For almost five years, I have been writing On Point now, and I still love the story behind the special places on Martha’s Vineyard. On a glorious Fall day, I made my way up Middle Road in Chilmark to learn about Mermaid Farm.
I have been there many times before for their lassis and yogurt, but I had never ventured beyond the farm stand. This time I was meeting with Allen Healy and his wife, Caitlin Jones, their cheese maker, Michelle Tynan, and COO, Max — Allen jokes fondly who has worked on the farm on and off since he was a kid.
Together, they create amazing cheeses, yogurt, meat and more.
Open year-round, but doing the bulk of their business during the Summer, Mermaid Farm is one of those destination places you visit again and again. There’s something about pulling up to the farm stand and finding yourself inspired by what is there.
When I went, there were daikon radishes, beautiful kale blossoms (which Allen said are delicious), chestnuts, a selection of their cheeses, fresh hamburger, and more local bounty for you to savor and enjoy.
How Mermaid Farm Came To Be
So, a number of years ago, Allen and Caitlin got a boarder collie. They decided he needed some sheep to herd. They got sheep, and then thought they would use the sheep’s milk.
But they then had children and thought that cows would be better, so their little ones could have fresh milk. They built a barn, got cows, and Mermaid Farm happened -1997.
The Cow Makes the Difference
When asked why their dairy goods are better then the rest, the answer was it’s all about the cow.
Mermaid Farm has Jersey Cows which produce milk with more fat content, and though you hate to admit it, it’s the fat that makes these things so good. The natural, creamy raw milk these cows produce is noticeably different from other cows.
They started with yogurt, and if you have had Mermaid Farm yogurt, you know that it is pretty special. It’s thick and creamy and somewhat dreamy.
Then there were the awesome lassis, a yogurt-based drink that now comes in three flavors, coffee, mango, and blueberry. A side note. The yogurt drinks from the grocery stores were all too sweet, and so far from the real thing, that Mermaid Farm created their own.
Cheese Glorious Chilmark Cheese
Since there is a short season for selling on the Island, they had to come up with a way to preserve their milk. Cheese is a great solution (and it was cool to get a sneak peek at where they milk the cows, four at a time).
Feta was their first cheese and now they have several including Fromage, a soft, creamy cheese that you can get in plain or herb. This cheese is wonderful to add to a sandwich.
Mermaid Farm also makes a number of hard cheeses. They recently added a cheese cave where these tasty treats cure. There’s the Nobska which is an alpine style cheese.
When this style of cheese is made, what the cows eat comes through in the flavor of the cheese. You will notice the hint of flowers, or grasses and herbs.
There is also the Tiasquam Tomme. With this, you’ll find a more milk and buttery aroma. Try a piece with dried fruit, perhaps some figs and you’ll be in heaven.
During the holidays, it’s rumored that Mermaid Farm will have its Kings Highway available which is a rich soft ripened cheese. Though in the family of brie, it has a flavor all its own, and Allen says it’s delicious, one of his favorites. This is a special gift and will most likely be a conversation piece at holiday parties.
The cheeses at Mermaid Farm are all so special. The fact that the cows graze on beautiful fields in Chilmark leads to happy cows, and I truly think that makes for better cheese. How about sweet Delaney here? She has quite the set-up at the farm. Plus, a lot of heart and soul goes in to each batch made.
Beyond Dairy At Mermaid Farmy
I didn’t realize until late this summer that Mermaid Farm offered fresh meat. If you go into the freezer in the farm stand, chances are you’ll also find some of their amazing hamburger.
Sometimes you’ll even find hamburger patties (sold out when I was there), and if you’re lucky, their steaks.
I made hamburgers this Summer with their meat and Tomme, and fresh chives from my garden, and there really was a difference. Not sure if it’s the grass the cows are enjoying on Music Street, where they spend three out of four seasons, but the burgers were so good.
Mermaid Farm has also become known for their hot dogs that they have in the Summer — and always sell out of. There is also sometimes fresh kielbasa, a Polish style sausage, which I have to say I was quite impressed with.
Though not in stock now, I have to keep an eye out for it. My mom and my baci (grandmother) would love it.
For the holidays, there will also be lamb, maybe. The farm animals become like pets, and sometimes, you just have to keep them for a bit longer which I loved to hear.
Mermaid Farm is one of the farm stands on the Island that really celebrates local artisan food. It’s small batch, handmade, hand picked and all done with a little bit of love.
Don’t forget to bring cash with you (products are cash only). Also, when you see Mermaid Farm goodies at Morning Glory Farm or Cronigs, grab them and know that it’s made with good stuff.
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