Living Local Harvest Festival schools us on sustainability

Irene Wendt greets people as they enter the Agricultural Hall for Living Local last year. —Stacey Rupolo

This weekend, the 18th annual Living Local Harvest Festival will be happening at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury, rain or shine. The festival celebrates and promotes sustainable living on Martha’s Vineyard, with workshops covering food issues, recycling, backyard farming, and more. Outside, there will be local food, face painting, crafts, hayrides, and music throughout the day. “The whole day is about education, and who this community is and the people that are in it,” says organizer Nevette Previd.

In the front room of the hall, a series of panel discussions and mini workshops will provide a focal point and lessons to carry forward. “Feeding our community: Local food success stories” will kick off Saturday’s panels. Representatives from Island Grown Initiative, the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club, Island Food Pantry, and Island Grown Schools will share some of their challenges and successes, and help people learn what they can do to help their fellow islanders.

Next, the “Mini-Guides” series will bring in local experts on simple things that you can do at home to foster a sustainable environment. Roxanne Kapitan and Wendi Goldfarb work together at Middletown Nursery and Oak Leaf Landscape. They specialize in edible gardening, and manage an all-organic production nursery for edible plants. “We work with our clients and the community about sustainable practices in your backyard,” Roxanne says. “My basic premise is that every homeowner can move in a continuum toward sustainability.”

For those who want to start small, Wendi will provide an introduction to worm composting, which can be done indoors in the basement, or even in a kitchen. “It’s sort of like having a pet,” Wendi says. “You take care of the worms and then they take care of you, and then you get a beneficial product afterward.” For those with a bit more space, Roxanne will demonstrate how homeowners can create their own backyard compost system instead of buying bagged compost from the nursery. She will conclude with a demonstration of how to plant your own garlic this fall using the compost you’ve cultivated, if you already have some in the works.

In another of the mini-guides, Laurisa Rich of Lagoon Pond Associates will share tips on nontoxic cleaning, including how to make your own cleaning products. The Lagoon Pond Association is especially concerned with keeping septic systems working well, thereby protecting the groundwater and ponds. “Gentle cleaners protect healthy flora and fauna, inside and out,” Laurisa says. She uses vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, and essential oils in her cleansers, with vodka as a disinfectant.

Another proponent of do-it-yourself cleaning products is Nina Carter Hitchen, founder of Plastic Free MV. She’s part of the the “Breaking up with plastics” panel, which will also include information about recycling and the impact of plastics on the oceans. Nina focuses on what individuals and families can do at home to reduce their use of plastic and create less plastic waste, from trips to the grocery store to trips to the dump; small, easy changes, like using reusable bags for shopping. At Cronig’s, she notes, you can use reusable bags to fill up at the bulk food bins and then move the bulk items into jars when you get home, saving on packaging. Nina, Wendi, and Roxanne all stress that these things are easy to do. “No matter how easy it is to make, people get used to the ‘convenience’ products and forget these skills,” Nina says.

The games, musical performances, and other outdoor events will wrap up around 4 pm, and the day’s finale will be a community supper and dance, starting at 6. The supper, hosted by the Scottish Bakehouse, is themed “food with roots.” Like the rest of the day, this aims to be a zero-waste event, so bring your own reusable place settings. For those who leave their plates at home, place settings will be available to rent, but disposable cutlery, cups, and plates are not part of the plan.

After dinner, the Flying Elbows will rosin up the bow to accompany a foot-stomping contradance in the main hall, playing traditional string band music from Appalachia, New England, French Canada, and beyond. John Freeman will be the caller, and the dance is suitable for all levels of dancers, from novice to expert. The big hall has room for everyone. “We especially like to see the young people come out,” says Paul Thurlow of the Flying Elbows, “but there are always some old hands, too. Generally, it’s a lot of fun.”

For updates to the schedule and programs, see