Excerpted from Morning Glory’s Farm Food: Stories from the Fields, Recipes from the Kitchen by Gabrielle Redner with photography by Alison Shaw; published by Vineyard Stories, August, 2014. Morning Glory Farm is one of the local farms participating in the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival, October 16-20, 2014.
New Fields for an Island Farmer
by Jim Athearn, Farmer
Since I returned home to become a farmer in 1973, I have enjoyed walking in the footsteps of my Island ancestors, as well as countless generations of other farmers, who have turned the soil with a plow, dried hay in the June sun, admired green rows of healthy crops, led cattle to green pastures, and sat gratefully at a family table laden with foods drawn from our own lands and waters. I have felt a common bond with the men and women from all centuries who have worked hard and experienced suffering and joy from living with the forces of nature.
After forty years of thinking I was living in the past by my stubborn insistence on agriculture as my living and lifestyle, I am now finding I am not alone. All around me are people defining the future through small farms, living locally, and appreciating the simple goodness of fresh, pure food. I see this in the way my two sons and daughter are raising and feeding their own children, in the scores of enthusiastic applicants asking for work on our farm, in the vibrant West Tisbury Farmers’ Market, and in the new small farms popping up on Martha’s Vineyard. Eating local food has generated a new word, locavore, while across the nation food buyers are asking where and how their food was grown.
To be honest, we have always had people wanting local foods since we first set up our planks and sawhorses by the side of the road to sell vegetables.Through the years I frequently heard stories from our customers about how they visited their grandparents’ farms and enjoyed the lifestyle and food. However, these were also the first generations to reject farming for a living.They had come to believe there was no money in farming, and that the only food possible was from mass production on large farms. They got used to the supermarket quality of tomatoes and corn.They forgot what a good, fresh vegetable tastes like. Our customers, who have for almost forty years gone out of their way to buy fresh vegetables, were the exception, not the rule.
Many years ago, I ate in one of our local restaurants where the carrots — not my carrots but cheap ones from off-Island — were served as an afterthought to the entree and were tasteless mush. I thought, “These cooks do not respect the vegetables.” More recently, my daughter, Prudence, then a vegetarian and now a nutritionist, expressed great delight in the taste of some simple vegetable. I marveled that she could get so excited about a mere vegetable and realized that I, too, did not respect my vegetables, not the way she did.
I began to really taste each vegetable, unadorned with butter or salt, and now I know they are indeed equal partners to the meat on the plate. I could make a meal of sautéed shallots and bok choy now, if there wasn’t so much other good food to enjoy. I also began to appreciate their nutritional value.
I’ve realized:You can live on this stuff!
Like a converted agnostic, I want to preach to the world,“Respect your vegetables!” I want more of our customers to enjoy beets, Napa cabbage, and, of course, bok choy.This is one of the themes of this book and through these pages we are hoping to bring people a little closer to full appreciation and respect for our great home-grown foods—and the work and love that goes into them.
It was a great surprise and joy for me when our sons Simon and Dan wanted to join us on the farm. They’ve added new thoughts, energy, and excitement.Yet since the beginning we have been blessed with talented, dedicated employees who have contributed to our farm culture. Many have continued to work in agriculture after they have left us.
And many of the employees today reflect a growing interest in farming.They are serious about learning the technical skills of farming—about soil structure and chemistry, bio-controls, and cover cropping. On Chappaquiddick, four bright, educated men and women, led by Lily Walter, created a new farm from scratch on rolling land and unimproved soil. All veterans of our own farm, they have the experience and energy to make it work. Other young people, either new to the Vineyard or raised here, are launching serious ventures in food production.
Some of them may have picked up some lessons from Morning Glory Farm, but they have also created a new community of forward thinking farmers.They may be motivated by media buzz about the local-food movement and a recognition that people who work the land are to be respected. But this newly vitalized acceptance of farming as a way of life is reflecting what I believe is a universal desire to work with the land to feed ourselves. Chefs and food writers have it right: they want to use what’s grown close, and they know it tastes better. Local farms are the focus of it all.
I feel stirrings of excitement as I discover new fields of learning and improvement opening up for farmers today. In particular, I am excited about discussions of soil health and how new methods of tillage and cover cropping, combined with better soil tests and more precise balancing of crop nutrients, can lead to healthier, more productive crops with less fertilizer. This year we have started growing some of our corn and pumpkins using no-till methods. Daniel is experimenting with ways to grow strawberries that don’t get swamped with weeds, and Simon is expanding our greens and winter crops for extended seasons. Our kitchen, bakery, and cannery keep finding new ways to process our vegetables, fruits, and meats to create more products for our customers to try. A young woman on our staff who has been trained in viticulture has planted our first vineyard.The grapes will be used for jams and fresh eating.
On an island it is easier to conceive of finite-ness. In America at large the experience has been that there are no limits: go west, go up, get more. Here on the Island each resource is limited.The natural resources of the Island—good fishing and hunting, shellfishing, crop fields and pastures, and nature trails on conservation land—help us share our values with each other, reinforcing the bond between Islanders. This environment is supportive to farmers trying to earn a part or all of their living by selling local food.
