Blog Category: Portraits

IGI’s Food Rescue Program turns table scraps into compost and beyond

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.
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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!

Living the life with Instagram influencers for Orchard Mile

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.

You can follow along with Orchard Mile and the influencers below:
@OrchardMile
@LisaDNYC
@MarniDanielle
@OhSoGlamBlog
@Michelle.Madonna
@HonestlyKate
@alexandmichaeltoccin
@MrsDowJones
@GabriellaZacche
@RutaEnroute

Weather or not, the shoot must go on

We all know we can’t predict the weather, but over the last thirty years we’ve become really, really good at planning around it. As photographers on Martha’s Vineyard we need to be flexible, adaptable and ready for anything! When we first engage with clients when initially booking our shoots we’re all hoping for the perfect weather. Partly cloudy, partly sunny, dry, and a comfortable temperature. 

If you’ve booked a photo shoot or planned a special event, you’ve likely visualized the same thing. You’ve crossed your fingers a hundred times and obsessively checked the weather for the weeks and days leading up to it. But no matter what you do, ultimately Mother Nature will have her way, and no matter what you’ll still end up with fabulous photos with RBP. 

So how do we do it? Firstly we always build in a rain date as a backup in case the weather turns especially bad. We’ve become really good judges of the weather, and have learned how to interpret it hour by hour. As the date approaches we utilize all of our favorite weather apps and make an assessment based on the forecast to determine whether or not we should postpone the shoot. 

We work with our clients to determine their level of comfort with the weather that is being predicted–it’s often an exercise in seeing how adventurous people are! Here on Martha’s Vineyard we frequently experience microclimates, so the specific location of the shoot is important to assess as well. It could be beautiful on one side of the island while a storm is brewing a few miles away. 

If it’s only a chance of showers we keep calm and carry on. First and foremost we want to have fun with our clients. If the weather is going to be a stressor and the clients are not going to have a great time, we postpone it. Some of our favorite photos have been those that we’ve captured in unpredictable weather, where our clients have rolled with the punches and embraced the skies!

Plus “bad weather” can often make for some really fun times. Umbrellas are a fantastic prop in the rain, we especially love the clear umbrellas that you can see through! We always have a couple on hand and love when our clients come prepared as well. If rain is predicted during a wedding shoot we always suggest our brides and grooms provide umbrellas for their guests–it makes an impromptu wedding favor they’ll be sure to reuse and never forget!

Remember, sometimes the most ominous looking weather gives way to the most stunning photos. Here on-Island the colors that make their way through our sky are simply breathtaking, especially before or after a storm. Often it’s the weather you’ve feared the most that makes way for the most epic photos, not the perfect sunset you meticulously planned for. 

The long and short of it? Don’t stress about the weather. Keep an open mind, embrace the skies, and know that no matter what the weatherman says you’re in good hands with RBP.  

Love is love, this month and every month

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month and we’re proud supporters of it!

The occasion is marked each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City that sparked an international gay rights movement.

“Stonewall” served as a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States, and across the world, and we’ve come a long way from it.

Over the last fifty years millions of people have spoken out and spoken up to defend the rights of the LGBTQ community, and we’ve been right there with them, firmly believing in equality for all, no matter your sexual preference!

As Lin-Manuel Miranda famously said in his 2016 Tony award acceptance speech “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”

This month we honor those who have paid the price for standing up for themselves and others, for simply wanting to live and let live.

Today we live in a country where same sex marriage is legal, and many of our politicians and influencers are openly gay.

We’re grateful for the progress that has been made, and we know there is still work to be done.

Here’s to looking back on all of the beautiful love we’ve witnessed over the years and here’s to looking forward to even more.

It’s strawberry season, a berry special time of year

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!

Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta Cream by Ellie Krieger

Strawberry Chia Seed Jam by Gabrielle Chronister of Island Grown Schools

Gingery Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with Brown Sugar-Pecan Topping  by Susie Middleton