Early Harvest Farm Day

Kyle Joba-Woodruff: Photo by Susan Safford
Kyle Joba-Woodruff races through a field collecting bugs for identification, one of the many activities for children. Photos by Susan Safford

By Susan Safford - July 6, 2006

The sun was shining on the organizers of the Early Harvest Farm Day held last Saturday at Thimble Farm off Iron Hill Road in Oak Bluffs. After days of often heavy rain, the sun broke through, shining on children as they scampered through fields collecting bugs, and families as they picked buckets of strawberries and filled bags with peas.

The Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS) sponsored the event, inviting the public to see firsthand how the Island's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program works. VCS explained the multi-tiered efforts by the conservation community to preserve this agriculturally rich property and keep it forever in food production.

Meghan Sonia: Photo by Susan Safford
Strawberry picking is a popular activity at the farm, and Meghan Sonia, her bucket filled, is ready to enjoy the bounty.

CSA connects growers and consumers in a compact in which buyers purchase a share of the farm's output, which they can pick up regularly through the growing season. The advantages of the CSA method over wholesaling is that the farmer is not restricted to planting two or three popular cash crops, but instead can plant a variety of foods to feed a community.

Andrew Woodruff of Whippoorwill Farm leases the 40-acre Thimble Farm property, which is accessible from either Iron Hill Road in Oak Bluffs or Stoney Hill Road in West Tisbury. He has one more year left on a three-year lease, but is optimistic that the preservation efforts will find a way to purchase the property, now on the market with a $4 million price tag.

At Saturday's event, Mr. Woodruff led a group on a tour of the property, pointing out the fields of strawberries, acres of potatoes, rows and rows of delicately covered basil, peas, ready for picking, and newly planted fields of salad greens.

"In farming it can go sour really quickly," said Mr. Woodruff. He explained how the Colorado Potato Beetle destroyed part of potato crop before he had a chance to take action; how heavy rains ruined part of the strawberry crop which had been ready for picking. He pointed out the hard-to-deal-with muck grass, the constant effort to stay ahead of weeds, and his hope to employ living mulches in the future which would offer an option other that using the black plastic that's so effective retaining soil moisture and keeping down weeds.