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Heirloom Cafe Owners Expand Backyard Garden

Emma Surber Emma Surber Heirloom Cafe Owners Expand Backyard GardenAll photos by Emma Surber.
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In a bustling city like Columbus, taking the time to smell the roses is sometimes a difficult thing to do. An easy way to overcome this, is to follow in the footsteps of John and Kimberly Skaggs, owners of The Heirloom Cafe located inside the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State.

John and Kimberly met while both working at the Grand Canyon, and bonded over a shared connection about where our food comes from that stemmed between their grandparents, family history, and the Earth.

After moving back to Columbus, an opportunity in the summer of 2011 to open up a cafe at the Wexner Center became available and eight short weeks later Heirloom Cafe was born.


After three years of operating a successful business, John and Kimberly, with the help of their garden coordinator, created the idea for the Heirloom Urban Garden, or “HUG”.

“We have a garden at the Wexner Center, but we outgrew the area,” said John. “We are very excited to have HUG because it further supports our farm-to-table mission.”

The hope for HUG is that providing delicious food for Heirloom Cafe and its patrons, is that eventually it can be used for outreach within the surrounding local area.

“We want to show people where their food originates,” said John.

The garden takes up almost the entirety of the Skaggs’ backyard, and contains four large garden beds, and several smaller ground level and raised beds. John and Kimberly have anything from tomatillos to figs, including kale, leeks, sunchokes, 12 different kinds of peppers, parsley, basil, sage, tons of different flower varieties plus much more.

There are about 50 seeds, roughly, that are currently planted at HUG, and about 100 different varieties of plants in the garden yearly.

John said that so far his favorites from the garden include the peppers, his tall sunflowers, and turmeric.

“I love the varied colors of chiles and peppers, and it’s also my goal to have the tallest unsupported sunflower,” said John. His personal best for his sunflowers is 13 feet.

Both Heirloom Cafe and HUG also operate as zero waste facilities, which means about 90 percent of their waste is recycled and composted. Heirloom Cafe has four of its own composters in the back of the cafe.

John said that the employees they have are an integral part of what they do at Heirloom Cafe and HUG, and many of the responsibilities overlap which he believes allows for a creative work environment.
Between him and Kimberly, John focuses more on the kitchen aspect, and Kimberly controls most of the front-of-house operations.

“There isn’t necessarily a defined line separating the work,” said John. “The responsibilities often overlap and we work together.”

John and Kimberly look forward to continuing their mission to provide fresh, locally made farm-to-table food for their patrons, and always invite interested volunteers to reach out to them at any time.

For more information about Heirloom Cafe, Heirloom Urban Garden, pictures from HUG, or about the Skaggs’ themselves, visit www.theheirloomcafe.com and follow their blog.







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