August 10, 2011

Soup to Nuts:
Farm to table, the Miyake way

Eminent Portland chef Masa Miyake is living his dream of producing meat and vegetables for his restaurants on his own farm in Freeport.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Chef Masa Miyake prepares lunch at his restaurant on Fore Street in Portland. This summer some of the food served at Miyake’s two restaurants has been produced at the farm behind his home in Freeport.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Chad Conley, seen here with quail chicks, manages the Miyake Farm in Freeport.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

"Guinea hen, nobody has that dish here. But they are challenging. The first (challenge) is I find them very noisy," Miyake said, laughing.

Miyake Farm is also raising pastured turkeys, quail, Pekin ducks, Rhode Island reds and blue Swedish ducks.

More than 100 quail are kept in two pens, and the male's whistling calls can be heard all over the farm. In one pen are birds that were hatched and shipped from a factory; in the other are birds from a local source. The local birds are two weeks younger, but about twice the size of the factory birds.

The birds will reach their slaughter weight at about eight weeks, but they reach sexual maturity at six weeks. So, for two weeks, the restaurants have been getting quail eggs. Conley recently decided to pull out a dozen or so healthy females before slaughter and keep them for a constant supply of eggs.

About three dozen Rhode Island reds share their pen with blue Swedish ducks that are being raised for eggs and a small pig named Icha. ("It means 'cute love' in Japanese," Conley says.) Icha, just a quarter the size of her siblings, was the runt of the litter, and has now become something of a mascot for the farm. She had health problems, so Conley moved her in with the chickens to get her away from the other pigs and their porcine bullying.

The laying hens are depositing their eggs in a mobile cart designed by Coleman (who's known for his mobile greenhouses) and built by Conley. They have dubbed it a "chicksaw" because it can be easily moved around the pasture by one person.

The details are still being finalized, but the farm may expand to 66 acres in Buxton sometime after Labor Day. More land would allow the farm to raise more pastured birds.

"I feel like we could sustainably raise between 700 and 900 birds using this system," Conley said. "We would like to have our own slaughterhouse so that we can process our own birds. That's something that would be great to get all the cooks involved with, and other employees in the company."

Running its own slaughtering operation means a substantial investment, so the farm would have to raise birds to sell to restaurants and other buyers.

PLAYING IN THE GARDEN

The 2,000-square-foot garden is already large enough to supply vegetables for both of Miyake's restaurants. An unfinished hoop house sits at one end; it will be used to grow greens this winter.

Conley says that during this first summer, he's "just kind of playing around" in this chemical-free garden.

"The chefs, since they can use whatever I produce, I'm kind of having fun," he said. "I'm trying three different varieties of daikon right now."

Conley is trying out some Japanese herbs and vegetables, using seed from Kitazawa Seed Company in Oakland, Calif. Stepping gingerly between rows, he points out some mibuna, a Japanese green that grows about a foot tall and produces tight clusters of long, dark-green leaves.

There are also a few different chois and tat sois in the mix, and the small scallions the Japanese call negi.

"This is a nice one," Conley says as he points out another bunch of greens. "It's called ha gobo. Gobo is a burdock root, and this is a variety that's grown for its leaves."

There is Tokyo bekana (the Japanese version of a small Chinese cabbage), dwarf bok choi and Gai Lan, also known as Chinese broccoli. "They produce a single stem that you just blanch, and it's super crunchy, juicy," Conley said.

(Continued on page 4)

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Additional Photos

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Miyake Farm manager Chad Conley inspects a daikon plant. Conley is experimenting with three different varieties of the Japanese radish this season.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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The Miyake Farm in Freeport is also home to chickens, guinea hens, turkeys, ducks and these happy pigs.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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A flock of blue Swedish ducks, which are being raised for eggs.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer



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