“Eat local” is the reigning rule for foodies today. Maybe even more so than the previous title-holder, “eat organic.”
Eating locally grown meat and produce is better for the planet, burning less fuel and cutting transport costs. It’s better for the Island economy, supporting farmers and keeping more money on the Vineyard. And chances are, consuming meat consciously, knowing where it came from and that it isn’t laden with antibiotics and an unnatural diet, is better for our health too.
Now for the logistics: where to get the goods?
The FARM Institute is committed to producing beef, lamb, pork, turkey, chicken, and eggs while practicing and educating about the humane handling of livestock. The FARM Institute offers a meat share as part of their Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). You can sign up for three or six months and pick up your 10-pound share the first week of every month. There are two types of shares: beef, pork, and chicken, or just beef and chicken. For more information or to sign up for a share call 508-627-7007.
The Scottish Bakehouse regularly sources from Island farms such as Mermaid Farm and Dairy in Chilmark, for their Feta cheese and spreads, as well as beef for their Meatball Hero. Sausage comes from Blackwater Farm in West Tisbury and is masterfully paired with tomato ragout and root veggies with gemelli pasta. Josh and Lindsey Scott of Pasture Hill Farm in Chilmark provide ground lamb, which the Bakehouse makes into a burger served with kidney bean salad and shaved Brussels sprouts. On your way out, pick up a loaf of freshly baked bread and a dozen local eggs. The Scottish Bakehouse is open everyday from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm.
State Road Restaurant incorporates local meat and eggs wherever it can. They bought a whole pig, which was raised organically at the Grey Barn Farm in Chilmark. After slaughter, some of that meat was dry-aged and now appears on the Charcuterie Plate, a selection of cured meats and sausages. Look for Tasso ham (spicy smoked pork, a Cajun specialty) on the Sunday Table menu, a casual menu with rustic pizzas, housemade pastas, small plates and entrees. The roasted tomato pizza, along with herb ricotta, North Tabor Farm kale and shaved Parmesan, comes with an egg from the Grey Barn, an interesting but good addition. State Road also offers local cod and Island-raised chicken. The restaurant will be closed from February 14 to mid-April.
According to the menu at Henry’s, at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown, they “source the freshest Island organic produce, farm-raised meats and day boat seafood.” Chef Levon Wallace’s menu lives up to that claim with small-plate selections like Katama Chicken Thigh Mennonite Dumplings and pan gravy.
Mr. Wallace says that it’s more difficult to source local meat during the off-season when business is slow, but it doesn’t stop him from trying. The Ploughman’s Plate, a selection of house-cured meats and pate changes often but showcases what Island farms have to offer. Henry’s is open everyday for lunch and dinner beginning at 11:30 am.
ArtCliff Diner recently started serving dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, from 5:30 to 9:30 pm. The menu changes weekly, but look forward to creative dishes such as arugula and fried chickpea salad with smoked paprika and Parmesan. The ArtCliff always has local eggs available and they’re using pork and veal (which is getting rave reviews) from the Grey Barn as well.
Menemsha Café is serving lunch Monday to Friday 11 am to 2 pm and dinner on Friday and Saturday 5 to 8 pm. Owner Josh Aronie is committed to using local ingredients when available and financially possible. He uses The FARM Institute beef for his meatloaf sandwiches served with mashed potatoes and caramelized onions.
In a time when making conscious choices about the food we eat is increasingly important for the well-being of ourselves and that of the planet, the Vineyard community is lucky to have these excellent options.
However, many farmers and restaurateurs agree that raising and selling livestock would be more feasible and affordable with a humane processing facility for four-legged animals here on the Vineyard, something Island Grown Initiative (IGI) is working to make a reality.
Three and a half years ago IGI started a poultry program including the Mobile Poultry Processing Trailer (MPPT). Since its implementation, IGI and MPPT have facilitated the production and consumption of 4,500 Island-raised chickens, creating six part-time jobs, and allowing seven Island farms to sell their chicken commercially, in turn generating an additional $70,000 in agricultural income. Ali Berlow, former executive director of IGI, emphasizes the importance of a safe local food system that includes meat and poultry, and says that the key to that is “access to an affordable USDA certified, fair wage, clean and safe humane slaughter and processing facility.” Adding that, “if it doesn’t exist, farmers are far less inclined to raise livestock. Stress on the animals and the cost of transporting livestock great distances are grave barriers.”
For more information about Island-grown meat and IGI’s work, visit Islandgrown.org/meat-program/.