We had a whirlwind of a summer, full of exciting shoots and memorable moments we’ll be thinking about again and again. One of our most inspiring and enjoyable shoots was with lifestyle blogger, entrepreneur, creative consultant, and all around great girl CeCe Olisa during her summer stay on Martha’s Vineyard.
And boy did she have fun! We photographed her enjoying ice cream in front of Scoops with her girlfriends, and snapped her along the hydrangea lined streets of Edgartown.
CeCe was a gorgeous subject to capture all over town, and a pleasure to work with. She’s built a career on making others feel more comfortable about their bodies and her confidence and charisma are something to admire–not to mention it makes her oh, so photogenic!
We accompanied her to aerial yoga at the Yoga Barn (what a workout!), out for morning coffee and a stroll along a beautiful north shore beach, making for a perfect summer day on Martha’s Vineyard. Be sure to check out her blog to read all about her time here, and follow along with her other adventures.
P.S. We just heard that she’s giving a TEDx Talk at Fresno State later this month and we can’t wait to see the video!
More about CeCe
CeCe has been named one of the “Top 10 New York Fashion Bloggers” by WhoWhatWear and a “person who proves you can be fit at any size” by MTV.com, CeCe Olisa is a Lifestyle Blogger and Co-Founder of theCURVYcon, a convention celebrating body positivity and plus size fashion during New York Fashion Week. CeCe creates wildly popular plus size workout videos on her YouTube channel and encourages women to workout because they love their bodies, not because they hate their bodies. CeCe Olisa has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, The Wendy Williams Show, CNN, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Refinery29 and more. She adheres to her motto, “Don’t wait on your weight to live the life you want.”
October is School Gleaning Month and we’re celebrating just how great and impactful the gleaning program is here on Martha’s Vineyard. So far this year over 200 volunteers have lent their time to Island Grown Initiative’s (IGI) gleaning program, an impressive number and one that reflects a 50% increase since January. With the help of those four hundred plus hands 21,500 pounds of produce have already been recovered already in 2018, putting the program on track to meet (or exceed) last year’s record-breaking harvest–now that’s something to celebrate!
Gleaning is an incredibly useful and sustainable practice that can help offset hunger here on-Island and around the world. Gleaning provides a solution to both hunger and crop waste. Nationwide, 40% of the food that is grown is never eaten, yet one in six Americans suffer from food insecurity. Let that statistic just sink in for a minute. Almost half of all the food we grow is completely wasted and almost 17% of Americans do not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Crazy, huh? And yes, we here on Martha’s Vineyard are affected by that too.
Luckily, our team at Island Grown Initiative (IGI) is doing something about it–and they’re doing a lot. In 2009, IGI began a gleaning program to capture crop waste and unsaleable produce from local farms, and there’s dozens of them. Since the program’s inception IGI has rescued 166,000 pounds of produce and counting. Now let that statistic sink in. That’s 166,000 pounds of food that otherwise would have been left to spoil or be tilled over. That otherwise would’ve been wasted and unused, on an Island where food equity is a very real issue.
We can all understand that food waste and hunger go hand in hand. While food scraps and unspoiled produce is being thrown into the trash and hauled to landfills, many families remain desperate for access to fresh food. By gleaning our local farms we are decreasing both hunger and crop waste, and sharing the delicious and nutritious bounty of our friends’ and neighbors’ land. More food gets used, more people get fed, it’s a win-win.
So how does IGI do it? With a lot of help and a lot of hands, and they’re always looking for more. Local gleaners work with farmers to capture excess quality produce that may be a little over ripened, or not as beautiful as what you see in the market. It might be the tail end of the season when farmers need to start making space for the next season’s crop, so “out with the old” it goes. Through the gleaning program that extra food is farmed, picked, and otherwise captured, and delivered for free to those in need, including our elders and children, our schools, and social service agencies like Serving Hands and the Island Food Pantry. No food left behind, and more mouths that can be fed.
