This Major League Baseball Stadium Grows Its Own Food
“Healthy food” and “ballpark” are two phrases you don’t often (if ever) see in combination. Baseball stadiums are notorious for their unhealthy eating options, typically offering different combinations of meat, cheese, and beer. But as the American public becomes more health conscious (particularly under the guidance of Michelle Obama),even major sports venues have begun to change their tune.
Back in winter, GC visited The Garden at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, a game-changing 4,320 square-foot garden located under the scoreboard, just behind the centerfield wall. Built in partnership with the Bon Appétit Management Company, the garden is part functional farming space, part educational classroom, part restaurant hangout (complete with a well-stocked bar). Bookending each side of the garden are the Garden Table and Hearth Table restaurants. Both offer wholesome dining options (a typical offering might be a gluten-free flatbread with fennel sausage, goat cheese, roasted eggplant, and caramelized leeks) featuring produce plucked straight from the garden, and supplemented by local farms; the Garden Table exclusively offers vegetarian options (an essentially unheard of development in the world of major sports’ stadiums).
Year round, the garden is open to visiting school groups and offers free programming to all of its participants, which are primarily students from low-income populations. “We have kids come and do hands-on lessons in cooking, gardening, harvesting, and then they also get a chance to learn about why it’s so great to eat local…We try to inspire kids– we give them little gift bags that have little olive oil bottles and seeds, so they can take that back to their school,” Allison Campbell, the Program Manager, told GC. “The Giants are their heroes– they’re just excited and it’s great to use that excitement and try and direct it towards healthy eating and nutrition,” Sam Wilder, the program coordinator, added.
“The primary players are very, very busy but we’ve had Jeremy Affeldt– he’s retired now– he’s come down. We’ve had Sergio Romo come down here– he was actually doing a PSA for the drought. Hunter Pence has been down here two times,” Wilder continued. “We’ve had the Giants’ chef come down and talk to the kids. That was really interesting for the kids– to hear about what the players eat. We’ve had the strength coach come down. Lou Seal has come down– that’s the mascot– and hyped them up. And then we tell him to leave because he’s too distracting,” Wilder laughs.
The garden itself is compact, with raised beds and aeroponic towers making use of the limited space. “This is where the batters are looking when the game is being played…they call it the Batter’s Eye,” Wilder explained of the garden’s design. “With the garden, we have trees and stuff but we can’t have anything distracting. We had a passionfruit that started growing up into the bleachers and we the call from the Giants: ‘Hey, you gotta trim that back!’”
All told, there are some 97 distinct varieties of plants– everything from oakleaf lettuce to elderberries– though the garden staff tries to grow as many orange plants as possible (#OrangeOctober). For fans, the garden opens two hours before first pitch; you can order food and hang out, or bring it back to your seat. But don’t worry– there are still always hotdogs for those who want them!