The latest publication to feature our photography is the Martha’s Vineyard Dining Sourcebook. This project marks the first-ever all-inclusive digital printed guide of all of the restaurants and dining destinations on Martha’s Vineyard. I couldn’t be more pleased with the finished product and I’m honored to have my photography showcased within the pages of this book. This guide was a gift to our restaurant community, with no restaurant paying to be included, and as a local foodie and champion of food equity, I knew it was the right fit for my photography.
Earlier this year I was presented with this woman-led project, which was a partnership with local digital marketing agency Shored Up Digital and Sourcebook Productions, a group that connects offline brands to the online world using next-generation QR code technology. Through innovative Flowcode technology, the Sourcebook gives users real-time information on all things dining in a virtually contactless way by offering up-to-date information straight from the digital destinations of our local restaurants.
As someone who has worked in editorial photography for decades, I knew that by providing my photography I was trusting the design team with their treatment within the book and this premium product did not disappoint. From the quality of the printing to the expertly curated palette pulled from the colors of my images, and the natural backdrops of Martha’s Vineyard, the Dining Sourcebook is a true work of art.
Woven throughout the pages of our beloved eateries the photos tell the story of the Island’s culinary scene and its abundant natural resources. There are pictures of the ample produce and striking farmland that many of our restaurant’s source from, and captivating scenes from the surrounding sea that yield so much fresh seafood straight to our plates.
I have always been passionate about environmental and food-related issues and the photos I selected for the book represent just that. I am a dedicated backyard grower and a strict believer that our health is linked to the sustainability of our land and the food that is grown within it. How lucky are we to now have a publication that encompasses all of our dining options while giving homage to the natural spaces that make it happen?
Not only is the book beautiful, but it also provides tremendous utility to our Island diners, support to our restaurants and culinary outposts, and gives recognition to Island Grown Initiative and the Island Food Pantry, two organizations near and dear to my heart.
The Martha’s Vineyard Dining Sourcebook was a true labor of love and a testament to the resounding spirit of Martha’s Vineyard and our resilient restaurateurs, shopkeepers, and food purveyors. Complimentary copies of the book are available at the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and a digital version of the guide can be accessed at MVY.com/diningsourcebook.
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.
One of the most incredible things about living on Martha’s Vineyard is the sense of community we share with our neighbors, friends, summer residents, and even first-time visitors. The Island is full of passionate individuals and dedicated organizations committed to making Martha’s Vineyard a compassionate and charitable place. Over the last thirty years, we have been able to deepen our connections to the people that surround us, enabling us to use our photography work to help further the missions of local non-profits and drive meaningful change.
This year, in light of COVID, we’re even more appreciative of our Island home and the resilient men and women that have been serving our community in crisis. As photographers we can provide real value for local organizations by highlighting what they do, effectively creating more awareness for their mission while capturing their tireless efforts along the way. Whether it’s providing images that make it into their newsletter, website, or annual report, our photography offers these groups high-quality assets that represent the importance of their work. It’s the least we can do for those that do so much.
Here’s a look back at some of the great work we’ve done in support of the selfless acts being done around us this year.
Who they are: Misty Meadows offers inclusive equine-assisted enrichment programs for people of all ages and abilities. They provide a nurturing environment where horses and humans work together to build relationships and overcome adversity. Their programs are a unique blend of teaching based on building mental, emotional, and physical connection with horses using non-verbal communication. Through observation, groundwork, and riding, their teachings go beyond handling horses to encourage critical thinking, empathy, and boundaries.
What we’ve done for them: We’ve long been inspired by the work that Misty Meadows does with animals, the confidence they build with their students, and the healing properties of the relationships they cultivate. Randi first came to learn about Misty Meadow while shooting their programs, staff, and herd for their website images in 2016. She continued her professional relationship with the organization over the last several years, then began volunteering and just joined the Board of Directors this year.
Who they are: Island Grown Initiative’s (IGI) mission is to build a regenerative and equitable food system on Martha’s Vineyard that engages, informs, and integrates the community. As a founding member of IGI and former Board President, Randi has been active with the organization since its inception in 2006.
