I love the transition from winter… In New England, you never really know when “spring” will arrive. Mother Nature likes to keep us on our toes, flirting with the warm weather. Temperatures might dip back down, but those stellar sun-filled days will become more regular, and the longer days get me excited for the warmer months ahead.
As we settle into spring I eat differently and change up how I’m cooking. I get to introduce more fresh foods and I’m preparing for a whole lot more. Now’s the time I’m tending to my garden, and really trying to optimize it for a bountiful season ahead.
I’m cleaning up my yard, starting seedlings, adding organic matter to enrich the soil, removing leaves, and lining the planting beds and lawns. Each year I try to get rid of more grass and introduce more edible planting beds. This year I’m attempting to plant beans. I love the challenge of trying new things, seeing what works, and adjusting my practices.
As much as the weather allows I spend my weekends outside, determined to shake off the doldrums of winter. Now, newly vaccinated, I’m hopeful. I’m doing all I can to set myself up for success both inside my garden and out and looking forward to an awesome ground season.
Right now I’m enjoying radishes, spring herbs, nettles, scallions, chives, and mustard greens – the greens were overwintered in my unheated greenhouse. I’ve been foraging for watercress and enjoying oh, so many eggs. We recently got new hens and they are laying like crazy. My husband and I are enjoying every beautiful gift they give us. There are a lot of frittatas and egg sandwiches happening around here. My husband Philippe’s favorite breakfast is a bed of greens topped with a 2 minute boiled egg and smashed avocado. He eats it every day, a testament to his Swiss roots.
As the weather continues to go from raw to warm to balmy, there will be more grilling, and I can’t wait to barbeque. I’ll throw just about anything on the grill, drizzled with a little olive oil and topped with salt and pepper–even fruit. As the seasons change my palette does too. I do all I can to savor the freshest ingredients, highlighting their natural flavors and being thankful for another delicious spring.
In a time when many are hunkered down at home, avoiding the public for each other’s benefit, there are few who brave risk and exposure every day to serve our communities–there are many of our residents, friends, and neighbors running into the fire, not away from it. By employing innovation and creativity, exhibiting strong leadership, adaptability, and relentless determination, these local heroes are stepping up to keep our communities afloat during this pandemic.
As a visual storyteller my photographs have long served to communicate, educate, and inspire. With the pandemic gripping our world I wanted to show the faces of the men and women who are working tirelessly to serve our community. I have begun showcasing these Everyday Heroes, the resilient men, and women serving our community in crisis. I am compelled to capture them in their selfless moments of service, to share their stories and highlight their efforts, and to give a voice to these ‘Faces from the Front Line.’
From the delivery drivers hauling supplies to Martha’s Vineyard, our postal workers ensuring safe deliveries, the grocery store employees stocking the shelves, the school cafeteria workers and pantry volunteers providing meals for our vulnerable families, there is an overwhelming number of people who are serving as critical lifelines to our community. Our collective health and well being is dependent on the actions of these brave individuals who have been deployed to keep us up and running, and who remind us every day how critical it is for us to band together, especially in times of need. Their efforts speak volumes for their character and dedication, and their acts of compassion and generosity serve as a silver lining amid a crisis we will never forget.
Julie Fay, Executive Director Martha’s Vineyard Community Services As Executive Director Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS), the Island’s social service safety net, Julie is at the forefront of maintaining the safety and security of our community’s most vulnerable residents at this critical time. Along with her staff, Julie has created a volunteer coordination program to help match organizations looking for volunteers and volunteers looking to help their community during this difficult time. As of March 16, Julie had organized her patient clinic staff to allow them to work remotely, outfitting them with laptops to provide telehealth services so that they could transition from seeing clients in-person to clients over the phone. The agency contacted their entire caseload, calling clients daily to check-in and reinforce the agency’s support. Says Julie “I’m so proud of my staff and so grateful for the team spirit and the embrace of the challenges of this pandemic.” ⠀
Matt Dix, Island Grown Initiative Farm Director Matt Dix, Island Grown Initiative (IGI) Farm Director, has long been committed to building a regenerative, equitable food system on Martha’s Vineyard, and never before have his efforts mattered more. As our global food chains become weakened Matt and IGIare implementing several new processes, including utilizing a new tunnel to begin seedlings, taking a regenerative approach to what they’re growing inside the greenhouse, and ramping up food production earlier in the season than they have in previous years. According to Matt the silver lining in all this is that “it’s giving the Island growers incentive to ramp up food production to see if we can feed our community.”
