
At Gard Mo, we aim to make the most of local, seasonal food by “keeping to eat” farm-fresh produce at its peak and capturing it to extend its season through various preservation methods. This creates a diverse pantry of ingredients that enables creative seasonal dishes, all while being locally-grown.
We believe in local for a multitude of reasons, but we will try to convince you with just three points:
People talk about terrior when it comes to wine and grapes, but the principles of terrior actually apply to all produce when they’re grown at the small scale and with the care and respect as wine grapes are grown. In the Midwest, and Chicagoland in particular, we have some of the best growing conditions in the world, despite the short seasons. This is highlighted by the significant amount of commodity agriculture in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. Cheese and dairy are central to Wisconsin’s identity. And the sandy soil along the west coast of Michigan produces amazing fruit. In addition to the terroir of the food, the number of different types of any single crop grown by local farms makes it more exciting and full of variety vs the slim-picking of mono-culture produce found at grocery stores. Combined with a shorter harvest-to-table time, locally grown food is without a doubt more delicious than anything shipped from outside of the Midwest.
Lots of people care about the environment. Lots of people care about social justice. But often, these issues aren’t connected to the food that we eat. And that’s obvious when you look at the food that Chicagoans and Illinoisans eat where 5% of it is grown in-state and 95% is from outside of IL. And when we talk about coming from somewhere further than IL, that means it’s more and more likely grown at huge scales, planted and harvested with underpaid and overworked migrant workers, and picked at a time that’s ideal for shipping it hundreds of miles away instead of when it tastes best.
No farmers, no food. The large scale agricultural system that makes possible the overflowing displays at grocery stores has the consequence of distancing the eater from the farmer. This results in consolidation, the exploitation of farm workers, and the degradation of natural resources. When the eater and farmer are in community, their goals and values are more closely aligned. By supporting local farmers and producers, we create a more resilient food system that feeds and strengthens community.
Learn more from these organizations doing work in the space:
Gard Mo is a team of two. Having both worked in food manufacturing, Ben and Lisa have always discussed gaps in the food system and ways to solve them. Gard Mo is one of those concepts, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to get to share it with all of you.
Operator, Kitchen Manager, and Veggie Enthusiast
Born and raised in the western suburb, Geneva, IL, Ben has been passionate about food since childhood. Ben has lived in Chicago since graduating from Cornell University with a degree in Food Science. In addition to working as a product developer for packaged food companies, Ben had also earned a Culinary Arts degree from Kendall College. After graduating, he spent time in various restaurants, all with a focus in sourcing locally grown food.
With experience in large-scale food manufacturing and cook-from-scratch kitchens, Ben’s vision for a local, regenerative food system is one that shifts all types of eating occasions (at home, on the go, or in a restaurant) to a focus on supporting local farms and cultivating a regional cuisine that is inseparable with the flow of the seasons.
Funder, Brand Manager, and Zero Waste Expert
Lisa was born in California and grew up in northeastern Wisconsin. She fell in love with food science and agriculture through FFA in high school and spent the next five years learning and seeing how most of the food we consume today through industrial agriculture and the food industry isn’t that great after all. Actually, it’s what’s destroying our environment, disconnecting us from each other and our interdependence with nature, and extracting limitless amounts of capital, joy, and health from every part of our lives. Over the next five years, she learned and got involved in the climate justice movement and came to believe that the solutions that actually help all of us – regardless of gender, race, income, or ability – start in our communities and trickle up instead of the other way around.
Although this business idea is a small one, we hope you can join us in one of the many ways it’s going to take to turn our food system around and into one that is local, regenerative, equitable to all who depend on it, and mindful of its impact on future generations.
“NO ONE WAY WORKS, it will take all of us shoving at the thing from all sides to bring it down” – Diane Di Prima, American Poet, Artist, Playwright, and Activist
We follow the lead of Green City Market, who interprets “local” as anywhere in the four-state region nearest Chicago, including Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. This is our general rule, but we’ll be as transparent as possible on Larder product pages when we’ve had to source something from further than that or from somewhere we weren’t able to identify.
We absolutely care about eliminating packaging waste as much as buying local, and that’s why we’re purchasing all our grains and most other non-perishable ingredients from Tinyshop, a zero-waste grocer in Logan Square when using anything that’s not fresh from a farm in the CSA Club. When it comes to the packaging we’re using at Gard Mo, we’ve got some ideas in mind as well. Shoot us a direct message to learn more!
Technically no, but there’s several reasons we proudly support the farms we do. First, they may already be using organic and sustainable growing methods but haven’t put the time/money toward official certification. We get that as a small business ourselves. And sometimes, the farms who DO have organic certification are way too huge to support real biodiversity and fair labor protections. Second, we know that the level of biodiversity that Nichol’s supports by growing 1000 different varieties of fruits and vegetables and 200+ varieties of apples on 350 of their 650 acres is a truly healthy ecosystem. On top of that, they devote their remaining 300 acres to conservation practices. Who needs a USDA auditor to endorse them for organic certification when they’re as transparently sustainable as that?
CSA Club FAQs
We get this question a lot. Biweekly means every two weeks here at Gard Mo, so our CSA Club members can expect to receive their boxes on alternating weeks.
It depends. Our delivery model is a work in progress and depends on where our future ~20 CSA Club subscribers live and how we can best manage our time and minimize delivery miles. With pick-up options at Tinyshop in Logan Square and Belli’s in Pilsen, the delivery options we’re providing are based on proximity to those stores. If you don’t see a delivery option for your zip code, we likely won’t be delivering there, but feel free to send us an email to double check.
It depends, and we’d love to hear from you. If you have a food allergy or intolerance, we can work around it. Either way, send us an email or instagram DM.
No worries. We’ll give you a call if it’s past pick-up time and we can coordinate delivery if needed.
Yes we do! While an upfront payment helps us plan and manage risk, we know it can be a burden for some situations. In order to alleviate that burden we offer an option to pay as you go, paying for each box every time you pick up. With CSA sign-ups open all season long, pay-as-you-go is even simpler for adjusting to the week you’re joining.
You betcha. It’s never too late to eat some local tasty veggies. If you’re paying upfront, we’ll prorate the price for however many weeks are left this season.