Even among farmers who are known to work from sunup to sundown, the Munson men—Chris, Bob, and Mike—stand out. From 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. on weekdays, brothers Mike, 44, and Chris, 42, devote themselves to the family’s 100-acre spread, planting and caring for scores of vegetables, including 25 varieties of corn. Then the pair throw on their oxfords and go to work as engineers. On weekends, they kick back by (ahem) tending the crops. For the brothers, though, this tremendous effort is worth it. “We stay with the farm because we love it,” says Mike. It’s a sentiment shared by their dad, Bob, 69, who opened the family’s stand at the Boulder Farmers’ Market in 1976: “You sit on your back porch surrounded by family, eating tasty food, looking out on green fields, and you think, This is a good life.”
Mike’s wife, Joan, likes to make this soup with white corn. “It’s the creamiest variety,” says Mike. “The roasted poblano pepper adds just a little heat and smokiness.”
Like a carefully curated still life, Greg Brown’s table at the Decatur Farmers Market is a study in gorgeous shapes and colors. “Anything that pleases his eye inspires him,” says his wife, Maeda. And so he fills his booth with unusual produce, such as blue popping corn, yellow stuffing tomatoes (“They’re hollow inside,” says Greg), and sweet chocolate peppers (“They look like brown bell peppers but have a richer flavor”). Fiercely independent, he prefers to work alone. “Out in the fields, it’s just me and my dog, Blue,” says Greg, 48. “He goes and sits in the shade—he’s the smart one."
For Greg, crostini are love. To woo his future wife, he whipped up this tangy, eye-popping combo. It worked—they’ve been married for seven years.
“If my children will eat it, I will grow it,” says Rebecca Miller, 45, who sells a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes and specialty greens at the West Tisbury Farmers Market. (Fortunately, her kids—Sadie, 13; Ruby, 11; and Joshua, 7—aren’t picky eaters.) Rebecca will even overlook her own food preferences to please her children: Although she is a vegetarian, Rebecca and her husband, Matthew Dix, 44, were willing to raise goats, pigs, and chickens when Joshua decided to eat meat. Why? Says Rebecca, “I want our kids to understand where all their food comes from.”
“Each type of heirloom tomato has its own distinct taste,” says Rebecca of this easy dish. “By leaving them raw and accompanying them with a mild cheese like ricotta, their individual flavors come through.”
At 25, Nick Usner may be one of the youngest members of Crescent City Farmers Market, in New Orleans, but he’s no novice. When he was 15, his dad passed away, leaving Nick and his mother to tend the family’s vegetable garden, chickens, and 35 dairy goats by themselves. In the years that followed, Nick turned to a group of local old-timers for guidance in the field. “They’ve been farming every day of their lives for five, six, seven decades,” he says. “You have to learn from them while you can.” Selling his organic produce in the market is important to Nick: “Both my parents were New Orleans natives, so it makes me proud to be a positive force in the community.”
Tomato salsa? Sure. Peach salsa? OK. But squash salsa? “Yes, it’s unusual,” admits Nick. “I came up with it a few years ago, when I wanted salsa but didn’t have any tomatoes. It’s phenomenal with fish.”
For 20 years, Matt Romero was an executive chef at a number of renowned restaurants in Colorado and New Mexico. Now he supplies professionals and home cooks alike with more than 75 kinds of vegetables. Among his best sellers at the Santa Fe Farmers Market: eight types of eggplant, including a slender Japanese variety (“Great for grilling,” says Matt) and a striped Indian kind the size of a golf ball (“Good to throw into curries”). Moving from the kitchen to the farm was natural, says the father of three: “I wanted to follow my dream—and get home in time for supper with my kids.”
Looking for a new way to make a vegetarian sandwich, Matt got the idea to replace the bread with fried eggplant. Knife and fork are optional. “It has just enough crispness that you can hold it in your hands,” he says. Get the recipe forMatt Romero’s Eggplant “Sandwiches.”
6 of 7Katherine Wolkoff
From: Burkart Farms, Dinuba, California
In 1973, long before organic became a buzzword, Richard Burkart’s parents grew stone fruits without chemical pesticides and peddled them at farmers’ markets. Today Richard, 50, continues the tradition, tending 100 acres of organic peaches, nectarines, and more, which he sells at the Santa Monica Farmers Market (among others). Even with the job’s inevitable ups and downs, he couldn’t imagine another life. “I’m not the type who could handle working in a cubicle all day,” says Richard. “I like that I’m doing something that’s important to me: feeding people good, healthy food.”
When she was a high school home-economics teacher, Richard’s mother, Irene, invented this dessert—a simple play on baked Alaska in which fruit, rather than cake, is the star. “I had to come up with recipes the students could make and eat before the bell rang,” she says.
From: Rose's Berry Farm, South Glastonbury, Connecticut
Blueberries and pears. For many years, that’s all Sandi Rose, 56, and her late husband, Henry, grew. “But with farming, you know that something is going to go wrong every year,” she says. “That’s why I try to spread the risk among a variety of crops.” As a result, her table at New Haven’s Wooster Square Farmers’ Market offers an enticing seasonal array: potted annuals and strawberries in spring, raspberries and blackberries in summer, and apples and pumpkins in the fall. For decades Henry handled “the growing part of the business.” Taking over from him after he died in 2008, says Sandi, was frightening: “I had to take a step off a cliff. But now I’ve learned to fly.”
“I’m not much of a baker, but this light, fruity cake is so easy, even I can make it,” says Sandi of this breakfast treat, which was inspired by a recipe she found online.