The gleaning program requires a lot of work and a lot of time from dedicated volunteers. IGI is always in need of volunteers to help them recover their goal of 30,000 pounds of food his year, and about 1,000 hours of seasonal volunteer time are needed to keep the program viable. The commitment can be as big or as small as you make it. If you only have an hour here and there that time can still make a difference. Whether you come once a week or once a year they’d love to have you, and we’re pretty confident you’ll be happy you did. Many of IGI’s current volunteers have been doing the work for years because of the satisfaction they get for helping their neighbors and the joy of being with others who are doing the same.
It’s finally here! The season we’ve all been waiting for, well most of us anyway. Some Islanders actually get discouraged this time of year but I absolutely love it. I wait all year for summer and thrive off of the faster tempo of the Island. There’s an energy in the air that you can’t find anywhere else. On top of that loving feeling, I get to reconnect with summer friends and get outside in the beautiful weather and take advantage of this dynamic place. There’s nothing more electric than a Vineyard summer.
Each year I’m bombarded with news of the latest parties, events and activities. I want to do it all but time is precious, so I’ve drilled down my summer bucket list of the absolute can’t-miss things to do on Martha’s Vineyard this summer. Prepare yourself for fresh food, unique Island experiences and a whole lot of time outdoors–fingers crossed for a season of perfect days.
Maker’s Table series from Farm. Field. Sea. Take your pick from a variety of “dynamic dining adventures” that highlight the Island’s best resources and the talents of local chefs, farmers, shellfish cultivators, fishers, educators, authors, musicians, and visual artists during this summer’s Maker’s Table series, a new initiative from Farm. Field. Sea. Known for offering the summer’s most unique and authentic Island experiences Farm. Field. Sea. has organized several pop-up events that are thoughtfully curated around delicious food and inspiring activities at secret locations around the Island.
Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board adventures. I love all things water and try to get my exercise outdoors whenever I can, after all I’ve waited all year for this weather! A great outlet is Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, where they offer self guided kayak and stand up paddleboard quest by day or moonrise kayak tours by night on Sengekontacket Pond. See nesting shorebirds feed and frolic, explore the salt marsh and search for pond wildlife, or witness the sun set, the stars twinkle, and the moon rise from the water. Check out their full line up of summer events.
Load up on local goodies and eat your veggies at the Farmer’s Market. Nothing beats a trip to the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market where you can pick up a variety of local produce and food products all in one place. Every Wednesday and Saturday from 9am–12pm our local farmers and food purveyors set up shop at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury to deliver you a true taste of the Vineyard, plus live music too! Be sure to bring reusable bags and try a little bit of everything.
Explore Polly Hill Arboretum. Polly Hill in West Tisbury is one of my favorite places because of its diverse landscape and gorgeous gardens– I often want to go there just to relax. I always learn about a new plant or species every time I go, it’s a living breathing museum. You’ll find rare trees and shrubs from around the world set among stone walls, meadows, and fields, including Polly’s famous North Tisbury azaleas, the national stewartia collection, camellias, hollies, rhododendrons, crabapples, conifers, magnolias, and many more. Pack a picnic and a good book and escape to a place of absolute serenity for the afternoon.
Oyster tours in Vineyard Sound. Experience the magic of our local briny bivalves first hand from the guys of Cottage City Oysters. Purveyors Dan and Greg Martino will introduce you to their nursery and you’ll see the harvest process in action. Complete with a tasting of the Island’s best oysters and a shucking demonstration so you can go home and impress your friends.
Dine overlooking the Aquinnah Cliffs. Even if you’ve ventured up to the Cliffs before there’s nothing quite like dining at the Aquinnah Shop restaurant, and taking in the view over a relaxing meal. Located at the Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah, it’s one of the oldest restaurants on the Vineyard with some of the best outdoor dining on-Island. They serve dinner Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and offer lunch and breakfast too.
Be mesmerized by Built on Stilts. Now in it’s 22nd year, the Built on Stilts festival is an annual showcase of some of the most talented dancers on-Island, and guest performers from all over. Each year the festival takes over the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs and amazes spectators of all ages. And the best part–there’s no tickets or reservations required, all shows are free to the public and audiences may come and go as they please, so there’s no reason to not check it out. Look for it this summer, happening August 9–11 and 18–21.
