by Caitlyn Johnstone
April 27, 2018
Know Good Farm may have the market cornered on pulling together the flavor of their bayside town. Farmer Carol Bean and waterman Mark Connolly, her husband and business partner, use their different forms of food gathering to make Know Good a preferred source for not only heirloom tomatoes, duck eggs and microgreens, but oysters and clams. It’s one of the first operations to ever offer a taste of both land and sea, marrying two iconic local industries and making Know Good the spot for a true taste of St. Michaels, Maryland.
Bean and Connolly’s nine-acre property makes it clear their business is just an extension of their way of life. Muscovy ducks wander amongst the farm equipment and between flower beds. Chickens of every color speed towards the green house, while in contrast a black cat takes a lazy nap on a cushioned bench.
The majority of what this husband and wife pair eats is from the land—vegetables and berries from their farm, meat from birds they raise, shellfish and game meat. They find it a more fulfilling way of life, and it continues to provide new revelations.
“I thought I hated turkey,” says Bean. “I didn’t know why anyone would eat it, but all I’d had was the dry turkeys from the store.” When she and Connolly began to raise the birds, Bean figured it was time to learn to work with them if she wanted to include them in her cooking classes and events. “They were so juicy and moist. I was really surprised.”
A great deal of the flavor has to do with the way the birds are raised, freely roaming. The ducks even get the occasional treat from Connolly, who finds them funny. When he brings his catch home at the end of the day, the ducks get the clams that have to be thrown out. “I once had one jump this high for a clam,” laughs Connolly, holding his hand out waist high. Leaning against the barn, Connolly smiles and looks out over the yard with its wandering ducks. “I guess they really only have one bad day here.”
Bean’s revelation about rediscovering turkey is one of many she wants to share with people, so she began designing classes and events on the farm. For Bean, her aim is to help her customers and friends discover that getting the best from life is possible. “That’s why I named the place ‘Know Good.’ I want people to know good.”
Along with sharing her own knowledge, Bean works to bring together other talented individuals from the area, through classes such as Gals at the Grill. To provide meat expertise was Darlene Goehriner, who runs Pop’s Old Place, a farm in Hurlock, Md. that raises grass-fed beef and lamb and heritage hogs. To help teach grill tips came Rita Calvert, the author of a cookbook on food from the land called The Grassfed Gourmet. To cap off this grill and farm experience, participants had the chance to sip on rum punches courtesy of Jaime Windon of Lyons, a micro distillery in St. Michaels that creates rums featuring the flavors of the Eastern Shore.
“There’s such a vibrant food culture that is really distinct to here,” states Bean passionately. “But it’s not just about conservation. We have to preserve the working traditions [of farmers, watermen and artisans]. Sometimes it seems like it’s at odds with environmentalists, and it really shouldn’t be.” Part of the mission of Know Good is to impart that wisdom to others, and continue to teach those traditions.
To highlight the traditions of the area, Connolly and Bean’s Wild Divers Oysters event began at an old shucking house in St. Michaels. Participants met there for a tour before returning to Know Good to learn to shuck oysters. This event gave participants a chance to see how the roles of both waterman and farmer can work in harmony with the environment, with sustainability and with a preservation of working culture. “If the feeling is relaxed and the food is delicious,” laughs Bean in her easy-going manner, “conversation happens in a very real and natural way.”
Commerce, working people and a care and respect for the land are interwoven at Know Good farm and in the larger region. Outside of their classes and events, Bean and Connolly have plenty of opportunities to create connections with customers at the St. Michaels farmers market, where Know Good has a stand. What’s more, those who cannot make it to the Saturday markets can get a piece of St. Michaels through Know Good’s holiday and seasonal baskets. “A man in Pennsylvania gave an oyster basket to his mother, and the mother wrote to me!” shines Bean. “She wrote the sweetest, sweetest thing.”