Tara Lewis, Postmaster of West Tisbury Mail delivery has always been essential to our Island community, but today Tara’s work, and those of all postal employees, has become more important than ever. “People need to get their medicine and salary checks. On this island, it is difficult to get goods because most of the stores are closed so people really depend on the mail for delivery.” Tara’s everyday efforts have been amplified by increased demands on the mail system along with added concerns about keeping her facility safe and clean while adhering to CDC and government guidelines. “I’m just happy to be getting people what they need.”
Warren Holmberg, Pharmacist and Owner at Leslie’s Drug As Pharmacist and Owner at Leslie’s Drug, Warren Holmberg is serving a vital role. These days this Everyday Hero stays busy fulfilling prescriptions for the Island community, including the influx of seasonal residents and is adapting by preparing medicine for curbside pick up. Early on, the hospital invited Warren and all Island pharmacies to a conference call in order to establish safety guidelines and protocol should a COVID-19 patient need medication. After the phone call he was relieved and comforted by the hospital’s communication and thoughtful strategic plan. Warren will stay open as long as he can and is committed to serving his community. Clearly his passion for pharmacy runs deep, marked by his Bowl of Hygieia tattoo.
Jenny DeVivo, Head Chef, Cafeteria Director Up-Island Schools We always knew Jenny was an Everyday Hero, and it’s more evident than ever. Jenny and her lunch lady crew at the West Tisbury School prepare over 1000 meals a week to Island children and families for curbside pick up, an increase from 500 meals when school was first canceled due to the virus. This powerhouse has always encouraged healthy and thoughtful eating, and now she’s providing that experience for the kids to enjoy at home. An ever optimist, Jenny believes that the silver linings in all of this is that we learn that we can make do with less and that we come to truly appreciate that food is love and giving is powerful. She says “I feed my soul by feeding others,” the Island has never appreciated her more.
Elio Silva, owner of Vineyard Grocer, Island Entrepreneur As the threat of the virus began to take hold Elio listened to the community, and recognized the newfound fear associated with grocery shopping. He quickly implemented an online ordering system and began offering delivery and curbside pick up, so people didn’t have to risk their health to get food. He started using masks in the store one week before the order went into effect and manages a food chain that brings food from off-Island 4-5 times a week. He is buying 40% more food than he did last year and he’s not slowing down. Elio believes “we never have a problem, we have an opportunity to create a solution. We might have a situation, but there is never a problem. There is an opportunity to create a solution.”
John Goeckel, Vineyard Haven Police Department Officer John Goeckel of the Tisbury Police Department is used to life on the frontline, but these days it looks a lot different. This Everyday Hero continues to serve and protect while limiting face to face interactions, embracing more phone communications, and taking precautions at every turn. Despite the changes, Officer Goeckel is committed to duty and stressed that the police department is ready and willing to help the community, no matter what.
Kayte Morris, Executive Director of Island Food Pantry Kayte is on the front lines of hunger relief on Martha’s Vineyard, and today she finds herself meeting unprecedented demand for the Pantry’s services. Visits to the Pantry have doubled since the beginning of March, and Kayte’s biggest challenge is keeping food on the shelves, up to 56,000 pounds of food a month, plus tackling the logistical challenges of transporting, storing, and distributing that amount of food. Kayte has seen a tremendous amount of community support for the Pantry, more than she ever could’ve imagined. “When nearly all of our volunteers had to step down (most of which are retired and older), a whole new crew of volunteers popped up and stepped in. New donors have come forward with levels of support we’ve never seen before.”
