In 2009, Bon Appétit Executive Chef Shaun Holtgreve started a garden at Target in Minneapolis, MN by tilling a 100 ft. x 60 ft. plot on its campus. When the company claimed that land for expansion, Shaun shifted his focus to establishing a specialized container herb garden on a balcony where Target associates frequently eat lunch.
The A-frame, stainless steel Mobile Edible Wall Unit (MEWU) at Café Target is a self-watering system by Green Living Technologies International. The MEWU has 48 square feet of growing space, separated into hundreds of “cells” for seedlings. The garden provides dozens of varieties of herbs to the café including basil, mint, thyme, lemongrass, oregano, sage, and cilantro. In the Minnesota climate, the MEWU can be used from May (after last frost) to October (before the fall frost). After that it is stored inside for the winter.
At the beginning of each growing season, Shaun sends the café’s wish list of plants to Tommy Carver’s, a local landscape and florist company. The company starts the transplants in their off-site greenhouse and when ready, they will place the plants in the system’s empty cells.
Through trial and error, the team has learned that some plants do better than others in the MEWU. For example, even small tomato plants had a rough time supporting themselves and growing horizontally. However, most herbs, lettuces, and compact plants worked well, which could also be used more broadly in café. According to Shaun during the summer of 2013 the MEWU was planted entirely of herbs and yielded approximately 30 pounds throughout the season—the largest harvest of usable product yet.