Farmer and food policy advocate Sylvia Ganier came into farming after a full career as a chef and restaurateur. Green Door Gourmet, which she opened in 2010, started by offering growing space to local chefs. It’s now a full-blown, 350-acre organic farm that sits just a few miles from downtown. Much like Nashville’s restaurant scene, Ganier’s business has exploded—the farm now sees 85,000 people a year, “walking in the footsteps of a farmer.” And she still serves the town’s growing number of restaurants, including several in Germantown.
What brought you to Nashville?
I originally moved here to be a singer. But, I discovered that the music business was just not my thing. So, now I’m able to do music for fun and make a great living doing something I’m very passionate about.
What led you to open Green Door?
I was retiring! We had moved out to a property that had been a farm for many years—but farming was not what I thought I’d be doing. Then I discovered I didn’t have the same access to great ingredients that I had when I was a chef. So, I made the mistake of asking my husband for a small kitchen garden. Nine acres later, I decided if he would fence it and plow it, I would grow it.
What advice would you offer to young farmers?
The best thing for young farmers to do is find a great farm and work there for a couple of years. Save your money and then, when you’re ready to spread your wings, find some great land and do it.
How do you find working with chefs now that you’re on the other side of the business?
Before the farm-to-table revolution, [chefs] were used to getting what they wanted, how they wanted it, when they wanted it. But seasonal growing and a local mentality do not fit that formula. There are some amazing chefs that will come out and weed and understand that potatoes grow under the ground—but there are still many who are detached from farming
What do you love about being in Nashville right now?
I love that Nashville, even with its exponential growth, is still the largest small town that I’ve ever been to. If you need something, someone is always willing to help. If Mayberry was a large town, it would be Nashville—and that’s what’s kept me here.
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