On the coast of Maine, where winter temperatures can go well below freezing and stay there for daysweeksat a time, winter gardening mostly involves spreading seed catalogs out on the kitchen table and dreaming of May and June. But not for Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman, who live down past Blue Hill, a town on the east side of Penobscot Bay, on one of those long, rocky peninsulas for which Maine is renowned. I dropped in on the couplepartners in life as well as in the enterprise they call Four Season Farmjust before lunch one gray day last February, when storm clouds lowered and a chill wind whipped the ocean waves to a froth. I found them out in one of their unheated plastic-covered greenhouses, in shirtsleeves and sweating slightly as they harvested a surfeit of organically grown salad greens along with baby beets, little white Hakurei turnips and candy-sweet Napoli carrots.
Over the past several years, Damrosch and Coleman have built a thriving business as producers and purveyors of extraordinary winter vegetables, which they raise without major inputs of heat, extra light or growth-promoting chemicals. In the process they have become acclaimedthrough their books, lectures and television appearancesas partisans of sustainably produced high-quality food. The key to their approach can be expressed in three words: Organic. Local. Authentic.
"We Americans have grown to depend on winter crops from California and Florida," Coleman told me over a bowl of Damrosch's hot, creamy butternut squash soup. "We've built highways and transport systems to get them to market; we even subsidize the water for irrigation. And it's our taxes that are paying."