by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
When Zagat speaks, foodies listen, from the enthusiastic diner to the most powerful restaurateur. So when Zagat recently named Jillian Herschlag ’09 one of its “30 Under 30 Rock Stars Redefining the Industry,” it was a big deal.
Herschlag manages Luna Farm, an estate owned by celebrity chef/restaurant magnate Jose Garces (Iron Chef). It’s a position that holds influence in Philadelphia’s burgeoning culinary sphere.
The environmental-studies major caught the sustainable-agriculture bug at the College Farm, where she volunteered during the summer of 2008 and throughout her senior year. “I hadn’t had experience with that kind of thing before. It felt very empowering,” Herschlag says. “I learned so much.”
Herschlag was a College Farm apprentice for the first six months after graduation, then moved to Bucks County, Pa., to work at Blooming Glen Farm. There, she trained and oversaw a staff of 12 farm workers, at one point working six days a week for several months straight. “It was really demanding, but I got to see everything that was going on,” she says. “I knew every rotation, every field, what was ready, what wasn’t ready. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”
Two years into the job, she was ready for more responsibility. That led her to a management opportunity at Garces’ five-acre farm in Ottsville, Pa.
Luna Farm is part of a 40-acre estate that Garces had purchased
in 2011. With five acres in production, the farm provides Garces’ seven
Philadelphia restaurants and three Atlantic City establishments easy access to seasonal,
organic, farm-fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits.
Herschlag came on board as farm manager in 2012, just a year
after the farm’s first full planting. “Taking over a new farm is kind of like
taking over a toddler,” she says of the persistence, planning and tending it
takes to oversee all aspects of a farm’s operation.
Herschlag also meets with chefs at the start of each growing season to discuss their options and ideas, tailoring her crop plans according to their anticipated needs. She then sends yield updates to the chefs throughout the growing season so they can build menus on available fresh, local fare. The farm also supplies produce to Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) subscribers who live nearby.
“It’s challenging, but it’s what I want to do,” Herschlag says. “You can get great satisfaction in your work as an employee, but the rewards you get as a farm manager or owner are even bigger. There is a huge sense of accomplishment.”
Published September 22, 2014