Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 30, 2018
Yellow Birch Farm offers unique dining option
Chef Will Ternay harvests herbs and flowers to enhance the color and flavor of the menu he designed for the farm to table dinner on Friday, August 24.
by Tina Oddleifson
For those looking for a different kind of dining experience, the seasonal dinners served at Yellow Birch Farm on Deer Isle, should be at the top of the list.
“Farm-to-table” does not adequately describe the entire experience that owners Missy Greene and Eric Ziner have created for guests at their farm and gallery on Reach Road. A unique combination of farm and food, as well as artwork, color, and light work together to create a larger artistic experience, setting it apart from anything else in the region. In addition to the fresh food, the intimate setting inside a post and beam barn, surrounded by warm light and fine crafts, creates a feast for all the senses.
The weekly dinners for just 16 people, offered from late July to mid-September, are made from the vegetables, fruits, herbs, meats and cheeses produced on the MOFGA certified organic farm. “We purposely kept the dinners small, because the opportunity to socialize in an intimate setting offered two degrees of separation, people are surprised at their connections,” says Ziner.
The evening begins when guests gather for a craft cocktail, followed by a farm tour with Ziner, who describes the cultivation methods, irrigation systems, tools and timing used to produce their crops. The property encompasses 52 acres, with just one acre used for several high tunnel greenhouses, gardens and orchards that produce an impressive amount of fruits and vegetables. Forty-two Alpine goats produce the milk used in the farm’s signature cheeses, soaps, lotions, and cajeta—a Mexican caramel sauce. Fresh eggs are also available, and the products can be purchased at the farm, as well as area farmers markets and restaurants. Visitors are welcomed five days a week, and the farm offers educational tours and activities for school groups and others.
Both Greene and Ziner have successful careers as artists working with ceramics and metal, and they have been part of the Deer Isle art scene for 28 years. But over time the market for fine crafts slowed, and the couple found themselves growing vegetables to supplement their income. “When people came to the gallery, we used to give the food away,” said Greene, “but when they stopped buying art, we took an ad out in the paper advertising our farm stand and it started to grow.“
The dinners at the farm began in 2011, when friends encouraged them to combine their fresh food with the skills of a professional chef. This year, Chef Will Ternay, III creates the weekly menu that highlights the farm’s bounty. A native of Philadelphia, Ternay spent summers on Deer Isle when his parents attended the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and where Ternay worked in the kitchen. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Ternay has worked with top-rated restaurants and catering operations, most notably One Market Place in San Francisco, with Chef Bradley Ogden, and Striped Bass restaurant in Philadelphia, where he served as Executive Chef. Ternay was also the premier Food Stylist for the Discovery Channel’s series “Epicurious.” The food he presents has its own artistry, further enhancing the experience enjoyed by guests.
At a Q&A with Greene and Ziner following the meal, it was clear that running the farm and hosting the dinners takes hard work and dedication. In addition to the help from Ternay, they also have two seasonal interns, who work long hours alongside the couple. “But your giant reward for the work is the beauty of the food and having people enjoy it,” said Greene. “That’s why we do this,” added Ziner.