Exeter waiter Vino e Vivo and hand of Governor Dale Farm embrace the farm-to-table lifestyle

NORTH HAMPTON – If you look closely at the menu the next time you go to Vino e Vivo in Exeter or Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, you might notice that some of the vegetables come from Governor Dale Farm in North Hampton.

If you’re at the restaurant in Exeter, chances are waitress Miranda Gagnon not only started them as seedlings, but harvested them herself.

The 28-year-old Campton, New Hampshire native has worked at the farm for two years and at Vino e Vivo since the summer of 2021. Working at the farm, where she has found some type of peace by putting her hands in the land, and to the rhythm of growing vegetables, which has become his passion.

But she admits there’s something exciting about watching Vino e Vivo chef Paul Callahan and his team prepare the food she’s grown. She loves seeing guests react to lesser-known vegetables like hakurei turnips, a Japanese-variety root vegetable with a mild flavor and natural sweetness.

“People never know what’s on the plate, and I can say ‘I grew this,'” she said, adding that “Chef Paul does a great job for the to prepare “.

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The chef said he liked the quality and flavor that local vegetables bring to the menu.

“The sizes are usually smaller and tastier, especially with things like zucchini and eggplant or cherry tomatoes,” he said, adding that late summer vegetables are something special. “I like this time of year because the weather gets colder and the sugar content of vegetables becomes more pronounced.”

Miranda Gagnon works as a farmhand at Gov.  Dale Farm in North Hampton by day and waitress at Vino e Vivo in Exeter by night.

Miranda first met Josh Andrews, the head farmer at Governor Dale Farm, a historic farm on Post Road in North Hampton, at his last job which earned him produce.

“Josh has an open door policy and invited me to come whenever I wanted,” she said. “And then I would just come here and sit and have a coffee in the grass and realize that I really like it here.”

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When she was about to quit her previous job, Josh was also in desperate need of help on the farm, and she jumped at the chance to take on a more permanent role there.

“My mum always had a garden when I was little and we also had chickens,” she said. “I worked as a landscaper for a few years and I’m just happy to be outdoors. This is where I feel like a real person.

The market garden includes three acres of bio-intensive production and three large tunnels for production that extends the season. The property was originally owned and built by Charles M. Dale, who served as Governor of New Hampshire from 1945 to 1949. They grow fresh produce, herbs and flowers using health-focused regenerative agricultural practices soils.

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She had dreams of doing conservation biology and being a field biologist, but finding projects turned out to be a little more difficult than expected. This, combined with the financial realities of life on the coast, led her to her double life as a farmer during the day and an amazing waitress at night. She appreciates the atmosphere of Vino e Vivo.

“It’s definitely a totally different type of service than other restaurants I’ve been to,” she said. “There’s actually a lot of effort to make people feel comfortable, it’s really about the experience here, not just the food or the wine or just getting out of the house.”

She said the food and wine are some of the best she has tried.

“I’m proud of all the food I make, which I can’t say for some of the other restaurants I’ve worked at,” she said.

The farm also supplies vegetables through its own CSA, the Three Rivers Farmers Alliance, and to a host of other restaurants, including Black Trumpet in Portsmouth. Josh Andrews, the head farmer, said he was able to boost production this year thanks to a grant the farm owners were able to secure. This has led to a 50% increase in production this year.

“I think that will be a big highlight for us with the addition of pumpkins, winter squash and potatoes,” he said.

Miranda Gagnon works as a farmhand at Gov.  Dale Farm in North Hampton by day and waitress at Vino e Vivo in Exeter by night.

A small herd of Scottish highland cows also inhabit the farm and prior to the vegetable gardens the land was used for animal hay. They started the vegetable farm in 2019 and overcame obstacles along the way like drought in 2020 and this summer.

The Chelmsford, Massachusetts native found himself in farming after realizing he didn’t want to stay in the restaurant industry with the long hours and lack of time outdoors.

“I had no desire to be a chef or a career dishwasher, although I was a good dishwasher,” he said. “But what it got me was the work ethic in the restaurant and it brought me closer to the food, so I guess farming fit with that. It was escape and a new opportunity.