Meet your farmer: Lily Walter of Slip Away Farm

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Photo by Lily K Morris

On a recent Saturday at Slip Away Farm, Chappaquiddick residents and off-Chappy friends gathered at the farm for a Fall Festival, one of the little island’s rare off-season community events. Boxes of Lily Walter’s delicious, freshly-picked vegetables set the scene, with tables of fermented and wild foods for tasting, Vineyard Stories’ books, and Wooligans recycled fashions set up around a crackling fire. Adults as well as children tried their hand at knocking down the butternut bowling pins with an acorn squash and, blindfolded, taping a real leaf to an artful drawing of a tree tacked to the trunk of an oak. Three white goats from neighboring Over the Hill Farm attempted to bob for apples. The event was Chappy style, and scale — Chappy timing, too. The band showed up for the second hour, having roused from bed one of their members who didn’t know about the gig. Passing bicyclists counted themselves lucky to find something of interest happening on this island that lacks even a single store.

The farm celebrated its third season offering freshly grown vegetables to Chappy residents. In September, 2012, Slip Away moved their growing operation to the fields bordering the main road across from the Chappy Community Center and Brine’s Pond. The first year the CSA (community supported agriculture) vegetables were grown at The FARM Institute and delivered by bicycle. This year the farm’s CSA grew to 55 shares (from 47 last year), including a new 20-week option, grown on about three acres.

While continuing to add compost to the fields, they still rely heavily on organic fertilizer out of the bag to enrich the sandy soil that covers this part of the island. However, they actually grew more food on less land this past summer because of more drip-irrigation, and use of a walk-behind roto-tiller, which allowed them to make the rows closer together. Their tractor, which spent the summer waiting for a clutch repair, is now back at work preparing fields for winter cover crops.

This past summer the farm stand on the porch of the old Chappy schoolhouse was open three days a week offering Slip Away vegetables as well as a range of Island-made products, including yogurt from Mermaid Farm in Chilmark, meat from Good Farm and Cleveland Farm, Not Your Sugar Mama’s cookies and chocolates, Vineyard Stories books, Lily K. Morris photo cards, and tote bags designed by Kendyll Gage-Ripa, who joined the farm team this summer.

Christian Walter (Lily’s brother) trucked vegetables up to the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market, while Collins Heavener (the third member of Slip Away’s originators) delivered to restaurants Port Hunter, Harbor View, and Flatbread.

Financially, the farm hit its target this year, and Lily says, “We’re probably at maximum for now, with the labor sources, the land, and what we’re taking on.” But that doesn’t mean there are no plans for expansion!

On the rise behind the farmhouse, Lily wants to plant brambles next spring: raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry. She’s also working on a design for a perennial herb garden that will go into the area behind the farm stand where the pigs lived this past spring and summer. The pigs dug up the roots and fertilized the ground — as well as providing another income source when they became sausage. Lily would like to add more value-added products like the sausage, and items made from the vegetables they grow.

She’d also like to organize more Twilight at Slip Away evenings, which were a popular way for people to tour the farm and visit with their Chappy neighbors last summer. Lily’s mother, Jan Pogue of Vineyard Stories, wants to do more book events and cooking demonstrations.

This winter Lily will be in Providence at herb school with Farmacy Herbs. She wants to learn about herbs as medicine, for herself and friends for now, and maybe someday grow herbs for tea — she’s in the exploration stage now.

For the near future, she’ll be leaving Chappy, at least for an evening, to preside over a Farm to Table seminar at the Port Hunter in Edgartown, as part of the MV Food and Wine Festival. If you missed Slip Away’s CSA and Twilight evenings, you can get a sense of what Farm to Table means on Chappy (and to co-presenters Mermaid Farm, Jan Buhrman of Kitchen Porch, Port Hunter’s Jeremy Davis, and the Allen Farm. Info is here: mvfoodandwine.com.