This quarter-acre enclave is the unlikely home to three hogs, a dozen chickens, 13 beehives and rows of produce. If sustainability doesn’t conjure the image of a convention center in the shadow of skyscrapers, Matt Del Regno, the center’s executive chef, wants the farm to help shatter that perception. “The mission was to draw attention to what we do,” says Del Regno. He walks us through the farm he started in 2014. 300 Lakeside Ave. E, Cleveland, 216-928-1600, clevelandconventions.com
Hungry Hogs: Eddie, Honey and Sage are Mangalistas, a breed of 400-pound Hungarian hogs. Don’t worry — the wooly-haired pigs aren’t on the menu. These glorified pets gobble unused food and scraps to help the convention center cut down on waste — as much as 20 gallons per day. “Their favorite food is salad leftover from our buffets,” Del Regno laughs. “But only if it’s tossed in a balsamic. They don’t like anything with citrus.”
Yolk Heroes: Famous for their work in Del Regno’s breakfast sandwiches, a dozen chickens are hyper-local celebrities. “People who work around here come every day to see them,” he says of the chickens. “They’re spoiled rotten [from the attention].” The fowl produce about 25 eggs per day, or 25 percent of the center’s shelled egg usage on an average month, although the kitchen relies on liquid pasteurized eggs for things such as scrambled eggs and pastries.
Buzz Feed: The farm will produce more than 1,500 pounds of honey this year — providing for all of the convention center’s needs, including house-made granola bars, honey vinaigrette and honey Dijon dressings, and lip balm, which is gifted to visitors. The hives were the first part of the farm, but Del Regno never expected this outcome. “If you told me we would be producing upwards of 2,000 pounds per year, I would have said you were crazy,” he says.
Mass Produce: The farm’s garden — which includes six indoor hydroponic towers — is home to leafy greens, squash and 5 pounds of cherry and grape tomatoes a day during peak season. “We’re growing herbs like crazy,” says Del Regno. “More basil than we could ever use and some of the smaller herbs, like thyme, which we’d end up wasting if we had to buy by the pound.”