Our Island values have helped the Vineyard become a prime place for people who want to keep land free for farms and for conservation. Here, we want to eat flavorful fresh eggs, grass-fed, hormone-free beef, humanely raised chicken, fresh vegetables, and even milk and cheese from cows and goats raised here. Here, we also want to teach our children about what that means.
It is gratifying to see bright young people eager to learn agriculture and to witness the evolution of respect and demand for wholesome, fresh, sustainably-grown food. I hope they’ll become the next generation of farmers and locavores. And that, just as I did, they will want to protect our land for the many creatures who call Martha’s Vineyard home.
Special equipment: Baking sheet, 6-Qt. saucepan/servings: 4–6
- 4 ears corn, kernelled; reserve cobs
- 1 lb. onions, 2 medium, medium dice; reserve skins
- 2 ribs celery, medium dice; reserve ends and leaves
- 1 leek, white only, medium dice; reserve green
- 2 lb.Yukon gold potatoes, divided, 1 lb. large dice, 1 lb. medium dice
- 1 c. milk or cream
- 1⁄4 lb. pork belly, salt pork or bacon, medium dice, or cut in strips
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1⁄4 tsp. mustard seed or 1⁄2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1⁄4 tsp. crushed red pepper 1⁄2 tsp. thyme, finely minced Sea salt
- Black pepper
- 1 tsp. dill, coarsely chopped 1⁄4 tsp. lemon zest
- Corn broth
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Prepare corn broth (see chef’s note below.)
- Place large diced potatoes in 4-qt. saucepan with enough broth to cover, boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium, cook 20 minutes. Strain, return potatoes to pot, add milk, and stir vigorously to combine texture of mashed potatoes.
- Over medium heat, render pork in 6-qt. saucepan.When fat is opaque and begins to brown, add onion, celery, and leek; cook 8 minutes.
- Add garlic, mustard seed, red pepper, thyme, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking while adding corn kernels and medium diced potatoes. Cover with 2 qts. of reserved broth, boil, and simmer 30 minutes.
- Fold in mashed potatoes; mix until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle dill and lemon zest over soup prior to serving. Keep extra broth in the refrigerator and use in dishes that call for water or canned vegetable broths.
CHEF’S NOTE: Corn broth is a great way to use leftover parts of plants. Combine cobs, onion skins, and leek greens, roast until beginning to brown, 18–20 minutes. In 6 qt. sauce pan over medium-high heat, combine 3 qts. water, roasted trimmings, bay leaf and any stems and herb ends, boil. Reduce heat to medium, cook 30 minutes, strain and set aside. Keep broth in the fridge.
Rainbow chard, bacon, and cheese quiche
Recipe contributed by Barbara Leckerling of Chappaquiddick.
Special Equipment: pie pan, large skillet; servings: 6
- 1 prepared pie crust (recipe, page 184)
- 8 oz. bacon, cut into small chunks
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 6 c. chopped rainbow chard (about 1⁄2 bunch)
- 5 oz. brie, cut into small chunks 8 eggs
- 1/3 c. milk or fat-free half-and-half 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 1⁄2 tsp. salt
- 1⁄4 tsp. ground black pepper
- Heat oven to 450°.
- Unroll the pie crust and set into a pie pan, crimping and trimming as needed to form an even edge. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine the bacon, onion, and chard. Cook until the chard has wilted and released water, about 6 minutes.
- Let the bacon mixture cool slightly, then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the crust, arranging it in an even layer. Scatter the brie evenly over it.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, thyme, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust, then bake for 25 minutes, or until puffed and set at the center and lightly browned at the edges. If the crust browns too quickly, use strips of foil to cover the edges.
CHEF’S NOTE: This recipe calls for brie cheese, but I recommend substituting Springbrook Reading, a wonderful melting cheese from Vermont that is carried both at Morning Glory and in other fine cheese stores.
Roasted Chicken with roasted peaches, tomatoes and leeks
Special equipment: Large, oven-proof skillet; servings: 4
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. butter
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 2 whole medium carrots, tops removed, cleaned, and sliced
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 large leeks, white part only, sliced into rounds
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced sea salt
- 4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped 2 peaches, sliced
- 4 split breasts on the bone, skin on, or one whole chicken, halved or cut into parts
- smoked paprika
- 1⁄2 c. orange juice, or juice of 2 oranges
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- Dash of hot sauce or Morning Glory’s Mellow Yellow chili sauce
- Preheat the oven to 375°
- Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat in a skillet.Add the celery, carrots, onions, leeks, and minced thyme. Sprinkle with two pinches of sea salt and four grinds of black pepper.
- Sauté for 5 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes and peaches and immediately shut off heat.
- Situate the chicken on top of the sautéed vegetables in a single layer.
- Whisk together all the glaze ingredients in a bowl.
- Brush on chicken or spoon over the top of the chicken. (Use only what you need; you won’t need all the glaze).
- Sprinkle the chicken with a liberal sprinkle of salt, a grind of pepper, and a pinch of smoked paprika per chicken piece.
- Cook for 45–50 minutes, basting every 15 minutes with the pan juices.