Georgia Maroni, Administrator Coordinator for Island Grown Initiative, Waitress at Lookout Tavern Due to the pandemic Georgia has been working at the Island Food Pantry for the last three weeks and has been coordinating deliveries for seniors and home-bound families. She’s set up deliveries for over 100 Islanders. This Everyday Hero has taken on the stress of the world, and our community, and is also worried about her own financial security, as she’s already lost at least a month’s pay at her restaurant job, which remains closed because of the virus. On the bright side, she is happy to see the restructuring of our food chain. Georgia believes “our food should get more localized. It’s what everyone was hoping would happen and I think this will stick with people for a long time.”
Juli Vanderhoop, Selectwomen for the town of Aquinnah and owner of Orange Peel Bakery Juli has long served as an active member of our Island community, so it’s no surprise she’s risen to the occasion in this critical time of need. This Everyday Hero is used to feeding others through her bakery and cafe, but these days she’s running a makeshift bodega, providing a grocery service to 60 up-Island families. Back in March Juli was worried about her 89-year old mother getting food, and realized there were many others including elders who may not want or be able to go to the grocery store. Once she started providing food for her family, Juli was encouraged to take it one step further and provide for her larger community. She implemented an order-by-text system and places orders twice a week with her wholesale distributor. The community is so thankful and she’s so happy to be able to provide for them. As her neighbor said “don’t you fall Juli, because you are holding up this community.”
Michael Barnes, delivery driver for Island Food Pantry Three days a week Mike travels from Martha’s Vineyard to pick up food in New Bedford from the Greater Boston Food Bank, and delivers it to the Island Food Pantry, which distributes it to local families in need. This Everyday Hero started making the trips three years ago, which he initially did once a week, then twice a week, now three times a week. Before the pandemic, Mike would travel to New Bedford alone and workers there would assist him in loading food onto his truck. These days his wife and two sons join him on his ride to help reduce contact with others, and his healthy, strong family is taking the necessary steps to be safe. He’s amazed at the work his kids are doing and is grateful for their help.
Mercedes Fererra, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Food Service Director Mercedes has been offering school lunch and breakfast since the shelter in place order took effect, and the demand for meals has steadily increased. Recently she implemented a new system to reduce contact, and families can pick up food twice a week instead of daily, and still receive the same amount of food. Orders are placed online and picked up on Mondays and Thursdays. This Everyday Hero is thankful for her suppliers including Island Food Products, Sysco, and ITC Distributors, and our community is thankful for her.
One of the best things about being a photographer is never knowing what new opportunity is going to come your way. We meet hundreds of new people every week. From young couples, to brides and grooms, to families and professional clients, we are always shifting gears, changing locations and interacting with new subjects. It keeps our work dynamic and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Earlier this summer we received a request from Julia Wetherell, co-founder and CEO of Orchard Mile, an online fashion destination that allows you to shop your favorite designers’ full collections, all in one place. It’s like shopping a well curated digital mall, with hundreds of contemporary and designer brands on one website, with the ease of one shopping cart.
Julia splits her time between New York and the Vineyard and has been operating a gorgeous Orchard Mile pop up in Edgartown for the last two summers. Located on Winter Street, the Orchard Mile retail space is adorned with carefully selected fashion and beauty resort essentials ranging from swimsuits to handbags and all things in between. Whether you’re looking for the perfect day-to-night outfit or a unique gift for yourself or your most stylish girlfriend, Orchard Mile is the place to go.
Julia enlisted us to shoot the space and capture product photography, and upon our first visit we were taken aback by the charm of the store and the level of detail that had been considered. As we browsed through the thoughtful collection of merchandise, with striking statement pieces and quintessential summer staples, we immediately got a sense of what Orchard Mile was all about. The store truly evoked the epitome of Martha’s Vineyard chic.
