Community gathers to celebrate sustainability at the latest Living Local Festival

Community gathers to celebrate sustainability at the latest Living Local Festival

by -
Families carved pumpkins as part of the festivities. – Photo by Mary Shea

A little wind and rain didn’t prevent people from flocking to the Ag Hall last Saturday for the 16th annual Living Local Harvest Festival. All day long, Islanders stopped by to stroll through the hall, check out the seed demonstration and activity tent and enjoy a break from the weather under the food and music tent. The successful event marked another occasion for the community to come out in support of all things local on the Island.

Although some of the outdoor activities, like a puppet parade and the fiddling contest, had to be curtailed, there was still plenty to keep visitors engaged. The purpose of the festival is as much to educate as to entertain, and there were plenty of opportunities for Vineyarders to learn more about our local farms and sustainability-focused nonprofits.

Kate Warner, who was one of the founders of the festival, was on hand this year promoting her bread-baking classes and bread co-op, Vineyard Bread Project ( She reports that she got a number of people to sign up for bread baking classes, and found the event to be a great way to reach out to Vineyarders, especially now when people have a little more time on their hands.

Cape Light Compact has been involved in the festival for the past thirteen years. The company’s mission is “to serve its 200,000 customers through the delivery of proven energy efficiency programs, effective consumer advocacy, competitive electricity supply, and green power options,” according to their website.

Charlotte Benjamin was one of several local musicians who performed. – Photo by Mary Shea
Charlotte Benjamin was one of several local musicians who performed. – Photo by Mary Shea

Cape Light representatives were on hand to raise awareness of their many programs, such as free energy audits and residential rebates. They also hosted two events during the day, a talk titled “Taking Charge of Your Energy Future” and a dehumidifier-recycling program. Twenty-eight people brought in old dehumidifiers to exchange for a $30 rebate offer for the purchase of a new, energy-efficient model.

“We pay for all these programs on our energy bills,” said Maggie Downey, Cape Light Compact’s administrator. “This is a good way to reach out to people and let them know what’s available to them.”

An organization that has been operating for years somewhat under the radar also used the opportunity to reach out to Islanders. The Greenhouse of Martha’s Vineyard (better known by their former name, Community Solar Greenhouse or Comsog) was offering plants and some veggies, including a variety of types of their own peppers.

“We’re totally community-supported,” said Thalia Scanlon, who is the nonprofit’s president and also a master gardener. “We’ve been around since 1985. We have more than 200 members — people who want to learn and people who love to teach.” The greenhouse is dedicated to promoting organic gardening. “We use all organic soil and products. We start all of our plants from our own seeds or cuttings.

“One of the best things is that we’re here all winter,” said Ms. Scanlon. The members meet every Wednesday morning throughout the year, sharing soup as well as information.

Rebecca Gilbert of Native Earth Teaching Farm was on hand selling saffron bulbs from her dye garden, as well as hand-dyed wool and some other products. She was also promoting the farm’s upcoming Popcorn Festival, which will take place on Oct. 11.

Island Alpaca hosted a spinning demonstration, and had a few different alpaca items for sale. A number of local food producers were on site offering samples, including Island Honey, Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt, and Not Your Sugar Mamas chocolates.

Throughout the day, a variety of programs and talks touched on subjects ranging from conservation education, habitat stewardship, seed saving, Wampanoag native food traditions, composting, sustainable erosion control, and environmentally sustainable housing.

Attendees show off their contradancing skills to the music of the Flying Elbows. – Photo by Mary Shea
Attendees show off their contradancing skills to the music of the Flying Elbows. – Photo by Mary Shea

The Seed Tent hosted talks, as well as fun activities like a seeding race. Other kid-oriented activities included face painting and pumpkin carving.

The food and music tent was a hive of activity all day. Various farms and food purveyors had an assortment of prepared items — from soups to baked goods to burgers and tacos. Although most everything was from local farms, the edible offerings were surprisingly heavy on options for carnivores.

In the evening, a steady stream of Islanders arrived at the Ag Hall for an old-fashioned barn dinner and dance. Guests feasted on pulled pork, grains, sweet potatoes, and salad prepared by the Scottish Bakehouse, and desserts from Morning Glory Farm.

Then the Flying Elbows kept the dance floor packed. Kids and adults paired off for contradancing and some other fun family sing-along, dance-along numbers.

Director Nevette Previd was very pleased with turnout and with the number of individuals and organizations who participated at Living Local this year. “Every year the bar is raised,” she said of the festival, which originally sprung up in 2001 when two events, the annual Harvest Festival and the Energy Fair, consolidated their efforts. “It’s come to include the pillars of the sustainable movement on Martha’s Vineyard who represent agriculture, conservation, and energy. It’s a day when we can get all these separate entities in one place and get everyone talking to one another, either reintroducing themselves to the public or educating people about what’s going on on the Island.”