Blog Category: Lifestyle

The gift of travel: Getting to know the places I go

As a Martha’s Vineyard based photographer my summers are absolute madness–juggling multiple shoots a day, delivering client proofs, running a business, meeting up with seasonal friends, and taking in all the Island action we wait for all year. At RBP, wedding season is also a blur, which usually takes place over the spring and fall months. That leaves the winter time to finally reflect, catch up, and get inspired for the new season ahead. Fortunately, this quiet time on Martha’s Vineyard affords me the flexibility to travel, experience new places, meet new people and discover unexpected inspiration–this is my mission every time that I travel.

As a photographer I am obviously drawn to the aesthetic of a new place, often struck by its landscape and the differences or similarities it may share with home. More than that though, I am captivated by its people, its culture, its constant or emerging struggles and its rich history. I always make time to explore the roads less traveled, interact with the locals, and appreciate a new location for its true essence, not the postcard version that it’s come to be known for. Living on Martha’s Vineyard, with its own idyllic perceptions, has made me especially aware of how important it is to take the time to truly understand a new place.

I recently returned from a trip to Portugal that both inspired and intrigued me. Our visit included some time in Lisbon, the capital city, both charismatic and energetic, and a city that effortlessly blends cultural heritage with modern thinking. We also visited Nazaré in the Silver Coast, a sleepy village that has recently become a mecca for big wave surfing, and is now faced with its shifting identities as a result. Both locations, unique in their own right, offered a snapshot at the types of lives that have been lived there and the conditions that have informed the country’s collective past.

Portugal is a southern European country on the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain. Its location on the Atlantic Ocean has influenced many aspects of its culture, similar to Martha’s Vineyard. In Portugal, grilled sardines are a national dish–something you expect to find everywhere. It’s ubiquitous with the place, much like the lobster roll is to Martha’s Vineyard. Imagine my concern when I learned that there was a recent moratorium on sardine harvesting, meaning that those coveted sardines could not be caught in the place known most for its sardines.

Apparently their stocks in the nearby waters have plummeted in recent years, and the moratorium is an attempt to help replenish the supply. I witnessed the scarcity first hand during my visit, when a trip to the fish market offered only one vendor selling sardines, and they were from Spain. Here I was, in a place known for its seafood, unable to enjoy the native fish and furthermore curious as to what it means for the country, for the local fishing industry and for the men and women who rely on these fish for a living.

Particularly, as a resident of a seaside place, in an ever changing world that is rapidly depleting its natural resources, I have become deeply fascinated with how communities will be forced to evolve with these changing seas. While the sardine moratorium in Portugal has since been lifted, 2018 marks the fourth consecutive year that there has been a restriction, and the threat of the species is not going away. What does that mean for the industry and the fishermen? And the locals and tourists who rely on finding sardines on their plates as has been customary throughout the country’s history?

Many coastal communities like Portugal are now facing hard realities as a result of overfishing, changes in water temperature and global ocean circulation cycles. Unfortunately, these concerns are mounting and they will require the work of many to be thoughtfully addressed. I’m curious what innovations are taking place, or being considered in efforts to thwart the demise of these species we are so reliant on? What new methods of farming are happening to help offset some of the decline? What creative measures are taking place to ensure the sustainability of our oceans and our seafood? And what will people be forced to do when it’s too late to be thinking out of the box?

As an advocate for the environment and food security these are the types of questions I want to explore, and these are the types of issues I concern myself when I visit such places. What can we be learning from the Portuguese, and vice versa, as we encounter our own issues here?

Looking ahead I have plans to visit West Africa and Central America in the coming months. I’ll be in Senegal, another coastal community being affected by overfishing and changing conditions of the sea, and I look forward to learning about how these issues are being addressed there. I’ll also spend time in Nicoya, Costa Rica,  a Blue Zone region, which refers to a part of the world where people commonly live past the age of 100 years, and a phenomenon I’ve become fascinated by. I’m hoping to continue to explore other Blue Zones and gather learnings I can apply to my own life. What is the secret to longevity and how does the place that you live and the resources you consume contribute to happiness and a life well lived. Wouldn’t you like to know? I know I would.

If you’re planning any travel this year please take the time to think about the issues that affect the part of the world that you’re visiting and find out what’s being done about it. You’ll find your experience far more meaningful when you thoughtfully immerse yourself in the culture and become part of the conversation. After all, travel should change you. Anthony Bourdain once said “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

A behind the scenes look at shooting ‘Whole in One’ a new cookbook by author Ellie Krieger

If you’re a health conscious foodie you’ve likely heard of Ellie Krieger. Ellie is a world renowned nutritionist and New York Times bestselling cookbook author, plus she’s host and executive producer of the Public Television cooking series Ellie’s Real Good Food, and host of Food Network’s hit show Healthy Appetite. On top of that she’s also a James Beard Foundation media award winner, and a regular contributor to the Washington Post–needless to say she’s a dominant presence in the food world! I’ve personally known Ellie for years, and I’ve watched her develop an honest, approachable brand, while remaining devoted to educating her fans on great food and good health–two things I hold in high regard.

