Force of Nature

Local farmers are increasingly employing a technique to improve food from the ground up
Words By Alexandra Hall
Photos By Lauryn Hottinger

It’s no secret that growing phenomenal veggies starts with healthy soil. And for that—and for keeping carbon out of the atmosphere—farmers like Rose Avenia of Bar Harbor Farm have a secret weapon: cover crops.

“We’re keeping more and more of our soil covered with as many living plants as possible,” explains Rose. “Doing that increases organic matter because they die and become food for the microbes, and those help trap carbon in the soil.”

The team at Bar Harbor Farm uses living plants as cover crops, boosting the microbial complexity of its soil. The farm produces more than 60 varieties of organic vegetables for MDI’s community.

It also increases the soil’s biodiversity, making it more resilient and able to withstand erosion. And all of that, says Rose, “creates better conditions for plants, and then healthier animals and people who eat it.”

The results of that win-win scenario are as bountiful as they are delicious—Bar Harbor Farm’s vegetables range from sweet peas and fat cukes to crunchy Chinese cabbage. Learn more about their farm shares at, or order up dishes spotlighting their veggies at local restaurants like the Asticou Inn and Jordan Pond House.

Find an easy recipe for Pressed Chinese Cabbage Salad at

Pressed Chinese Cabbage Salad

Adapted from Mary Estella’s Natural Foods Cookbook
Makes 2–3 servings

½ Chinese cabbage, thinly sliced
2 medium to large carrots, grated
½ cup toasted sunflower seeds

Onion-Dill Dressing

3 tablespoons grated onion (1 small onion)
2 tablespoons vinegar (rice vinegar is best)
2 tablespoons sesame or olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh dill and/or parsley
½ teaspoon salt

Place cabbage and carrots in a mixing bowl. Mix Onion-Dill Dressing ingredients. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss.

Place a plate that fits inside the bowl on top of cabbage, and put a weight (like a heavy jar) on the plate to press salad and leave for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The longer the cabbage is pressed, the softer and sweeter it will become. Stir in the toasted sunflower seeds and toss again before serving.

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