Nezinscot Farm’s Café selected as regional winner of James Beard Foundation’s annual America’s Classics Awards
Gloria Varney, co-owner of Nezinscot Farm in Turner, like many others, associated the name “James Beard” with culinary awards, along with top dining spots and chefs. Until now.
The farm’s café was recently selected as one of six winners of the James Beard Foundation’s 2023 America’s Classics Awards. The café was singled out as the Northeast Region winner.
“I have always been aware of the James Beard award, as it applied to highly recognized restaurants and their chefs, as well as cookbooks around the country,” Varney said. “I was not aware there was an additional category that awards unique settings and cafés such as ours.”
Varney is told this is the first time a farm has been recognized in this way. The America’s Classics Award is given by the foundation “to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.”
Connection With Local Food
Gloria and Gregg Varney purchased Nezinscot Farm, a Real Maine member, from Gregg’s parents in 1987. Through the years, the Varneys have expanded Nezinscot, the first organic dairy in the state, to include a café and bakery, farm store, gourmet food shop, fromagerie, charcuterie, and fiber studio.
According to Varney, creating and maintaining the store and café is a way to connect the farm’s products and atmosphere to the public, and helps to illustrate a link with local food.
“The creation of the farm store, and café, for me, is probably the best way to educate and expose people to not only farm life, but more importantly, the importance of knowing where your food comes from,” Varney said. “In order to do that, I needed to offer people the opportunity to sit at our table and enjoy a meal with friends and family, while my staff and I mindfully created meals made in house with much of the ingredients either grown and or made at the farm.”
The café’s menu outlines ingredients that are produced on the farm that are included in dishes, such as eggs, milk, cheese, bread, beef, lamb, chicken, pork, goat, bone broth, vegetables (fresh, frozen, and canned), pickles, sauces, relishes, and jams and jellies.
Varney said her skills in baking, cheese masking, butchering, artisanal bread making, and food processing “come from over 40 years of being self-taught, as well as growing up on a self-sufficient, diversified family farm in Livermore, Maine.”
The foundation said the Varneys’ store and café “has something beautiful and exciting on every shelf” and “the energy behind it all feels directed at building community.” The foundation also spotlighted the way “The Varneys significantly provide a warm space to gather around food on a farm in the middle of Maine.”
This year’s America’s Classics honorees, who will be recognized at a ceremony in Chicago in June, join the ranks of more than 100 restaurants across the country that have received the award since the category was introduced in 1998.
Varney said receiving an America’s Classics Award “signifies to the country and Maine a reminder of the importance of the role that farms play in food security and local economies.”
“Supporting a local and regional food system amplifies the benefits to communities and businesses around the country, while helping to secure a way of life that has been struggling to compete against industrial models,” Varney said. “I hope this award allows for the momentum in this direction to continue.”