A Delightful Conversation with James Barnes at Cape Abilities Farm, Cape Cod, MA

by Marisa Olsen in , , , ,


Earlier this summer at a family dinner party, I had the pleasure of meeting James Barnes, the Farm Manager at Cape Abilities Farm on Cape Cod, MA. After tasting the fresh tomatoes and other vegetables in my aunt's nicoise salad that evening, I knew I needed to know more about the farm and its mission.  

Here's what Farm Manager James had to say:

What is Cape Abilities Farm?

Cape Abilities Farm is part of Cape Abilities Inc. (CA), a nonprofit organization that has been supporting people with disabilities on Cape Cod since the 1960s. The Farm was founded in 2006 as a place of employment for people with disabilities.  Fewer than 10 people worked at the farm the first year -- last year more than 100 individuals with disabilities received a check from the farm for meaningful work.

CA Farm is the collision of agriculture and human services. We want the farm to be profitable, but we also measure the success of the farm by the professional development of our workers. 

CA Farm resides in two locations now -- Dennis, MA and Marstons Mills, MA. The Dennis location includes the hydroponics farm and farm stand. Marstons Mills includes the soil farming location. 

How big is the farm?

Dennis is six acres consisting of five hydroponics greenhouses. We have produced close to 20,000 lbs of tomatoes so far this year at the hydroponics farm. 

Marstons Mills is 12 acres. We are using about half of the space at this farm right now.

What's the best time to visit the farm?

In June we have all of the flowers that we grow on display, and our greenhouses almost at full vegetable production. Although I very much enjoy a visit in February when there is snow on the ground and the tomato plants are four feet tall in the greenhouse.

What sort of crops are you harvesting?

We are known primarily for our tomatoes, but we grow a wide range of crops: peppers, eggplant, mixed salad greens, bibb lettuce, kale, melons, squash, beets, radishes, broccoli,  and cucumbers.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable to harvest, and why? 

I'm addicted to tomatoes -- growing them, eating them, talking about them. I get made fun of on twitter @farmerbarnesy for my obsession with the tomato. I hated tomatoes when I was a kid. I used to pull the cheese off the pizza completely and use only butter on my pasta just to avoid tomatoes. I'm pretty sure it all changed when I was working at The Land Exhibit at Disney World. We grew 20-foot tall tomatoes and I could take whatever I wanted, and I was super poor (first job after college) so it was food. Now I make at least five tomato-topped frittatas a week. I'm also gluten-free, so I guess you could say I'm using eggs as my pizza dough. My vegetable garden at home is a little over-the-top; the frittata allows me to whisk some eggs and top with the morning's harvest and  . . . away we go!

Would you share one of your favorite recipes?

One of my favorite frittatas (when harvest permits):

In at least a 10-inch heavy skillet, saute 1/4 of a red onion and 1 diced jalapeno pepper

Whisk four eggs.


Pour the eggs over the onions and peppers at medium heat.



Add as many slices of Striped German heirloom tomato as it takes to cover the eggs. I usually dry the tomato slices a bit on a paper towel, so the frittata doesn't get too wet.

Place the skillet under the broiler for 1 minute.

Top the frittata with a couple of tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese and a handful of low-moisture shredded mozzarella. 

Place the skillet back under the broiler for another 1-3 minutes.

I usually leave the recipe-making up to the Les Foodites of the world, but this frittata brings me great joy. I don't have much time in the morning, so the fact that I can bang this out in 15 minutes (post harvest) makes this dish dear to me. 

Learn more:

Visit Capeabilities.org for more info on the farm and the mission to support adults with disabilities across Cape Cod.

Also check out James' blog, Farmstanza.com, where he discusses growing more food with less, touching upon many of the contentious issues (bees, GMOs, sustainability) surrounding the global food supply, from the perspective of the farmer and home gardener.