Gloria Varney, co-owner of Nezinscot Farm in Turner, said Wednesday that she is thrilled the farm was honored by the James Beard Foundation. The America’s Classics Award is given by the foundation “to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.” Steve Collins/Sun Journal

TURNER — When Gloria Varney got a call last week from the James Beard Foundation to say her family farm’s restaurant had been chosen for one of its six America’s Classics Awards, she couldn’t believe it.

Like most people, she thought of James Beard in connection with fancy chefs and costly cookbooks, not a little cafe in rural Maine.

Even so, Varney was thrilled with the news and had a hard time keeping it to herself until Wednesday’s announcement that Nezinscot Farm at 284 Turner Center Road had been chosen the Northeast Region winner in the annual contest.

She said she was told it is the first time a farm has received recognition for its food.

The America’s Classics Award is given by the foundation “to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community.”

Few doubt the farm owned by Gloria and Gregg Varney fits the bill.


Founded three decades ago, the farm began as the first organic dairy in the Pine Tree State, but it has grown ever since — now encompassing a gourmet food shop, a cafe and coffee shop, a bakery, a fromageries, a charcuterie, and a yarn and fiber studio.

“Growing the food is my passion,” Varney said during a brief talk Wednesday that took her out of the kitchen.

The foundation said it honored the Varneys’ farm because the cafe “has something beautiful and exciting on every shelf — cases of homemade cheeses and meats, bagels, freshly baked pies, and perfect breads rolling out the kitchen, topped with farm eggs and homemade sausage and cheeses.”

The Nezinscot Farm store at 284 Turner Center Road in Turner offers a wide variety of products, from sandwiches to pie. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

“The energy behind it all feels directed at building community, with delicious homemade everything (even the teas, even the crackers) serving as the vital instrument of creating and sustaining that gathering,” the foundation said.

It also recognized the community reach of the farm over the years.

“The Varneys feed the community in many ways, significantly providing a warm space to gather around food on a farm in the middle of Maine,” the foundation said.


For Gloria Varney, tying her farm and its food together is only natural.

She said she is happy that the award will help focus attention on locally produced food and the tight ties between farm and table.

Though the cafe’s menu is full of staples, from egg sandwiches to cheeseburgers, it’s a long way from the fast-food chains.

Varney said the food comes from the 250-acre farm across the street and is often made with old family recipes that give the food something special.

The bread, she said, is baked on the property.

The chickens, hogs and other animals are raised nearby instead of being hauled across the country in poor conditions.


“It’s all handmade,” Varney said.

The foundation was also impressed that Nezinscot Farm, in the family for a century, “takes its name, shared by a nearby river, from the Abenaki word signifying a place to gather. The Abenaki name is seemingly also a mission for the Varneys.”

The Beard Foundation said this year’s honorees join the ranks of more than 100 restaurants across the country that have received the award since the category was introduced in 1998. They will be formally honored at a ceremony in Chicago in June.

“The mission of the James Beard Awards is to celebrate excellence and that means recognizing the incredible work of long-standing restaurants that play such a crucial role in our communities, as our America’s Classics winners do,” Clare Reichenbach, chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement.

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