By partnering with a non-profit, Edgewood CC is able to secure fresh, high-quality greens while also giving back to the community.
When Tony Villanueva, Executive Chef of Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, N.J., isn’t creating innovative global cuisine for members, he’s sharing his deep commitment to two organizations that serve those on the autism spectrum. One is the REED Foundation for Autism and the other is a 3,300-square foot indoor hydroponic vertical farm called Greens Do Good.
“As country club chefs, we have the opportunity to host many different charities that come to us to host golf outings, fundraisers and galas,” says Villaneuva. “Every once in a while, we have an opportunity to hear people speak passionately about their charities and organizations. I met Lisa Goldstein, REED Foundation for Autism’s Vice President of Development, at my former club during her fund-raising events for Reed Academy.”
He and Goldstein became friends, and as he got to know the Foundation’s work, his passion for supporting the non-profit was ignited, donating to its silent auction and preparing special menus for its events.
In 2019, when the REED Foundation for Autism launched Greens Do Good in a warehouse in Hackensack, NJ, Villanueva was the first to purchase produce. He has also connected Goldstein with chefs from other area country clubs, who now do business with the farm, as well. Greens Do Good was established to transform the way the local community sources healthy produce by providing the freshest ingredients in a sustainable and socially responsible way. The farm uses environmentally sensitive, energy-efficient practices to grow basil, kale, lettuce and microgreens.
“Besides being good for the environment, Greens Do Good serves the community well, too,” says Goldstein, noting that all proceeds from its sales go into REED adult programming, and the facility provides employment opportunities for high school students and adults with autism.
Today, Edgewood Country Club members are also enjoying the fruits of their relationship with REED in the dining room and at catered events. With every bite, Villanueva ensures that Edgewood plays its part to support Greens Do Good’s mission. Right now, the club’s menu features true fresh-from-the-farm kale salad and sautéed kale with olive oil, but Villanueva is always updating selections to include Greens Do Good produce.
“People increasingly want to know about the source of their food,” says Villaneuva. “I proudly share with Edgewood members that my basil, kale, bibb lettuce, and microgreens are from Greens Do Good—and they’re fresher than if you’d grown them yourself. I top many dishes with the microgreens for flavor, color and texture, and the lettuce is superb.
In recognition of his deep commitment to REED and Greens Do Good, Villanueva was recently honored by the REED Foundation for Autism this summer at Edgewood Country Club.
“I truly believe that each and every one of us is here for a reason,” says Villaneuva. “I would never be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor without paying it forward. As chefs, we have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference and give back. That is who I am and where my heart will always be. In life, it’s not how the world treats us, but how we treat the world to make it a better place.”