Martha’s Vineyard is full of wonderful events during the Fall, and each one has something different to offer its guests. Farm. Field. Sea. An Island Culinary Adventure, was founded by Nevette Previd, who collaborates with chef Chris Fischer and others to provide you the chance to experience the Island in a way that no other event can. This is the fourth Farm. Field. Sea. This weekend long event gives you the chance to become involved with food and a way of life on Martha’s Vineyard. For this year, the sea component was held in Menemsha, the field component was at Grey Barn, and the farm location was North Tabor Farm. You can spend a day or the whole weekend learning about the Island and getting a hands on look at the food produced here.
It was one of those Fall days that makes you stop and savor the sun and the beauty of the day. A perfect day to drive to Chilmark to North Tabor Farm. Unfamiliar with the farm itself, only stopping by their self serve farm stand on the road previously, I was not sure what the afternoon would hold. Most of the folks there had spent their morning down the street in Menemsha learning about fishing and oystering on Martha’s Vineyard. However, I was joining the party a little late. We gathered at the barn. Nevette introduced the owners of North Tabor Farm, Rebecca Miller and Matthew Dix. She then spoke a bit about the event itself and then Chris spoke to the history of farming on Martha’s Vineyard. This is where the adventure begins for me since I am not that well versed in this topic.
Chris’ family has been on the Island for generations and have been a part of the farming community with Beetlebung Farm for years. So listening to him, you got not only the facts but little tidbits that his grandfather shared with him. So much more personal and interesting. People have been farming the land that we know as Martha’s Vineyard since 2000 B.C. Fast forward a bit, the land has been separated by the Wisconsin Glacier, then let’s move to 1642 when Thomas Mayhew bought the Island for $42 — what a steal! Chris spoke about the fact that there has always been farming here, since it’s an Island, we’ve always had some sort of relationship with farming but it’s changed quite a bit through the years. Starting with the fact that we really began as a farming community. The soil here was fertile and good for farming and let’s not forget to mention the plentitude of fish. Also I should mention that there were an estimated 20,000 sheep on the Island verus 3,000 residents in the 1700’s. Martha’s Vineyard was a thriving resource for food, so much so, that we were exporting goods. Then before Nantucket, Edgartown was the first major whaling harbor here on the Island. So that became a new focus for Islanders. When that ended, it was on to tourism, and the second home market. Then the Government got involved with food and America’s diet changed dramatically, time for mass produced, packed food. However, now we’re back to wanting to know where our food comes from. That’s why he and Nevette are doing Farm. Field. Sea. It demystifies where and how our food comes to our table. Each part of the event gives you the chances to see, smell, touch, be immersed in an aspect of food production. What a rare and marvelous opportunity for people to experience, on one of the most wonderful places in the world. Not only are there amazing farms on Martha’s Vineyard, but so many of its residents have their own gardens and are producing for their families. We are sort of spearheading the trend of living local.
Rebecca and Matthew have owned North Tabor Farm for 20 years. Neither were farmers when the bought it, but this is what they wanted to do. It’s been an adventure for them, full of trials and errors, and great successes. On the farm, they grow a number of different plants, including their very popular salad greens which I am sure you’ve seen on a number of restaurant menus on the Island, plus all sorts of veggies, Shiitake Mushrooms (a topic on it’s own), and they also have chickens and sell eggs. Matthew and Rebecca shared stories with us about some of their adventures, and brought us with them to explore the ins and outs of the farm. We meandered through the woods to the where the salad greens are grown. There, we learned about the intensive process to produce these sort after plants. During the Summer season, 200 to 400 pounds of salad greens are produced to be sold on the Island. This means for Matt, that he’s up at the crack of dawn harvesting the lettuce, and then reseeding it every three weeks. The beds are constantly being reseeded and along with that, means different varieties will be offered throughout the season. Matt and Rebecca shared so much with us, how they care for the soil, and what goes into making such beautiful, organic greens. Listening to them, soaking up the Fall sun, the smell of the beautiful soil, it was pretty amazing. I felt so close to this world. I even had fleeting ideas of expanding my little home garden, but I am stretched for time as it is. They’re still planting at North Tabor Farm. Rebecca showed us the Brussels Sprouts and garlic that were recently planted. The nice weather really allows for longer growing seasons and amazing Fall harvests. There were also lots of different types of kale and holy sweet potatoes. There were hundreds of sweet potatoes curing in one of their greenhouses. Who knew that sweet potatoes need to be in a warm, almost hot environment to get to be that delicious. The sight and smell of them was such an experience. Every corner we turned was a look into how some of your favorite foods come to the table. So cool! She then spoke to us about some of the more unknown vegetables the farm produces. They’re working with heirloom seeds for vegetables and also are working with the chefs on the Island to see what they want. One of the things we talked about that I found interesting were the Rat-tailed radishes. Such an interesting radish. It looks like a pea pod or a bean yet it’s a radish. We each picked one and were all marveling at how it can feel like a bean and totally taste like a fresh, spicy radish. I can only begin to imagine how many vegetables I am unaware of — and it made me want to know more. We then went to where the Shiitake mushrooms are growing and as I mentioned, this is a story on it’s own (so stay tuned for that On Point blog). Such an amazing thing they’re doing. After the group was immersed in the farm, the most beautiful lunch was served, of course prepared by Chris. There was quinoa salad with the farm’s mushrooms, their sweet potatoes in a gratin, and more, including beer from Offshore Ale. It was an idyllic setting, and the perfect way to share the experience with each other. At the end of our time with Matt and Rebecca, you felt so much closer to the earth, so much more interested in the path your food travels before you eat it. It was all so remarkable and intimate and certain to have an impact on your life. A truly unique experience. Next time I need to explore the sea I think for On Point. Thanks for reading the On Point Blog. You’ll be able to learn more about Farm. Field. Sea. Facebook. And speaking of social media, don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Linked In, Google+, Pinterest and Youtube.