By MICHELE GRAHAM
Photography by CHICHI UBIÑA
There’s a whole lot of deliciousness growing at Versailles Farms in backcountry Greenwich. In fact, there’s so much fresh flavorful bounty, the local produce gracing the tables at several Greenwich country clubs is now available to the public at the Versailles Farms’ Summer Stand.
Versailles Farms is the loving homestead of Ingrid and Steve McMenamin. The pair, former owners of Versailles Bistro, embraced seasonal cuisine. On trips researching the farm-to-table movement in Italy and France, they saw the potential to use intensive farming techniques at home. In 2012, they purchased the 6-acre former Yale Farms and literally dug in. “This is the best soil for growing,” says Steve. “Our area was the breadbasket for New York through the 1900’s until houses started to be built here.”
As the only fully operational local farm, Versailles Farms has a devout following. Chefs adore their vegetables’ and herbs’ intense flavors and gem-like quality. The McMenamin’s motto is to grow for flavor, not size. Just some of what’s available now: delicate, tangy, and luscious Ramapo tomatoes; deep dark Italian parsley; crunchy crisp cucumbers; sweet slender carrots; golden-flesh beets; and pungent wild arugula.
Come September, the “cole crops” will come into season starting with brussel sprouts, quickly followed by escarole, broccoli rabe, cabbage, and Asian greens such as mizuna and pac choy.
Don’t be deceived by the farm’s flowers—they’re edible too—from clean tasting marigolds to peppery whirlybirds to fragrant lavender. Of course, if you want to decorate the table, there are giant zinnias, gladiolas, and other cutting flowers. Steve is extremely excited by his new turmeric seedlings from Hawaii as well. “I was on a waiting list to get these seeds. Now people can take home the plantings.”
Ingrid is not only the muscle and heart of the farm, she’s also the resident beekeeper with eight hives. Her small-batch raw honey bursts with natural sweetness and health benefits. When not on the farm, Ingrid chairs the Science Committee at The Bruce Museum. Steve is elbow-to-elbow with his wife and also manages the farm’s operations. An early partner at Bloomberg, Steve’s other activities include being the executive director of The Greenwich Roundtable and overseeing his family investment office.
The couple gets abundant yields thanks to French intensive gardening methods and the square inch gardening method used in China, Nepal, and Vietnam. It’s all by hand and very labor intensive. No tractors. “We grow on 1.5 acres what a traditional farm would grow on 12,” reports Steve. They use permaculture to rejuvenate the land and focus on short maturity plants. Altogether, Versailles Farms produces 52 varieties of crops.
The farm stand opened for the first time this season. “Our first weekend, we had 300 people,” says Steve. Clearly, fresh, local, and flavorful has a big fan base.
Versailles Farms’ Summer Stand is located at 56 Locust Road in Greenwich and is open 9am-7pm every Saturday and Sunday.