Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation celebrates (almost) 60 years at annual gala

Melissa Moore, wife of Sheriff's Meadow executive director, Adam Moore, and outgoing board president Chris Alley. – Jamie Kageleiry (Stringfellow)

Sixty years ago this summer, Henry Beetle Hough, former owner of the Vineyard Gazette, and his wife, Elizabeth Bowie Hough, set out to conserve a piece of land called Sheriff’s Meadow, adjacent to their Edgartown property. The following year, he would found Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, to conserve parcels of land that no other organizations at the time would consider.

On Monday night, under tents and twinkling lights at Flat Point Farm in West Tisbury, 440 donors, board members and other Vineyarders celebrated the “Island’s local land trust,” which now protects 3,000 acres of Vineyard land,

After a cocktail reception, Adam Moore, executive director of Sheriff’s Meadow, introduced Arnie Fischer, the owner of Flat Point Farm with his sister, Eleanor Neubert. Mr. Fischer told the crowd how happy he was to share such a special spot with them. His father, Arnold Fischer Sr., bought the farm — 120 acres and then called “Loggerhead Point” — in 1939 from Jim and Prudy Look. “Back then you couldn’t give this land away,” Mr. Fischer said. The Looks raised foster children, and each one of them turned down the chance to take over the farm. “Who’d want to live way down here?” Mr. Fischer asked, gesturing to the sweeping land overlooking the Tisbury Great Pond. The farm sat vacant during the Depression until Mr. Fischer’s father bought it. By 1945, he’d married Priscilla, who would become the principal of the West Tisbury school. The Fischers would have five children — Arnold and four sisters.

Now 12 family members live year round on the farm, including Mr. Fischer’s daughter, Emily, who with her husband Doug Brush, raises goats and sells soaps and lotions made from their milk at the Farmers Market.

In 2013, the family donated 13 acres to the Land Bank, and protected another 25. A trail easement allows hikers to walk a two-mile loop around Flat Point, which Mr. Fischer invited people to use.

“We share a passion for protecting special places on Martha’s Vineyard,” Mr. Fischer said. Mr. Moore addressed the crowd then, thanking outgoing board president Chris Alley: “I can’t think of anyone who knows more people or more properties than Chris Alley. Whatever it is, Chris can do it.”

Sheriff’s Meadow has recently added land in Aquinnah, Mr. Moore said, that abuts land on the beach the organization already owned. They will be obtaining permits and laying out a new trail.

Mr. Moore introduced incoming board president Brien O’Brien, who shared Mr. Moore’s advice about giving speeches: “Don’t drink anything until after your speech, keep it short, and don’t talk about politics.” Mr. O’Brien asked the crowd to think back on their first experience of Martha’s Vineyard. “I left my dorm room at Boston College one day, and hitchhiked to Woods Hole with some friends,” he said of his first, memorable trip to the Island. They hitched up to the Allen Farm and found the No Nukes concert, and listened to Carly Simon and, he said, “I realized I was in one of the most special places on earth. I never thought it would become the center of my family and friends for 40 years. Our relationship with the land keeps us coming back”

More than 400 donors, volunteers and board members attended the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation annual gala at Flat Point Farm on Monday. — Jamie Stringfellow

He urged audience members to say “thank you” to the Island. “Go walk a trail,” he suggested.

For more information on Sheriff’s Meadow, visit Sheriffsmeadow.org.