An Open Heart Farming collection, compiled by Mary Ellen Sullivan.

Photo of farming landscape.

Select the author’s name to see other works by that author, when the poem first appeared, and a biography, if supplied.

Bountiful Table

Poem by Ron Gillis

North Sydney, NS

My table is laden, with harvest sown.
Asparagus to rhubarb, radishes overflowin’
an extra leaf for tomatoes, chives.
Fiddleheads, garlic, potatoes, with eyes.
Brussel sprouts, apples, cantaloupe, cherries
Cauliflower, endives, maybe more berries.
Parsley, parsnips, peaches, pears.
Rutabagas, beans to round out my fare.
Before laying down pen, would be remiss,
not to mention Mr. Pumpkin, on side table does sit.

While Jamming

Poem by Meredith (Ma) Bell


another year
whence begun
of what shape
is it like a childish drawing of an egg
or round and evenly divided into sections
like an orange

an infinite line
or a series of them disjointed
and what colour
if coloured

life takes time, not years
but moments
juicy sections enveloping years
or flavours fleeting in seconds
like kaleidoscopic patterns
crayon them lusciously but
heed not to colour within the lines
biding time


Poem by Anna Quon

Halifax NS

For a cold, boil a chicken
with onions, ginger and garlic.
Sip slowly. Breathe in, breathe out.

That chicken ran free in a shed
with a thousand sisters,
kept her head to the bloody end,
succumbed not to illness
but to the knife.
She never knew she’d heal the sick
and feed the hungry.
She always thought she’d be a mother,
sit dutifully on a nest full of egg
but she was luckier than that.
Those hens, those ones
in the concentration camp
cages, ended up tough and
only fit for the stew.
Better to die young and supple
for a noble cause.
Better to run and scratch and cluck
til they came for you,
hung you upside down
and parted your dreams
from your wildly beating

The Cooking of Lobster

Poem by Joyce Baxter

Halifax NS

A Maritimer’s duty
Just in case you didn’t know,
Is the cooking of the lobster,
Doesn’t matter where you go.
Any group that’s just bought lobster
Just might put YOU on the spot,
‘cause as much as they might love it
they have a great big pot,
None among them has the answer
None among them has a clue!
So – the Maritimer ‘midst them
“How to cook?” – – they’ll say to YOU.

YOU will ALWAYS have the answer.
Ocean water is the BEST!
But – – in case there is none handy
Table salt will meet the test.
Throw a handful in the big pot
Fill with water half the way.
“Only when it’s really boiling,
(That is what they always say)
Head first in the boiling water!”
Bring to boiling as before
Twenty minutes for the first pound!
Each pound over – add five more.

When the time is up – to test them
Grab a leg – and give a pull.
If it leaves the body easy –
You can eat until you’re full!
May each time you’re having lobster,
Thoughts of family come to mind,
And the pleasure that is brought us
By the MANY ties that bind.

Farmer Friend

Poem by Rosemary LeFresne

Bedford, NS

Weather, land, soil, and toil
has etched the Farmer’s soul.

Through battles fought with Pests and Blights,
his harvest will be gold.

Growing Season now ends,
and comfort foods begin – to nourish and enjoy.

Rest awhile dear Farmer Friend,
and have a slice of Pie.


Poem by Jenni Blackmore

Seaforth, NS

Black pen scratches
on the page of winter white.
I touch, searching to feel
quivers of knowingness
wanting to secure promises
of buds, blossoms, berries
clustered beads with smooth dark skin
and musky scent
Who can know the when or if?
Their mute reply.
There are no guarantees.
And to assuage the fear
Of equinoctial stagnation
I clutch the jar of purple jam
my only proof of yearly miracles.

To a Tater

Poem by Ali Squire

On uncovering her with a fork in the compost pile!
With apologies to Robert Burns 1785

Wee white and gleaming new-spud cluster,
Unearthed by my fork in turning fluster,
You needn’t blink your baby eyes at me with fearful dread,
Now that you’re found, I’ll leave intact your cosy bed.
We both may wonder at the karmic chance,
The fateful course of happenstance,
When all I did with winter’s peelings, was toss them out,
Not thinking that your own wee self would start to sprout.
Aye, little spud, don’t fuss nor fret,
I’ll not disturb your peace just yet,
You needn’t think your best laid plans have gone astray,
For here, no beetle, bug, nor blight will spoil your day.
Like a cheeky cookoo in my pile,
I’ll let you rest and stay awhile,
Your growing tubers covered o’er with compost warm,
No pesticides nor chemicals to do you harm.
You’ll not regret your lowly dwelling,
Nor all the scents that you are smelling,
For in this warm and wormy heap you’ll feed and flourish,
And all my yummy kitchen waste your life will nourish.
Och! baby tattie! You just go on living
‘Til that great feast we call Thanksgiving,
Then, I will praise you greatly as we’re eating,
And bless my compost pile for our chance meeting.

The Perfume of Years

Poem by Lois R. Brison-Brown

Halifax/Cheverie, NS

How pungent in my palms
Are the leaves I knead
At the kitchen counter,
Crushing the hope of the harvest
Of herbs from foliage and stem
For the coming winter.

The spears from the spade of rosemary
Wait to spike December’s turkey,
Subtle lemon basil sublime with
Frozen summer’s catch,
Reliable bay and basil at every meal
Like salt and pepper.
Starry eyed dill peeks through the glass
Of bottled cucumbers.
Noble thyme, remembering its roots in English soil,
Only appears for ceremony.
Aggressive oregano bulling across the dooryard,
Its purple flowers trailing bees,
Now lies scythed and bailed for sauce.
Velvet leafed sage belying it sharpness
And always swags of summer savory
For hearty stews.

