There was a hoedown at Morning Glory Farm on Saturday. The farm was celebrating its 30th year as an Island agricultural institution, with friends, customers and other farmers showing up to share in the fellowship on the eve of the first day of summer.
Under a tent that protected them from the infrequent rain raindrops, Heather Hicks and Stella Ragsdale passed out local, farm-grown and prepared strawberry and rhubarb shortcake. The strawberries and rhubarb came from the field and the shortbread came fresh out of the farm’s oven. Selling at $3, it was the festival’s most popular item, according to cashier Natalie Spears.
Everything farming was the theme; the farm experience could be seen, heard and tasted.
For farm founders Jim and Debbie Athearn, Saturday’s event was an opportunity for a social gathering. They spent plenty of time saying hello and signing copies of their newly-released book, Morning Glory Farm and the Family that Feeds an Island, written by Tom Dunlop and photographed by Alison Shaw. Mr. Athearn likened the event to the farm’s annual Pumpkin Festival, held in the fall. This event was, however, a season opener, a greeting for the growing season.
Melinda DeFeo, an educator from the Farm Institute, stood in line with the rest of the customers, having selected scallions and greens for a salad project at the Katama farm. She said she couldn’t resist buying what was obviously freshly picked.
The gathering was also a culinary enthusiast’s event. Jim O’Connor of Chefworks in West Tisbury demonstrated the fine art of making pizza with flatbreads on the grill. Mr. O’Connor’s fresh, locally-grown ingredients included greenhouse tomatoes, garlic scapes and herbs.
Jesse Iskara flipped hamburgers with help from Anna Komlichenko. Mr. Iskara said even the hamburgers are local, having come from farm-raised beef.
Two-year-old Aiden Weiland and his older sister Avalon, 7, of Oak Bluffs ate muffins while they listened to their father Brian perform with the local country string band, the Flying Elbows. The music on the porch was foot stomping and Mr. Weiland provided the percussion.
Between signing books and assisting in the farmyard walks, Jim Athearn spoke about the wet start to the season. “This is a great spring for growing long and short neck garlic,” he said. “The strawberries at the farm are starting out okay, but we better start getting sun soon.” The challenges of growing strawberries this spring haven’t just been weather. Nibbling deer have left some of the plants less vigorous, more concerning than the weeks of intermittent rain. Mr. Athearn said the strawberries were planted last year, which puts them in good stead for this year. “The rain is okay,” Mr. Athearn said, but then repeated his hope that the weather pattern shifts to sunshine.
Farm equipment of all purposes and designs was lined up along the field at the edge of Meshacket Road, Young children climbed into the driver seats of the tractors. The tractors spanned the years from 1976 to 2004. The farm’s oldest tractor, from 1947, was still in the shed.
Not all the visitors to the farm were interested in eating: many were there to buy plants. Sandra Kingston of Vineyard Haven bought lemon verbena and lemon balm, while Mark Solomon, also of Vineyard Haven, bought a plant tray full of snapdragons and poppies.
Despite the festivities, the farm was still very much in operation. Debbie Athearn found a few minutes to hide from the crowd on the vegetable loading dock and call in her order for dairy products. She said the order for cheese and sour cream had to be placed by 2 p.m.
Only a few feet away, consumers were lining up at the cash registers to buy their fresh produce.
The crowds were healthy, but not overwhelming. “It was a great day,” Mr. Athearn said later. “We were never crushed.”
The Morning Glory Farm celebration continues later this week at the Edgartown Public Library. On Saturday, June 27, the library will hold a brief ceremony at 1:30 to pay tribute to the Athearns and their farm on the library lawn. The trustees will read a proclamation, and a few surprise speakers will pay tribute to the Athearns. Also on hand for the festivities will be the team behind their new book, author Tom Dunlop, photographer Alison Shaw and Jan Pogue of the Island publishing firm, Vineyard Stories.
Copies of the book will be available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds donated to the Edgartown Library Foundation, which is raising funds this summer for construction of a new library building. A dessert potluck table will be set out on the library lawn for anyone willing to contribute a dish. Treats will be provided from the farm’s own bakery, and the library will serve beverages.