Pop Up Dinners at the Beach Plum. Another magical place to enjoy dinner is the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark. Their picturesque patio looks out over Menemsha harbor and is home to some of the most spectacular sunsets you’ll ever see. This summer chef John Thurgood is hosting a series of pop up dinners celebrating the bounty of the Island with local guest chefs throughout the season. Be sure to mark your calendars and prepare for the finest food around.
Go take a hike. I recently partnered with Sheriff’s Meadow to help them launch their TrailsMV app, an iOS app that helps hikers and outdoor enthusiasts better navigate over 100 Martha’s Vineyard trails and conservation properties, it’s a great tool to help you from getting lost in the Island’s more out-of-the way locales. Be sure to download the app and discover some of the Island’s most scenic locations. Our favorites include Menemsha Hills Reservation and Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary. Is there anywhere more beautiful than this?
Take a tour of Thimble Farm, with Island Grown Initiative. Since 2011 Island Grown Initiative has operated Thimble Farm as their Farm Hub, an education resources site for farmers and growers, offering demonstration aquaponic and hydroponic greenhouse production, workshops and trainings, a community garden, and an orchard. Tour the Vineyard Haven farm every Tuesday and Thursday and check out the impressive farm and learn more about the work of this incredible organization. And their farm stand is open everyday (but Wednesday) from 9am to 3pm.
Generally speaking peas still get a bad rep. Like Brussels Sprouts, some people never warmed up to them, or are burned by childhood memories of their parents trying to force feed them green vegetables. Not on Martha’s Vineyard. Here peas are celebrated and admired, especially among the youth of our community.
This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight peas as their Harvest of the Month (HOM). It’s the perfect crop to represent the essence of the HOM program and the value and importance of better connecting kids to their locally available produce. I like to consider peas a gateway vegetable. If you can get your kids to take part in the growing process, and feast on peas (especially easy with the sugar snap variety), you can get them hooked on vegetables all together.
I recently attended a grand tasting event (so to speak) at the West Tisbury School.
Throughout the month IGS hosts several “taste tests” where they serve the Harvest of the Month as an ingredient in the local school cafeterias, to encourage students to taste it in a new or creative way and understand its flavor potential.
The farm-to-school movement at the West Tisbury School is an especially impressive program, and Jenny DeVivo, West Tisbury School cafeteria director and rockstar head chef (she used to be a traveling recording artist so that title is two-fold) always makes it fun and interactive.
Morning Glory Farm offers another clever way to encourage participation in pea harvesting with their annual pea contest. Each year the Island’s largest operating farm hosts a “First Peas to the Table” contest inspired by Thomas Jefferson. In the 18th century Jefferson led a contest among his neighbors at Monticello garden every spring to see who could be the first to grow a cup of shelling peas, and the tradition continues on Martha’s Vineyard today.
Now in its fifth year at Morning Glory, the first person to bring a measured cup of mature shelled peas receives a Morning Glory Farm gift certificate, a voucher for a free trip to the salad bar and a delicious risotto prepared by chef Meg Athearn from the winning peas, plus bragging rights of course.
The winner is also crowned, sashed and photographed for Morning Glory’s archives–and posterity–and left to bask in the glory of their delicious achievement! This year Katie Ruppel took the prize.
What’s not to love about peas? Peas are my favorite vegetable to grow in my garden, and are one of the first things I plant once the ground thaws. They get me excited for spring, and the potential of the new season, plus they’re delicious and packed with vitamin K, A, C and fiber, folate, thiamine, protein and iron. They’re easy to throw in salad raw, or simply sautéed with garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Sugar snap peas provide a welcome crunch in rice or stir fry, and shelled peas make a good addition to pasta and risotto.