In a brilliant effort to show off all the fabulous finds the store stocks, Julia planned to host a group of Instagram fashion and lifestyle influencers on Martha’s Vineyard. She hired Randi Baird Photography to follow the group along on their Island tour and capture them in various iconic places and spaces–and we were thrilled!
There’s no better place to photograph beautiful women donning first-rate fashions and discovering inspiration than right here on Martha’s Vineyard. With influencer marketing becoming more popular by the day, and brands partnering with individuals that can authentically represent their brand, we were excited to play a part in the Orchard Mile story.
Over the course of two days we led Julia and the team to some of our favorite local spots, knowing just the right places that would best complement the Orchard Mile brand, while showcasing the most diverse and idyllic Island landscapes. It was like capturing a group of well dressed girlfriends enjoying a new playground together, and it couldn’t have been more picturesque.
We started with a poolside clambake in Edgartown where the women sipped, and snapped selfies together, forming fast friendships and gushing about their love for Orchard Mile.
Julia’s daughter Chloe stole the show, the youngest fashionista of all, who busily ran around playing bean bag toss and affectionately capturing the group’s attention. We used the nearby gardens of the home, abundant and colorful, as a background to capture the women–many of whom had never visited Martha’s Vineyard before.
The next day proved to be a full Island tour aboard a vintage trolley from Martha’s Vineyard Sightseeing. We began with a stop at the Edgartown lighthouse, a picture perfect nautical setting for the influencers to pose, strut and soak in the beauty of Edgartown harbor. Next came a stop at the charming seaside village of Menemsha where no visit is complete without a harborside lunch from Larsen’s Fish Market, organized by Plan It Martha’s Vineyard.
The juxtaposition of the old fishing boats behind the new, refined looks of influencers made for striking photos that we knew would be “Instaworthy.” From Menemsha we drove through the bucolic and pastoral landscapes of Chilmark, stopping at a local farm to graze alongside the livestock, and capture the historic stonewalls with their various textures and patterns.
We stopped off at the places that spoke to us, where the light was just right. We selected locations where we knew the women would appreciate the scenery and where we could capture the most engaging content. With everyone using their phones to take photos to post on social media these days, it was refreshing to provide a professional service for this purpose, and connect with an audience of influencers that genuinely wanted to capture the best shot as much as we did. Like we do with all of our shoots it was about finding the art and bringing forth the design, not just for Instagram but for our clients and ourselves.
If you ever have the opportunity to eat at the West Tisbury school for lunch you won’t be disappointed. The impressive food program, led by rockstar chef Jenny Devivo is quite the operation. And Jenny, well she’s the cherry on top.
Since 2011, the head chef and cafeteria director for the up-Island regional school district (West Tisbury School and Chilmark School), has made it her mission to source local food for the schools’ daily lunches. Part of Jenny’s dedication is fostering real relationships with local food purveyors, farmers, and fishermen; which enables her to enrich the developing palettes of Martha’s Vineyard with her farm-to-cafeteria-table menus.
Each Friday Jenny’s approach is more fish-to-table with her local “Catch of the Day” program, the first of its kind in the country. Since 2016, the program has been providing students with locally sourced and sustainably harvested fish through Menemsha Fish House and Boston-based regional seafood purveyor Red’s Best. Our friends at Island Grown Schools are highlighting seafood as their Harvest of the Month for April, so it’s only fitting we spotlight Jenny’s incredible work that brings the bounty of our local waters directly to our Island’s most selective eaters.
Getting kids to eat fish sounds like a challenge but Jenny’s got it down. “Fish Friday is as popular as pizza day,” she states proudly. Not only do the students take the bait, literally, but they’re educated on the sourcing too. Red’s Best uses traceability software with quick-response (QR) codes on the packaging that Jenny can scan and track. With that information she can tell the school community who caught their fish, off what boat it came, and how and where it was caught. That’s just about as local, sustainable and transparent as you can get.
