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Naked Farmer opens at University Town Center

Naked Farmer is a fast-casual restaurant that offers a healthy, locally sourced menu.
Naked Farmer is a fast-casual restaurant that offers a healthy, locally sourced menu.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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Freezers and can openers are as big of a kitchen staple as stoves, but neither one can be found in the kitchen at the Naked Farmer. 

The farm-to-table restaurant chain opened its seventh location on June 19 at University Town Center, next to Blaze Pizza. 

Owner Jordan Johnson is neither a chef nor a farmer, but he has business experience and is on a mission to build a better food system. 

The University of Florida graduate worked for General Electric straight out of college in 2010. He was selected to join the company’s financial management program. 

“I look back at that time as a place where I learned how to operate a business from some of the best,” he said. “At the same time, I learned that corporate America was not for me.”

After leaving GE, Johnson created two apps. The first was a ride-share app for college students. It was so successful that he sold it to DoubleMap, a transportation software company. The second took so long to get off the ground that he realized he needed a “real job.” 

Johnson went to work for his father-in-law, who owns a chain of car dealerships in the Tampa area. After a few years, he was poached by his brother-in-law, John Williams, who owns SoFresh, another chain of fast and healthy eateries. 

Jordan Johnson opened his seventh Naked Farmer restaurant at University Town Center.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

While serving as the COO of SoFresh, Johnson found his mission.

“All of a sudden, I just couldn’t stop thinking about this idea of creating a way for people to eat locally sourced food,” he said. 

Johnson saw two problems before creating the Naked Farmer. One, people were too often having to make a choice between food that was fast, cheap and unhealthy and food that was slow, expensive and high quality. And two, the food in restaurants was traveling too far to reach the plates.

He was told by multiple chefs and restaurateurs that opening a restaurant that served locally sourced food was a bad idea. They said the price points couldn’t be affordable, yet the average price of a meal at the Naked Farmer is about $15.

While Dakin Dairy and Gamble Creek Farms are among the restaurant’s local partners, not all the food is sourced that locally. The chicken comes from Springer Mountain Farms in Georgia. The Naked Farmer defines locally sourced as being within 500 miles. 

“As it starts to get warm, we start to push up to that 500 miles,” Johnson said. “But even those states reach a point where it’s so hot that things aren’t growing, so we have a network of indoor and hydroponic farms.” 

Brick Street Farms is in downtown St. Petersburg. Johnson called it a “farm of the future.” The owners, Shannon O’Malley and Bradley Doyle, grow organic, hydroponic greens in shipping containers. 

The goal of Naked Farmer is to be 100% locally sourced, but the company isn’t there yet. During the summer, the menu is up to 40% locally sourced. In the winter and spring, the menu is up to 80% locally sourced. 

Summer squash, cucumbers, watermelon and corn are a few summer crops that can take the heat. 

“We leverage the best of what’s harvested every season,” Johnson said. “When it’s hot, Florida sweet corn is absolutely delicious. It’s our most popular summer side. Ours is a take on the traditional Mexican street food dish.” 

A few items are so popular that they stay on the menu year-round. The charred broccoli with lemon and garlic is an example. The broccoli grows in Florida half the year and then shifts to Virginia as the weather warms up. 

Naked Farmer is the latest restaurant to open at University Town Center.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

“The word ‘naked’ speaks to the expression of the food,” Johnson said. “When it’s picked days ago instead of weeks ago, you don’t have to do much to it. We let the vegetables sing. We don’t junk it up with a bunch of sauces and seasonings. We feel it’s our job to get out of the way of the vegetable.”

Since the Naked Farmer’s network of suppliers are in Florida and along the East Coast, that’s the trajectory of the company’s growth. Johnson has opened seven locations since 2020 and has plans to open 15 to 20 more locations in Florida over the next year. 

“Naked Farmer is a Florida story today,” Johnson said. “But our growth story is one throughout the Southeast and throughout the South — Florida, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina — these are the places that I envision Naked Farmer growing.”



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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