Last week, I had the good fortune to visit a number of Maine farms with the Maine Farmland Trust, an organization that’s working to preserve Maine’s working farms and agricultural landscape and support farming’s future. Some of the farms I visited are supplying restaurants, such as Fore Street, in Portland, and the Harraseeket Inn, in Freeport—both early adopters of the farm-to-table movement—or Nebo Lodge, on North Haven Island, which works with the island’s Turner Farm. Others sell direct from stands on the farm or through farmers markets.
Jordan’s Farm, Cape Elizabeth
Penny Jordan’s ancestors were some of Cape Elizabeth’s earliest settlers. Although now considered an upscale suburb of Portland, it wasn’t that long ago that the town had plentiful farmlands, such as the Jordan Farm on Wells Road. The homestead, as Jordan calls the big farmhouse, has sheltered four generations of the Jordan family.
What makes the property even more extraordinary are the views, which extend over the Spurwink River and Marsh. Those views made the property highly likely for development at a time when the farm was financially in crisis. “We had to strategize to save the farm,” Jordan says. The community wanted to preserve the view.
“We worked with the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust and the Land for Maine’s Future program. After three grueling years, we sold the development rights to the property across the street, which put us in the financial position to take on growth.” Which it has been able to do, thanks to community support.
Volunteers built the main part of the farmstand. “We paid for lumber and food, and volunteers built it,” Jordan says. They’ve since expanded it. Available are not only farm-fresh produce, but also artisanal breads, cheeses, dips, sweets, and other goods. The Jordans also put the farm on the road via a brightly painted bus that brings fresh produce to schools, the Maine Medical Center, and other places.
In the summer of 2010, The Well, which is the epitome of farm-to-fork, opened at Jordan’s Farm. Jason Williams, a Culinary Institute of America grad and a sous chef at Back Bay Grill, used to come to the farm regularly to purchase fresh produce. He was ready to open a restaurant of his own, so he approached the Jordan family with a unique concept: a mobile kitchen (That met deed restrictions in the easement).
“I wasn’t thinking food truck,” he says. He had no plans to drive it from location to location. His goal was to be on a farm. “The whole idea was to be the town cook,” he says. He says he overbuilt the kitchen (complete with wood-burning oven), but it allows him to make everything from scratch. He can walk outside and handpick fresh vegetables, so diners are truly getting farm to table fare.
Chef Williams prepares a four-item menu, and those fortunate enough to snag one of the stools on the porch looking into the kitchen can watch him at work preparing it. Guests order at the counter, then choose a picnic table on the grounds. Jordan says she hopes to add a gazebo for 2012 to help shelter diners from the elements.
The Well at Jordan’s Farm is seasonal and cash-only. Iced tea is available, but beyond that bring your own beverage. A kid’s menu is available.