The first time we visited the West Tisbury kitchen Jenny was serving Roasted Pollack with Lemon, Capers and Butter. Other Friday favorites include her popular fish chowder made with locally sourced sustainable white fish like hake, cod, and haddock. The day we visited she was serving Fish Cakes and a special tasting treat of Blue Moon Oysters, harvested by fisherman Scott Castro from Katama Bay. These fresh bivalve mollusks were baked in the oven and then served on the half shell with turmeric butter…yummm! She’s also been known to serve up Paella, Mediterranean Fish Stew, Fish Tacos, Teriyaki Salmon, Baked Fish with Butter Cracker Crumb, and a Fish Sandwich.
Any day of the week you can find Jenny and her assistant chefs Maura Martin and Nisa Webster buzzing around the West Tisbury School kitchen preparing fresh, local lunch for up to 550 children and staff each day. That reflects an almost 100% participation rate in the program, up from close to 40% when she first took over the kitchen several years ago.
It all started in 2011, when the up-Island regional school district voted to opt out of using the corporate school lunch provider they had contracted, and hired Jenny instead. She, along with many supporters including Noli Taylor of Island Grown Initiative (IGI), helped salvage materials from the old Edgartown school, including the prep table, the roll-down window, the steam tables, even the sinks. The greater Island community helped her renovate the kitchen in two months, and she got to work. The mission was to cook healthier food and sourcing from as many local resources as possible. It’s safe to say it was the right choice, and there’s no looking back. “It’s been hard but rewarding,” says Jenny.
Children are offered a hot lunch option daily (think herb roasted chicken or local pollock and haddock chowder) as well as a daily offering of salad bar and egg, chicken or tuna salad sandwich and fresh vegetables. The ever-changing salad bar is a lavish offering all its own, with fresh local produce, and scratched cooked, freshly prepared salads that as Jenny says “push the boundaries of flavor.” You might find an apple fennel salad or beet hummus, along with several local grain options, and teachers and students alike load up their plates.
So how does she do it? By 9am each morning she has the orders in for the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools, which allows her to eliminate food waste as much as possible, and know what she’s up against for the day. Any food not consumed is either reused the following day or composted by IGI along with the help of the students, and it’s something they take seriously. “I’ll see kids fish things out of the garbage that should have been composted or call each other out for not doing it properly.” Clearly her methods are working.
Jenny prides herself on making approachable food that inspires the students to try new things, while setting limits on selections to encourage them to venture outside of their comfort zone. “If we eliminate 17 choices for lunch, the cost goes down, and it allows us to introduce the kids to new flavors.” Of course living on an island with access to fresh local food helps, and she readily takes advantage of it. In addition to locally caught seafood, Jenny is able to source meat and produce from Beetlebung Farm, The Good Farm, The Grey Barn, Morning Glory Farm, Thimble Farm, Cleveland Farm and Whippoorwill, and she genuinely appreciates everyone’s contributions to her kitchen.
According to Jenny it’s a community program that encourages participation, and sharing. She’s come to see how it has helped kids to take pride in the presentation of their food, and to know where it comes from. “When we’re in here cooking all day and they can smell it in the halls, it’s a sensory experience. They already feel connected to it, and it boosts enrollment.” And the kids aren’t only eating it, they’re cooking it too. “We have kids that ask to help us prepare food and we bring them back there and put them to work.”
Jenny’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. It’s obvious that the students and faculty love her and the rest of the country is taking note too. These days when she’s not in the kitchen she travels throughout New England consulting other schools on how to implement similar programs. “It’s all about getting the kids to eat real food… The options are endless when it comes to feeding kids.”
When’s the last time you’ve stopped to hail the almighty egg? These nutritious and delicious capsules of goodness are Island Grown School’s (IGS) Harvest of the Month for March and they’re personally one of my favorites. I start each day with a farm fresh egg that has been laid by my very own chickens. Here on Martha’s Vineyard keeping chickens is almost as common as keeping a dog or cat as a pet. It’s a way of life and one I’m grateful for–the difference in quality between a store bought egg and a local egg is exceptional.