Tis the season for potlucks, BBQs, and beach picnics, so don’t forget about the powerful pea next time you’re preparing your menus. Try this easy Pea Pesto Salad recipe, prepared by Harvest of the Month chef Gabrielle Chronister, for a fresh, savory side to celebrate the season’s palatable peas.
Pea Pesto Potato Salad
1 cup green peas (fresh and blanched for 1 minute or frozen and thawed)
1 cup fresh basil
2 ½ tbl nutritional yeast
1 tbl fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ lbs baby or new potatoes (quartered or sliced in half if small)
Place potatoes and ½ tsp of kosher salt in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer 10-15 minutes until fork tender. Drain potatoes and set aside.
While potatoes are cooking, place remainder of ingredients except olive oil, in a food processor and pulse ingredients until everything is combined and evenly ground. With the machine running, slowly pour olive oil into the mixture and blend until smooth and creamy.
Combine the potatoes with the pesto in a serving dish, making sure all potatoes are coated in pesto. Salt if needed. Top with more nutritional yeast and fresh torn basil. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. Enjoy!
Life on Martha’s Vineyard revolves around our relationship with the sea. We worry about making time to get to the beach, making boat reservations to get off-Island, and most importantly, making the most of the resources the ocean provides for us. This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight seafood as their Harvest of the Month–a sustainable and viable part of our Island economy and history, and a delicious and nutritious addition to our plates.
Hundreds of Island fishermen work through every season, in often dangerous conditions, to guarantee stocked local fish markets and restaurants. These men and women work to assure the livelihood of commercial fishing, and the future of Island fishing families and the trade.
If you don’t personally fish on Martha’s Vineyard you likely know someone that does. Drive by the Menemsha jetty most days and you’ll find fishing enthusiasts of all ages, ‘dropping lines’ into the water, maybe catching mackerel or fluke that they’ll use for lobster bait or that they’ll bake or bread for an easy fish fry. Drive by Edgartown harbor after sundown and you’ll see another contingent of locals jigging for squid. They’ll take it home, clean it, cut it, sauté it and have it for dinner, or even serve to their guests.
Scup is another commonly found fish, but it hasn’t historically been a popular fish to eat here. I was happy to see it recently featured on the menu at Port Hunter in Edgartown–an indication of the restaurant’s creativity and commitment to offering a local catch. Conch has the same stigma, but Chef Deon Thomas is working to change that with the launch of his new cookbook, Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery, which will explore the range of possibilities of cooking the affordable, sustainable mollusk.
As a food activist I was especially happy to provide my photography services for the book, part of my ongoing commitment to promoting sustainable food practices on Martha’sVineyard.
You can do your part to support the Island seafood economy by asking for the local catch at Island fish markets and restaurants. Quahogs, oysters, scallops, and mussels are especially important aquaculture and make for a delicious and nutritious dinner. IGS’ featured farm, the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, works to preserve and expand the Island’s traditional shellfisheries by farming shellfish from from seed, and we thank them for it. Not only do we benefit from the food and economic boost, but these useful bivalves help provide us with cleaner seas–they serve as a sort of water filtration system, unintentionally ridding water of any pollutants present like herbicides or harmful bacteria.
Recently the group also began experimenting with sugar kelp, or seaweed, in hopes of bringing about a new enterprise on the Vineyard, it’s available in limited quantities on-Island so if you see it available you’re in luck!
Stay tuned for my new cookbook Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery by Chef Deon Thomas for more inspiration on enjoying local seafood.
Enjoy this Simple Fish Ceviche recipe from IGS
3 haddock, sea bass or any white flakey fish filets
½ cup sweet onion, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh ripe mango, chopped
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
If using raw fish: Soak the fish in the lemon juice, lime juice, salt and pepper for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Then cut the fish into small ½ inch bites.
If using cooked fish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place fish filets in a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and bake for 12-15 minutes until fish is flaky and moist. When fish is done let it cool completely and cut into small ½ inch bites.
Place remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and toss together with the fish until well combined. Place in refrigerator to marinate until ready to eat. Serve with tortilla chips and sliced avocado and enjoy!