EAST LYME — “Where else have you seen Swiss chard this size?” asked Kent Girty, farm manager at White Gate Farm, as he examined glistening dark green leaves threaded with crimson that grew in a long row alongside other vegetables in the chilly Friday morning sunshine.
“And then we have broccoli, then kale and cauliflower and then two other iterations of cauliflower,” said Girty, pointing to other rows of vegetables. “We plant multiple iterations so that when crop is done, we have others, so it extends the season,” he said.
In another row grew parsnips and in another next year’s strawberries — all 100 percent certified organic. “And when you get it at our farm stand, you’re getting it the day before or the day of,” he said.
Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 to 5, the farm’s store is open, where customers can find a cornucopia of seasonal vegetables, like squash and carrots, and fresh greens grown both outdoors and in the farm’s greenhouses. Also available are organic chickens and eggs, grown on the farm, and quiches, pesto, hummus and a special garlic dip, all made on-site.
Smoke drifting through the sky came from the farm’s wood-fired oven where the farm chef bakes bread, that Girty said adds a layer of complexity to the flavor. The farm’s baked goods often include a farm ingredient, such as cupcakes made with kale or chocolate cake made with beets.
The nearby kitchen, housed within the farm’s 7-bedroom inn, which dates back to 1785, will soon gear up for Thanksgiving pies — featuring apple, pumpkin and pecan — available for pre-order.
“We have five acres under cultivation and we would like to cultivate more, but the problem is there’s huge rock formations,” Girty said, “You see through the hill there, that’s a giant rock, it runs the whole length just behind those trees, and we can’t push this way because of ledge and that way is a marsh and that way is Lake Pattagansett.”
Bordered by gently decaying stone walls originating in the 1700s, the farm still has its original ice house on Pattagansett Lake that has been converted into a guest cottage. From 1934 to 1962, Elsie Ferguson, a silent film star, owned the property and operated a dairy farm known as White Gate Farm. In 1975, Ruth Lord purchased the farm and in 1999 her daughter, Pauline Lord, and David Harlow, Pauline’s husband, began to operate the farm, which became certified organic in 2000.
The farm now supports five full-time jobs and 10 seasonal or part-time jobs, said Girty, who has been working there for five years. He said there were three full-time and three part-time employees when he started, reflecting the farm’s growth.
For the holidays, Girty said the farm sells garlands and decorations as well as mince pies, cranberry sauces, stuffings, and sweet breads.
“A lot of people think mince pies are meat — no, mince pies are dried fruits, a super-rich, buttery fruit compote if-you-will inside a house-made butter crust, drenched in rum,” he said. “If it calls for one tablespoon, I say put in two because it makes it taste so good.”
In the farm store, Girty pointed to the stacks of empty pie boxes ready to go.
“We’ll go through those, it’s a constant battle to make enough,” he said.
For more information, go to www.whitegatefarm.net