Ellie and I have been diligently waiting for the right opportunity to work together and it fortunately came earlier this year when she reached out to me to photograph the images for Whole in One, her new cookbook that will be released in 2019. It will make Ellie’s seventh cookbook and my third, and for me the process has been unparalleled. Working with Ellie has truly been an honor. If you follow her work you know she is a consummate professional, who brings a deep passion and palpable energy to every project (and plate!) she takes on.

We recently wrapped an intensive shoot for the book in her New York City test kitchen and I couldn’t be more excited with what we produced. Along with a very strong, professional team we worked tirelessly, sometimes capturing up to 15 different recipes a day. We visited a local prop house where we scoured through a seemingly endless supply of textiles, ceramics, surfaces and backdrops until we found the perfect design aesthetic for the book.

With the help of our talented prop stylist Maeve Sheridan and skilled food stylist Suzanne Lenzer, we pored over each dish, careful to capture the most mouth watering shots, while maintaining a careful balance between our own creativity and the attainable nature of Ellie’s dishes that she’s come to be known for.

With Whole in One, Ellie focuses on delicious, healthy meals that can be made in a single pot, sheet pan or skillet, ensuring a good meal with limited clean up, that can be easily integrated into your dinnertime routine. Our creative challenge was to showcase both the convenience of these singular meals along with the simple, yet dynamic and thoughtful ingredients at play.

Whole in One is Ellie’s modern take on healthy cooking that’s intended to be approachable and inviting, and we worked hard to represent that visually in every shot. As a chef, dietitian and trusted voice in the world of healthy cooking people turn to Ellie for her expertise and I’m deeply fortunate she turned to me for mine.

Stay tuned for updates on the release of Whole in One, currently scheduled to publish Fall 2019.

*Photo of Ellie Krieger and Randi Baird above, plus all black and white production stills taken by Arletta Charter.

Not all is quiet on Martha’s Vineyard: IGI’s Farm Hub keeps much alive through the dead of winter

There’s a common misconception about the “off-season” on Martha’s Vineyard. Many visitors think we simply shut off a switch and the Island lays dormant throughout the winter months, only to awaken in the spring once talks of summer vacations return. Despite a welcomed quietness and a relatively slower change of pace, the winter season is still very productive on-Island. No program makes good use of the colder months better than Island Grown Initiative’s (IGI) Winter Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

IGI’s winter CSA means that Island families can still look forward to farm fresh produce, even when local farm stands have called it quits for the season, and access to local produce is limited to what’s available at Cronig’s or the indoor West Tisbury Farmers Market (which wraps up for the season mid December). For those families lucky enough to score one of forty spots on the CSA, winter is just as nutritious and delicious as summer.

Members of the winter CSA are entitled to weekly allotments of mixed greens, herbs and sometimes even a fresh pint of strawberries. CSA food distribution takes place at IGI’s massive Farm Hub, where members pick up their bounty, and where most of the winter produce originates. The Farm Hub is the headquarters for IGI’s growing operation which encompasses forty acres in Vineyard Haven. Tucked back off of an unassuming bumpy Island road, the magnificent property at Thimble Farm features a sprawling acre-sized hydroponic greenhouse that allows the magic of local, thoughtful food production to take place all year long.

The massive greenhouse was originally designed by a previous owner to grow tomatoes on the hydroponic system, but IGI uses it to produce a wide variety of food crops as well as fish. During the peak seasons of spring and fall more than 4000 hydroponic plants are in the system. Tomatoes, arugula, peppers and more are harvested for IGI’s free community lunch program, which served 3,000 meals this past summer alone. Its plethora of produce is also sold through the organization’s Mobile Market, a truck stocked with affordable, locally grown fruits and vegetables, available to everyone on-Island in pursuit of fresh, local food.

During the winter months however, the greenhouse is sectioned off and the staff of the Farm Hub focuses on growing cold weather crops that can easily benefit from solar gain, including strawberries, lettuce, cucumbers and salad greens, among others. IGI’s hydroponic system allows plants to grow in a water based, nutrient-rich solution, and peat is used to allow the plants to constantly be in contact with the water below it. The water comes from four tanks of rainbow trout that are also farmed on the property (and occasionally included in the CSA allotment), and the water is efficiently repurposed for the hydroponic system. This means that even in the dead of winter there is always water running and new food being cultivated at the Farm Hub. It’s an impressive operation any day of the year and one we’re especially grateful for it now when other options are so limited.

In addition to the CSA, crops grown during the colder season are sold to the schools at deeply discounted prices, and to those in need through a partnership with the Vineyard Food Equity Network. For more about IGI’s winter CSA check out “The Green Green Fields of Winter” by Nicole Grace Mercier, and photos by yours truly, in the latest issue of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine. To sign up for the CSA email office@igimv.org or call 508-687-9062, space is limited.

Living the life with influencer CeCe Olisa

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.”

Give it up for the gleaners, the dedicated volunteers picking for progress

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.

Interested in volunteering yet? Click here to sign up to glean. Participating farms include The Allen Farm, Ghost Island Farm, Morning Glory Farm, North Tabor Farm, The Good Farm, Slip Away Farm, Quanaimes Gardens and Whippoorwill Farm.