Ed Kugler, founder of the Organic Teaching Garden, has lived in Highland Park since 1959. He was raised in a very conventional home on a very conventional diet. He joined the organic movement in 1970 while at Michigan State University, where he took hotel and restaurant management classes. At MSU, he was taught that the way something looked and tasted was more important than how it was grown and what ingredients it contained - something that struck Ed as completely wrong.
From that day forward, he embarked on a journey of self-education, learning as much as he could about industrial food processes and organic farming. In 1976 he traveled from coast to coast, clocking in over 5,000 miles, visiting 14 organic farms, 52 natural food stores, 37 natural food restaurants, 19 distributors and 13 co-operatives and attending many conventions and conferences in between.
His passion quickly turned into his vocation. In 1978, he became the only organic alfalfa sprout farmer supplying the South Water Market Food Distribution center , the largest in Chicago. Also,in that year he open the Sprout Shop, in Highwood , the first organic/natural food buying club storefront with a menu of organic freshly prepared meals,sandwiches, juices and desserts. That same year, in June, the Ravinia Farmers Market started and he was a vendor for 3 years selling 10 varieties of sprouts making also sprout salads to go with dressing and a variety of delicious organic baked desserts..
From 1983-1989, he created and operated over 5 Natural Food Dance Festivals, the first non-smoking live music dance festival with local natural food restaurant vendors selling their menu offerings..
1988, he established the Taste of Health as part of the Halsted Street Market Days, where he operated ten booths and represented multiple organic and natural food manufacturers where over 100,000 visitors sampled organic food products.
In 1988, he attended the Culinary World Olympics in Frankfurt ,Germany to observe and document with video and pictures his friend Brother Ron Pickarski, and the American Natural Food Team. The team successfully won a Silver Medal in the Vegan Classification. As the team continued competing they did get gold in 1996 and branch marked the Olympic's by that made it a requirement in the competition that all participants had to create a vegetarian cuisine.
Since then, he has championed multiple organic food events at various farmer's markets, festivals, and schools all over Chicagoland, effectively reaching out to tens of thousands of community members.
Today, his goal remains to uphold an edible, organic landscape in his home to serve as an inspiration to members of surrounding communities to embark on their own journey to organic living.