First off a store bought egg might be months old! It’s pretty alarming but true. Eggs can have a long shelf life and may still be safe to eat but it’s not too appetizing to think about how long ago they were laid. Farm fresh eggs on the other hand are usually only days old when sold to you, meaning their more nutritious, as they lose some of their value as time passes by.
When it comes to food shopping some items are created equal, but eggs are one of those foods that’s worth paying extra for. Locally grown farm eggs can cost about $6 a dozen, but at about 50 cents per egg they are one of the most affordable sources of Island grown food, not to mention one of the most protein rich.
In fact eggs have 6 grams of high-quality protein, making them a protein packed breakfast that can help sustain your mental and physical energy throughout the day. Unlike other breakfast foods like cereal or yogurt, eggs only contain one ingredient – “eggs.” They don’t contain sugar or carbs either. That means you can eat a well-rounded breakfast during the week without feeling too round yourself..
On top of the benefits that protein and choline provide, eggs are also packed with omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin a, riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium.Eggs are considered a ‘complete’ source of protein as they contain all nine essential amino acids; the ones we can’t synthesize in our bodies and must get from our diet.
Remember not to skip the yolk! Over the years many people have shied away from eating egg yolks for fear of their high cholesterol. We now know that the cholesterol found in food has much less of an effect on our blood cholesterol than the amount of saturated fat we eat–so embrace the yolk!
Egg yolks also contain choline, which promotes normal cell activity, liver function and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. It’s also key in the development of infant’s memory functions, so moms shouldn’t miss out on its vital nourishments when pregnant or breastfeeding. You’ll find that the yolk of a farm fresh egg is typically richer in color and taste while store bought egg yolks are usually a medium yellow. Not only do farm egg yolks have a deeper color, their yolk is creamier and doesn’t break as easily when cooked.
If you’re in need of some recipe inspiration read below for some tasty recipes from some of couple of our talented local chefs and friends. Remember, you don’t need to limit your eggs to just breakfast, eggs make a great lunch or dinner option as well.
1/2 tsp saffron threads (reconstitute in a little hot water first)
pinch of cayenne
2 tbsp chopped parsley & 2 tbsp chopped cilantro (save some for garnish)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 or so cups of water ( to keep the consistency saucy)
8 eggs (organic are best)
In a large frying pan dry toast the cumin seeds until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.
Add olive oil and onions, saute 5 minutes or so.
Add both red & yellow pepper strips, sugar and chopped herbs, saute another 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, cayenne, saffron, salt and pepper.
Cook all together for 5–8 minutes adding water to keep the consistency “saucy” and remove bay leaves before adding eggs. Taste for seasoning.
Make 8 indentations in the sauce – break the eggs into them, cover and cook on simmer for 10 minutes or so or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve.
Have fun with this Spinach, Mushroom and Onion Frittata from private chef Gavin Smith of Food Minded Fellow.He recommends eating it for any meal of the day (or even a late night snack). He loves frittatas for their versatility, plus they can be prepared for immediate consumption the days before for an easy meal on the go.
8-10 Large farm fresh eggs
1/2 cup red bell pepper (julienned)
1/2 cup onion (julienned)
1/2 cup mushrooms (sliced)
2-3 cups raw spinach
3 Tablespoons whole milk
1/2 Cup cheddar sliced thin or grated
1 tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (°F).
Beat eggs and milk together.
Add dd oil to a large deep skillet.
Soften onions and red pepper over medium heat, 2 minutes.
Add mushrooms and stir until softened.
Add spinach and salt and stir until spinach is wilted.
Pour egg and milk mixture over all ingredients evenly (do not mix or stir).
Evenly distribute cheese over the top of the egg mixture.
Place in the oven and cook until edges of the frittata start to brown, 10–12 minutes.
Let cool slightly then cut and serve.
Hungry for more? Check out this simple Avocado Egg Salad recipe from IGS’s chef Gabrielle Chronister.