Amid the pandemic IGI worked harder than ever to increase local food production, reduce and redirect food waste, and expand access to healthy food for all islanders, ensuring all that needed it had access to food during COVID. They continued to operate their mobile market, with strict safety precautions in place, and they provided thousands of packed lunches every week for school-age children through their free Community Lunch Program, regardless of whether the school was in session. This year IGI announced that they are merging with the Island Food Pantry as of January 1, 2021, effectively combining efforts to create a comprehensive community food equity hub to better serve families facing food insecurity.
What we’ve done for them: Over the years we’ve provided headshots for staff and Board members as well as photography services for the organization’s wide variety of events and programs, including their gleaning program, Food Hub production, Mobile Poultry Processor, and others. Our photography has helped them best illustrate the extent of their work, and it has been used across their website, blog, social media, and press.
*Additionally, to further combat food insecurity during the pandemic RBP will be donating 10% of its proceeds from 2020 to the Island Food Pantry.
Who they are: The Island Housing Trust (IHT) is a non-profit organization that supports a diverse and vital community on-Island by creating and sustaining permanently affordable housing solutions, both rental and ownership. Over the past fifteen years, they have sold and rented 102 homes and apartments, providing hope and opportunity to hundreds of low and moderate-income island families seeking a dignified solution to their affordable housing needs.
This year IHT showed no signs of slowing down and relentlessly continued their urgent work to end housing insecurity, even amid a pandemic. They completed three large scale building projects which provided housing for dozens of year-round Island residents, while maintaining their mission to design and build simple, durable, healthy, energy-efficient homes that are affordable to purchase, own, and preserve for generations.Additionally, IHT adapted their operations by hosting their first virtual fundraising event (while exceeding their fundraising goals!) and conducted their first remote homeownership lottery via a video conference.
What we’ve done for them: Since their inception, we have regularly provided staff and Board headshots as well as architectural photography to document IHT’s projects; including final builds, in-process shots, and groundbreakings to help further promote their services to potential donors and recipients.
Who they are: Vineyard Havens is an organization that hosts families of adult and pediatric cancer patients in houses on Martha’s Vineyard for vacations of up to a week. Inspired by her own son’s fight against Wilms tumor, a rare form of kidney cancer, Jeanne DeSanto launchedVineyard Havens in 2019.
Vacations have the power to heal, and no one deserves to rest and relaxation more than a family in hard times. That’s why Vineyard Havens gives the gift of an all-expenses paid vacation so families facing pediatric cancer are able to unwind and reconnect while appreciating the peace, beauty, and tranquility of Martha’s Vineyard. The organization is partnered with the Jimmy Fund Clinic at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which recommends families for the program based on their child’s treatment schedule.
What we’ve done for them: Randi Baird Photography has offered family portrait sessions to the visiting families, giving them an unforgettable experience and leaving them with timeless mementos they can cherish forever.
If your means allow it our Martha’s Vineyard based non-profits could use your support more this year than ever before. We at RBP wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season this year. While we know things will be different we hope you are able to appreciate your time with those closest to you and reflect back on all we have to be grateful for.
How often are you at a restaurant and notice plates being cleared from tables that are still loaded with perfectly good food? Or you see overstocked products at the market set to expire with no buyer in sight? All of this unwanted or forgotten food amounts to tons and tons of waste. While it can be called waste it is certainly not garbage, and should be handled accordingly.
Food scraps that are thrown into the trash are hauled to landfills, and on Martha’s Vineyard that means they first have to be processed through a local refuse district and taken off-Island. The carbon footprint to move our trash is a big one, and it’s not the right path for food scraps. According to Island Grown Initiative (IGI) garbage is the Island’s number one export. Annually 6,500 tons of food that has been grown, processed, and transported to or around the Island is only shipped off again as waste. It costs $622,180 per year to transport and dispose of organic waste in landfills off-Island and food waste represents 261 trucks on the Steamship Authority boats each way every year!
In the same place where food scraps are being thrown in the trash, farmers and gardeners are buying compost and animal feed produced from other communities. We think there’s something wrong with that, and thanks to IGI’s food rescue efforts less and less of that is happening here. IGI’s Island Food Rescue (IFR) is a pilot project that aims to provide solutions to utilize wasted food in ways that enrich the Island community and support the local food system.
