If you look closely at the menu the next time you are at Vino e Vivo, you might notice some of the vegetables are from the Governor Dale Farm in North Hampton.
And there’s a good chance that server Miranda Gagnon not only started them as seedlings but harvested them herself.
The 28-year-old Campton, New Hampshire native has been working at the farm for two years and at Vino e Vivo since the summer of 2021. Working on the farm, where she’s found a certain type of peace getting her hands into the dirt, and with the pace of growing vegetables, which has become her passion.
But she admits that there is something kind of thrilling about seeing Chef Paul Callahan and his team prepare the food she’s grown. She enjoys seeing guests react to lesser-known vegetables like the hakurei turnips, a Japanese variety root vegetable with a mild flavor and natural sweetness.
“People never know what it is on the plate, and I can say “I actually grew that,” she said, adding “Chef Paul does a great job preparing it.”
The chef said he likes the quality and flavor the local vegetables bring to the menu. “The sizes are usually smaller and more flavorful, especially with things like zucchini and eggplant or cherry tomatoes,” he said, adding the late summer vegetables are something special. “I love this time of year because the weather gets cooler and the sugar content in vegetables get more pronounced.”
Miranda first met Josh Andrews, the head farmer at Governor Dale Farm, a historic farm located on Post Road in North Hampton, at her last job which got produce from him. “Josh has an open-door policy and invited me to come by whenever I wanted to,” she said. “And then, I’d just come here and sit and have a coffee in the grass and realized that I just really liked it here.”
When she was in the process of leaving her prior job, Josh was also desperately in need of help on the farm, and she jumped at the chance to take on a more permanent role there.
“My mother always had a garden when I was growing up and we also had chickens,” she said. “I worked as a landscaper for a few years and I’m just happy being outside. This is where I feel like a real person.”
The market garden features three acres of bio-intensive field production and three high tunnels for season-extending production. The property was originally owned and built by New Hampshire’s Governor (1945-1949), Charles M. Dale. They grow fresh produce, herbs, and flowers using regenerative agriculture practices with a focus on soil health.
She had dreams of doing conservation biology and being a field biologist, but it proved to be a little bit tougher than she anticipated to find projects. That combined with the financial realities of living on the Seacoast led her to her dual life as farmer during the day and server extraordinaire in the evenings.
She enjoys the atmosphere at Vino e Vivo.
“It’s definitely a totally different kind of service than other restaurants I’ve been at. There’s actually a lot of effort put into actually making people feel comfortable, it really is about the experience here not just the food or the wine or just getting out of the house,” she said, though both the food and wine are some of the best that she has tried. “I feel proud of all of the food I’m putting out which is something I can’t say for some of the other restaurants I’ve worked at.”
The farm also supplies vegetables through their own CSA, the Three Rivers Farmers Alliance and to a host of other restaurants, including the Black Trumpet in Portsmouth. Josh Andrews, the head farmer, explained that he was able to expand production this year thanks to some grant money the farm’s owners were able to get. This led to a 50 percent increase in production this year. “I think it’s going to be a pretty big highlight for us with the addition of jack o’ lanterns, winter squash and potatoes,” he said.
A small herd of Scottish highlander cows also call the farm home and prior to the vegetable gardens, the land was used for animal hay. They broke ground for the vegetable farm in 2019 and have overcome obstacles along the way such as the drought in 2020 and this summer.
The Chelmsford, Mass., native ended up in farming after realizing he didn’t want to stay in the restaurant industry with the long hours and lack of outside time.
“I had no desire to be a chef or career dishwasher, though I am a good dishwasher,” he said. “But what it did bring me was the work ethic in the restaurant and it brought me closer to food, so I guess farming dovetailed with that. It was escapism and a new opportunity.”