Yoder helps bring garden-fresh ingredients to the table

Matthew Yoder is eager to start his day bright and early every morning because he gets to do something he loves—working outdoors in the garden.

The Bluebird, in Stanford, has two garden plots and a greenhouse full of ingredients the restaurant can use for many of the chef-prepared menu items that they serve every day.

Matthew, of Liberty, works as the Horticulturist for Wilderness Road Hospitality and its businesses including the Bluebird. One of his responsibilities is tending to their garden. To him, taking care of the garden isn’t work—it’s a privilege.

He likes to start his day at around 5 or 6 am just as the morning light starts to rise so that he can get to the garden early.

“I am eager to come into work and get it done because I want to see what comes from it,” Matthew said.

For the past year and a half, Matthew has been able to use the garden to experiment and harvest fresh-organic ingredients. He enjoys learning how to incorporate produce into the menu at the Bluebird. This year, he plans to provide the restaurant with microgreens, asparagus, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more.

“I just look at the menu,” Matthew said. “I think ‘Well, you need this,’ so I’ll grow it. If you have a burger on the menu, it should have lettuce and cucumbers that we can pickle. I basically just look at the menu and then the staff at the Bluebird offers input on specials they might like to try.”

Matthew makes sure that the produce from the garden is clean and has a rich history.

“It just tastes better and it’s fresher,” Matthew said. “It’s better for the community because people come in and they are eating something that is healthier. If I take something in, it should be on the plate within a day or two.”

To add to the quality of the produce from Bluebird’s garden, Matthew harvests seeds so that they can be used for the next year’s crop. The produce is of an heirloom variety and non-genetically modified.

“It’s old varieties of everything,” Matthew said.


Matthew learned his skills at an early age on his family farm in Lancaster, PA. The farm was full of flowers and visitors would come and “pick their own” flower arrangements, so he learned about growing from his mother.

When he got older, Matthew went to school at Pennsylvania State University where he earned a history degree.

“If there’s any application of my history degree, it’s in the history of vegetables,” Matthew said. “I like the things that are 100 years old or 200 years old. I have a tomato seed that I have been saving for 15 years now.”

Matthew has always gravitated to the outdoors and farming. Right out of college, he started working on farms and selling produce at farmer’s markets and to restaurants.

“I’ve lived in like 15-16 different states and I’ve just kind of worked at farms all along the way,” Matthew said. “I got interested in it and started my own business.”

He also enjoys learning how to use the produce in the kitchen, learning how to cook each item, and creating recipes with it.

“When I was selling to restaurants, I enjoyed just taking stuff to them,” Matthew said. “They would bring you into the kitchen and ask your opinion of what you would do with it. A lot of the stuff I had brought in, they had never seen before. I would be working with chefs trying to figure out how to use this cucumber that is big and thorny.”


After years of working on farms, Matthew eventually moved to Maine and then Virginia where he lived near beaches instead of typical farming locations. There, he and his wife started to raise their two children.

After a while, he decided that he wanted to raise his children in the way he was raised—on a farm. After three years of living in Virginia, the family picked up and moved to rural Casey County.

“My kids have lived near the beach their entire life until we moved here,” Matthew said.

Now, he tries to instill some of his love of growing into his children.

“They have two dogwood trees that they are growing, so I am trying to teach them how to do it,” Matthew said. “They also come up and help me plant things in the garden quite a bit. I am trying to pass it on to them.”

For Matthew, he believes learning how to grow your own food is an essential part of life. His advice for anyone wanting to start their own garden is to start small.

“Don’t overwhelm yourself,” he said. “Grow things you know you are going to eat. Be patient with it.”

In the meantime, if you are looking for garden-fresh ingredients, stop by the Bluebird in Stanford.