Now local food waste is being processed and reused in the form of compost to help support future agricultural efforts that will enrich our soils, increase our bounty and feed our people. It’s a win for the local businesses that can effectively see their food repurposed, their trash bill decrease and their carbon footprint reduced, a win for the farmers, gardeners and backyard growers that can benefit from richer soil, and a win for the community that can feast upon the fruits of the land that is being nourished by the compost in the future.
We recently had the opportunity to catch some of the IFR project in action. We visited local restaurants including Linda Jeans and Waterside Market to see how they’ve assimilated the system into their restaurant operations, and the best part of it all is how simple and convenient it is. Basically a restaurant signs up with IGI and receives a large compost bin called a “toter” that they keep beside their dumpsters. They educate their staff on what is compostable and what isn’t, and IGI’s collection truck (complete with a hydraulic lift and power washer) comes as needed to pick up the waste and clean the toter. The food waste is then trucked to the Island Grown Initiative Farm ( formerly Thimble Farm) mixed with carbon and loaded into their in-vessel composter and hooray, food waste is saved from the trash and turned into a valuable resource for gardeners and farmers! Businesses then receive a monthly report that outlines how many pounds of food scraps they diverted from the waste system.
Recycling food waste at the IGI Farm
Once picked up by IGI, the food waste takes about a month of active composting, and then another six to eight months of curing. With IGI’s huge tumbler, food waste is fed into the machine and comes out as semi-finished compost in three to five days.
It’s all part of IGI’s commitment to build a regenerative food system on Martha’s Vineyard. You’ve likely heard that word a lot recently, and it’s an important one to understand. By adopting regenerative farming practices we can give back to the land in the same way it gives to us, by respecting it, recycling as much waste as possible, and adding composted material from other sources that can help contribute to its biodiversity and sustainability. Additionally, regenerative agriculture can remove carbon from the atmosphere (as plants and soil naturally pull carbon from the air) and ultimately work towards reversing climate change. It’s been estimated that by farming just a tenth of an acre through regenerative practices one can offset the carbon emissions of one American adult per year! By simply and strategically working the land around us not only can we give back to it, but we can can make some significant contributions towards a healthier environment.
With the compost from local businesses going back into nearby land the health and vitality of the Island’s ecosystem is strengthened. It’s a simple concept but innovative in it’s approach– why wouldn’t we want to repurpose our local waste to help provide for a more plentiful future?
Already this year over 200 tons of food has been collected from Island businesses and local schools, including 6 tons alone just from the Ag Fair. All that waste yielded 145 yards of compost, of which 126 yards have been used for IGI programs like Island Grown Schools’ Community Garden, Orchard, and the regenerative fields at Island Grown Initiative in Oak Bluffs. Think about it. That’s over 200 tons of food that was not processed as garbage and was not lost to a landfill but put back into the land we love for the betterment of our soil, our produce, our animals and ourselves. It’s not rocket science but it is a smart way of doing business.
Food rescue efforts in action at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
So what can you do to be part of the solution?
Firstly be mindful of the food you purchase and try to use as much of it as possible. Our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs, so be realistic about what you can eat when you’re buying and preparing food.
Secondly compost! Build a compost bin in your yard or buy an enclosed composter. Use your compost for your garden, share with friends and family or donate it through the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District. For $2 a bin, anyone can bring their 5 gallon counter compost to a local participating transfer station, and IGI will handle the rest. Click here for a list of those foods that are compostable and those that are not.
Thirdly, if you’re a business owner that is interested in implementing IGI’s composting collection service sign up here! Enrolled businesses include 7a, Artcliff Diner, Atria, Beach Road, Cronig’s, Kitchen Porch, Little House Cafe, Stop n Shop, Harbor View Hotel and dozens more. Happy composting!
Oh, the sweet taste of summer strawberries, is there anything better? Sinking our teeth into the first perfectly ripened farm fresh strawberry at peak season is something we look forward to year after year–and it never disappoints. Strawberries are Island Grown School’s Harvest of the Month for June and for good reason, they’re simply delicious and now is the ultimate time to indulge.
