The sun streamed into the horse barn at the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Hall yesterday morning, with a crisp blue sky in the background and the trees only moving slightly in a light breeze. It was a far departure from the day before when intense winds lashed across the Vineyard as tropical storm Irene passed over the Island.
There was little farmers could do for the much-anticipated storm other than strap down miscellaneous tools, roll down their plastic greenhouse walls, move their animals into a secure location and hope for the best. Luckily, most came away unscathed.
Pond View Farm moved horses and ponies to the Agricultural Society’s livestock barn in West Tisbury for the weekend and came back on Monday to return them to their pastures off New Lane yesterday morning.
“We’ve never used this place before,” Pond View Farm manager Tracey Olsen said. She had two horses from her own Woodbe Farm boarded there as well. “The barn manager for the fair, Bob Hungerford, suggested it. We called [fair manager] Eleanor Neubert and asked permission, and she got all of the trustees to agree to have all of us stay here. She was great and called back within a few hours.”
“It was wonderful,” she said of the experience. “We’re so thankful.”
Bret Stearns was on hand to help load the horses onto trailers for the journey home.
“It’s a horse Red Cross shelter,” he said jokingly.
The farm manager at the Farm Institute in Katama, Julie Olson, said all of their animals weathered the storm just fine. On Saturday staff spent the afternoon herding turkeys into the barn and moving cows into a far field where they could come in and out of separate barns as they pleased. Ms. Olson said it was important to keep the barn doors open so as not to cause the animals stress.
To herd the turkeys Ms. Olson and her team had to partition off the barn, cutting the area normally used for pigs in half, push the cows and baby oxen out of the barn and go out and get the turkeys.
“Herding turkeys is like herding cats,” Ms. Olson said. After 10 minutes of prodding the birds into the barn with guiding batons in hand, Ms. Olson had the turkeys safely in their new area and given plenty of water and feed.
Then came the running of the cows. Two calves were taken out of the cow barn, loaded into the trailer and brought to the main Katama barn. Ms. Olson and her crew then turned their attention to the mature cows, and began to herd them down Aero Road, making sure they got into their new pasture without any escapees.
“Cows, cows, cows, hey cows!” Ms. Olson yelped in a high pitched tone. Like a scene out of Spain the cows came running down the road. Twenty minutes later the cows were safely secured in their pasture for the weekend.
Many of the Island vegetable farms were spared, with some reports of wind damage to crops. The big question on everyone’s mind was what effect the salty rain and wind would have on the produce, but the farmers wouldn’t know until late yesterday or this morning. Salt can cause an early frost effect, turning the leaves and fruit brown.
Beetlebung Farm in Chilmark, which sits on a hill off Middle Road overlooking Lucy Vincent Beach, had some wind-damaged crops including lettuce, kale and tomato plants almost completely stripped of fruit. The greenhouse lifted six inches off the ground and the only thing that held it down was the rebar in the plywood frame.
Owner Chris Fischer and farm manager Jason Nichols were busy picking up the pieces yesterday morning.
“We’re basically doing a lot of cleaning,” Mr. Fischer said.
“I think we dodged a bullet,” Mr. Nichols added.
Morning Glory Farm field manager Lily Walter said yesterday morning their crops were fine so far but they were still waiting to see if there would be any salt damage.
As the sun began to rise yesterday morning, Jamie Norton at Bayes Norton Farm stand on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road was sweeping the parking lot clear of fallen branches, the extent of the damage from the storm there.
“Obviously if there was structural damage it would have been the greenhouse but it’s still there,” he said with a smile. “There are no major puddles, the flowers aren’t knocked down, even the sunflowers are still standing. We just lost a day’s worth of business and the chickens were laying like crazy.”
Stannard Farms owner Lisa Fisher said at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market on Saturday she was afraid she would be out of business by Monday.
But yesterday morning things were looking up for the West Tisbury farmer.
“I got up early and turned on all the sprinklers and I just finished up righting the tomatoes,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s going to take a while for the salt air to take effect on stuffbut I’m still hopeful, I’m a farmer.”
This will be the last Farm and Field column of the season but the Gazette will continue to cover all things agricultural throughout the year. As agrarian life continues to flourish on the Vineyard it remains critically important to monitor the changes farms and farmers go through, and the Gazette urges readers and farmers to contact us with any news, stories or happenings.
Until June, continue eating well and supporting each other.
This column is meant to reflect all aspects of agricultural activity and farm life on the Vineyard. To reach Remy Tumin, please call 508-627-4311, extension 120, or e-mail email@example.com.