In Print : Island farm and family
"Morning Glory Farm and the family that feeds an island," by Tom Dunlop. Photos by Alison Shaw. Vineyard Stories, June, 2009. 156 pages. $24.95.
It is the story of one farm, Morning Glory, founded in 1979, and of one family, the Athearns, James Athearn from West Tisbury and Deborah Galley Athearn from Edgartown, high school sweethearts who married and raised a farming family. But in telling it, in picturing it, an essential understanding of local farming on the Vineyard, of the life and mission of farming, and of the power of family tradition, is captured.
"Morning Glory Farm and the family that feeds an island," was released to Island book stores yesterday. The book covers details of its history: Deborah Athearn's father, Kenneth T. Galley, bought the first 17 1/2 acres of Morning Glory Farm in 1943 for $7. It also tells its story through writer Tom Dunlop's well-honed descriptions of the morning to night routine of farm life. He quotes veteran Farm worker Rebecca Barnatt: "And the crop might not even come up. Rodents sometimes - they've been eating the cilantro lately. And in retaliation, after I covered it the other week, they danced all over the cash register. You should have seen the mouse prints. Then there's the weather."
Mr. Dunlop, a former editor at the Vineyard Gazette, says, "I think I went into it with a general sense that farming stops, but farming never stops. When you drive by the farm stand, it may be closed, but there are people harvesting stuff up to Christmas time... How damn hard that family has worked for generations - just incredible. It's 24 hours a day."
His innocence about farming made him enthusiastic about the challenge of writing the book. "The first draft was due in the middle of October, and there was simply no getting around the fact that I was going to have to work really fast and spend an awful lot of time at the farm, which is basically what I did. For the next two months I got there pretty much when the workers got there, around 6:30 am."
And as described by Mr. Dunlop, the pervasive spirit that fuels and fashions the approximately 45-acre farm and its Vineyard-famous farm stand, become contagious. It affected both Mr. Dunlop, who refers to Jim Athearn as "a visionary" about the locally grown movement, and Alison Shaw, whose photographs fill the pages of the book.