If you happen to be growing your own you’re probably as giddy with excitement as we are at the sight of seeing fresh strawberries pop up around town. On Martha’s Vineyard Morning Glory Farm (MGF) is the go to spot to satisfy our strawberry cravings, but we’re not the only ones fiending for them and they go quick. Arrive first thing in the morning to score some of their coveted bounty, they often sell out almost as fast as they can bring them in from the fields!
We asked MGF head farmer and CEO Simon Athearn to break down this year’s strawberry production for us and the numbers are staggering. “This year I estimate we have 24,000 linear feet of strawberries bearing fruit of seven different varieties, planted for sequencing ripening and all chosen for flavor! And an additional 10,000 linear feet growing on for next June harvest,” said Simon. He estimates they grow about 10,000 pints of strawberries during strawberry season, which runs from June 5th to July 10 or so, with heat speeding them up.
Not sure which ones to pick? While visiting MGF recently we scored some great advice from India, a MGF farmer who’s been busy picking this season’s strawberries. “There are three distinct flavors of strawberries… the pink ones are a bit tart, the red ones are sweet and the crimson very ripe ones are like wine.” So no matter your taste there’s a strawberry for you, and a million ways to enjoy them.
Summer strawberries are so beloved on Martha’s Vineyard that there’s two annual festivals devoted to the sweet berries each year. Both MGF and the West Tisbury Church will host their own Strawberry Festivals on Saturday June 22, meaning you can spend an entire afternoon indulging in the beloved fruit. We know we love them, but all of the excitement around these beautiful berries got us thinking, what didn’t we know about them?
Firstly, strawberries aren’t true berries, like blueberries or even grapes. Technically, a berry has its seeds on the inside. And, to be really technical, each seed on a strawberry is actually considered to be its own separate fruit. Imagine that? The average berry is embellished with approximately 200 seeds, making for a whole lot of fruit.
Secondly, strawberries are actually members of the rose family, and the fragrant aroma of a strawberry bush is an obvious indicator of such. If you’ve ever tried to grow your own you might have found that they’re easy to grow but hard to grow well. They grow best on raised beds where they have room to spread. Strawberries are a perennial plant that will come back year after year. It may not bear fruit immediately, but once it does, it will remain productive for about five years.
Strawberries have international appeal. Belgium has a museum dedicated to strawberries where you can buy everything from strawberry jam to strawberry beer! Native Americans ate strawberries long before European settlers arrived and the ancient Romans thought strawberries had medicinal powers (they used them to treat everything from depression to fainting to fever, kidney stones, bad breath and sore throats). In France, strawberries are believed to be an aphrodisiac, strawberries are served to newlyweds at traditional wedding breakfasts in the form of a creamy sweet soup. Oh là là !
Here in America we eat an average of three-and-a-half pounds of fresh strawberries each per year. It’s closer to five pounds if you count frozen ones, and we’re a big fan of freezing them this time of year. Strawberries typically have a short growing season, so buy locally grown and freeze to help avoid fruit out of season that has been subject to heavy pesticide use and contributed to a large carbon footprint. Strawberries consistently rank at the top of the list of fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues, making organic and locally grown ones that much sweeter!
If you buy them fresh and plan to keep them in the fridge for a few days, wait until before you eat them to clean them–rinsing them speeds up spoiling! If you’re freezing them choose berries that are dark red, firm and fully ripe. Wash and drain the fruit carefully, then remove the stems and caps. Dry berries on towels in a single layer and then freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Doing so will keep them from getting stuck together later on. Once they’re solid, place in freezer containers or bags. Try to remove as much air as possible by completely filling containers or pressing extra air out of bags before sealing to avoid freezer burn.
Freezing strawberries as soon as they are picked locks in the vitamins and minerals strawberries are known for, including vitamin C and K, folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium, fiber, antioxidants and polyphenols. Strawberries can be frozen for up to six months and make for tasty smoothies, milkshakes, muffins, jams, and sauces.
How will you indulge? Get inspired with these scrumptious strawberry recipes from some of our friends and favorite chefs and bask in the glory of strawberry season!