But as I grind leaves to powder
I sense the presence of my many
Grandmothers before me
Standing at this mortar, too.
And the perfume of years
Pounds through the pestle
Like prayer lifting heavenwards
From my pressing hands.

Macbeth’s Post-Banquet Speech

Poem by Norm Sabowitz


after everyone has eaten too much

Tomato and tomato and tomato
Creams in this pudding paste
From date to date
T’the glazed cinnamon of reCurried thyme.
Bland oil our best soufflés
Halvah dieted poules
The whey to crusty bread.
Oat! Oat! beef cayenne-dill!
Chives butter malting shallot,
A pear papaya that nuts and fruits hi’sour
Upon the sage,
And venison’s stirred no moorhen.
It is ox-tail salt by an EATiot:
Food of pound and puree

A Pickled Poem

Poem by Robin Johnston

Tatamagouche/Halifax, NS

Chop up your veggies,
Whichever you please.
Then mix them with salt,
Fermentation’s a breeze!

Get your hands in there,

And get the juice flowing.
Pack it all into jars,
Soon the bubbles will be going!

Wait for a while,
Then give them a taste.
Eat em slow, eat em fast,
Don’t let a drop go to waste

Good Food

Haiku by Harry Garrison

Halifax, NS

Food is such a good
idea! Whoever thought
of it was brilliant!

Indignant Red Apples

Poem by Sylvia Mangalam

Bedford, NS

In the old orchard down the hill
Rosy apples hanging still
Wave their indignant red
Before my eyes
“Why are we left to rot
When people hunger, and have not
Fresh dainties such as we
Hanging sweetly from our tree?”

What flagrant wastrels we!
But even now
Waste creeps up quietly behind
To smother us.
And we are blind
To all the dirt of cleanliness
And all the possibilities
Of good clean mess.

All Praise the Humble Potato

Poem by Jenni Blackmore


Place them gently in each drill
one inch deep and same apart for spinach
sprinkle lettuce light and similarly cover
not too deep, not too close. . .
but sparse is what the rows seem now
too distant and forlorn
on this grey soggy day of boot-stick earth
yet soon enough the seedlings, sprouted
nudge and jostled, vie for space
within the rows transformed
a cramped metropolis of leaf and bud
alive with slugs and bugs voracious
Lay hair-thin leeks in trenches primed
rich with humus and dreams of distant soup
pot shared by white earth-eggs
already creeping their first fingers
from the wizened skin of kin
snugged warm under an eelgrass quilt
which will in time reveal a bounty
harvested with no complaints
in this less fertile corner of the plot
where tomatoes stubbornly refuse
zucchinis dither and onions sulk in limbo
but where potatoes, never loved or lauded
half as much as they deserve
silent and in secret, prodigiously produce

Insatiable Appetite

Poem by Erica Lewis


Filling up your dreams,
stuffing you with themes
of chocolate dreamy,
coconut creamy.

With lemon schaum torte,
I’ll build you a fort;
fill up your tummy,
make you feel yummy.

With sweet chestnut jam
and juicy roast lamb;
a pistachio square
to be served with flair.

So you must say please
for some feta cheese;
a salad I’ll toss
so you’ll know who’s boss.

Down on bended knee,
I shall serve you tea;
if you make me blue,
no dessert for you!


Poem by Chad Norman

Truro NS

During many moments when midmorning
wasn’t about dusting, meals, or others,
Gladys left the kitchen to slip into rubber boots
she wore when it came time to visit the barn,
tiny rubbers part of each slow step
on ice spread across the glaring yard
taken to happily refill the big milk jar
helpful grandsons stop chores to carry
in one hand as she agrees to hold his other
stepping up out of the steaming milkhouse
quick to chuckle about accepting a safety
getting easier to offer, quick to blame winter,
quick to insist he hand over the raw frosty milk
and return to the herd’s more important needs.

Fall Rite

Poem by Sylvia Mangalam

Bedford NS

The Kentucky Blue beans swelled
Bigger than they should.
Tired of the garden,
I picked them anyway.

It’s a sort of rite
This anticlimactic harvest
Reaching for the high fat ones,
Rounded over full seeds.

Gathering up the dry corn–
What can I do with this?
The last green tomatoes,
Last marjoram sprigs–

This genuflecting gleaning
Respects all the work here
Of God, of worms, of me.

Fruitless Tree

Poem by Jaywant (Joe) Patil


Inspired by Luke 13:6-9

The farmer about to chop down the tree
which had been fruitless for year three.
Give me another chance begged the tree.
I will be fruitful for sure next year,
if you fertilize and dig around me this year.
Every one deserves a second chance sire.

My Garden

Poem by Joan Young


Peas, carrots, turnips and greens
Potatoes, beans and tomatoes too
Don’t forget the beets, cucumbers
and other vegetable seeds
Planted, hoed and cleared of weeds.
They grow in rows of beauty
Red, green and yellow
and shades in between
Planted late in May
and hope for sun everyday.
Watered by summer showers
Kissed by the sun
The bounty of my garden
It’s a gardeners delight
What a wonderful sight.

Gathering up the dry corn–
What can I do with this?
The last green tomatoes,
Last marjoram sprigs–

This genuflecting gleaning
Respects all the work here
Of God, of worms, of me.