Letters to the Editor
It is a farm
To the Editor:
Though I've been told that you can't please all the people all the time, it's still upsetting to read the letter from Edward Klein in the January 6 Times ("Retail, actually") which says negative things about me and my farm. Fortunately, everything he lists as a fault is false, so it should be easy to dismiss as ignorant bluster. However, I think it is important to provide some facts about our farm in case there are other readers out there who are as uninformed.
Before I begin I must say that I am disappointed that your editorial writer also lacked the basic facts before he/she chose to analyze our farm in an editorial that coincidentally occurred on the same day as Mr. Klein's letter. Though we and our farm business are complimented in various ways in the editorial, the writer is just plain wrong to say Morning Glory Farm is not a farm. That is as ridiculous as saying the MV Times is not a newspaper.
For the benefit of Mr. Klein and your editor and anyone else who wants to know, please allow me to list a few facts.
In the first place, any credit for being a sharp business person goes to my wife, not me, as Debbie has been the one to direct the farm stand, and my role has been to conduct the field operations, now being taken over by our sons.
Morning Glory Farm operates as a retail farm stand in a residential/agricultural zone because Section 3 of Chapter 40, the state's zoning act, specifically outlines that farms may also sell bought-in products provided that we grow a required percentage of our own agricultural products during the growing season. For this reason we work hard at farming locally and producing tons of our own food, not only because it is our primary mission but also because we need to maintain the right balance of local food to imported to keep our legal status as a farm. This ratio of home-grown to imported was tested, rightfully, by the building inspector before he would accept our application for a building permit, was then reviewed and approved by town counsel, and found to be securely within the legal parameters.
In order to grow enough food for our farm stand, we plow, till, plant, weed, water, and harvest 57 acres of vegetables, fruit, and flowers. In a typical year, we will harvest about 15,000 dozen ears of corn from about 24 acres, about 5,000 pounds of beans from two acres, 22,000 pounds of potatoes from two acres, 2,200 pounds of Swiss chard from one-quarter acre, and over 15,000 pounds of cucumbers, 32,605 heads of lettuce, about 10 tons of winter squash, up to 17,000 pounds of tomatoes and dozens of other crops on the rest of the acres of Vineyard land we cultivate in Katama, Edgartown, and West Tisbury, in 12 locations. In addition, we harvest hay, which we have planted and fertilized, on 40 additional acres and graze 20-30 head of cattle on pastures we have developed on about 16 acres of land in Chilmark. We also take care of and collect eggs from close to 800 laying hens and raise about 600 meat chickens over the summer sharing pasture with the cows. We also raise about 20-24 hogs a year, supplementing their diets with about one ton of ear corn we grow in Edgartown. If this is not a farm, what is?
Many farm stands in Massachusetts sell imported produce to supplement their own, including Bartlett Farm on Nantucket, Wilson Farm in Lexington, Verril Farm in Concord, and Volante Farm in Needham, all with significant acreages of spectacular crops of their own. These farmers, and the legislators of the Commonwealth, all recognize that in order for a farm to be successful retailing sufficient volume of their own products, they must provide their customers with the assurance that the food products they seek will be there, even if there is a crop failure or it hasn't ripened locally yet. The insurance of imported produce helps to make possible the sale of local produce and, likewise, the local produce provides the reason that people go out of their way to shop at local farm stands. All the produce is clearly labeled in the store as to its origin.
We would also like to note that we buy more than $60,000 worth of produce from our fellow Island farmers, and we sell more than $100,000 worth of our own produce to stores and restaurants around the Island.
It's ironic that Mr. Klein says I'm against a bike path when, in fact, we donated an easement 10 feet by about 1,600 feet for a dirt path on our land. It winds nicely around trees as it runs alongside the Meshacket Road and follows the natural contours of the land. There is not enough space in the narrow town layout for the road and a bike path. As our new path wears in it will be a pleasant place for families and children to ride and walk, while the serious road bikers can continue to ride on the paved road, which they do very nicely now with the traffic.
Why he says I am against sewers I have no clue, except that I have said on occasions that I am against extending sewers which would encourage development of raw land.
Our compost pile takes leaves and grass clippings and digests them into a form that is very stable with less than one percent soluble nitrogen. It is the desired form for slow release of nutrients as well as improving the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. It is our understanding that if there are residues of pesticides on the grass clippings that come to us, the 12 to18 months of heat and bacterial digestion will disintegrate them, thereby neutralizing them. The compost pile has been good for the community and good for the land.
I invite your editor to spend some time working with us this summer to see whether we are indeed a farm or not. He or she may then have more respect for the blood, sweat, and tears, as well as the decades of financial insecurity that have been our dues for the privilege of operating our farm business.
James A. Athearn
Pulling weeds and business
To the Editor:
Morning Glory Farm is a farm. I worked there in the field for two summers, not as a young back-to-the-lander but as a 40-year-old astute observer of our current climate and impending food, economic and energy crises. The fact that the Athearns have developed the business in a way that supports the farm should be honored. Gosh, having more space in the farm stand for more yummy Island made goods couldn't be anything but healthy for the Island economy.
Just so you know, pulling weeds and planting parsley while smelling wafts of fragrant fresh baked bread is dreamy. I am so sorry that you have never been a part of it. For your information, MGF provides jobs for more than 70 people at the height of the season, including many Island-grown daughters and sons who come home for the summer. Instead of criticizing composting, please put some peer pressure on the lawnowners to insist on organic lawn care and to re-seed with native grasses.
For your information, overgrown produce is typically plowed under in order to ensure soil fertility for future crops. The gleaning work by Island Grown Initiative has also taken produce from the fields in order to be donated. IGI's farm to school program brings farm produce to our school children.
I thank the Athearns for helping me remember the art of farming that I began as a teenager and for inspiring me to go for it and start my own agricultural project. I am now the proud owner of a brand-new wheel hoe and several seed packet orders.
Having observed the sagging shoulders of Jim Athearn in the heat of the summer sun, I can attest to his work ethic and to that of Debbie and their sons. I am under no illusion. My small agricultural venture will be many sweaty hours per week perhaps for no money. The reason that I hope many little agricultural ventures grow to complement our present Vineyard farms is that if we don't, many Islanders' health may suffer dramatically in the years to come.
Not to put too fine a point on it, our entire economy must be reinvented in order for us to survive in any kind of sane manner. One need only do a little research on planetary issues surrounding drought and flooding in prime food growing areas and the need to completely switch our energy sources to clean and green to figure out why Martha's Vineyard needs to support Island farmers. Thank God farmers can benefit from the availability of conserved farmland. How else would we do it?
I should be shocked at your lack of knowledge about farming issues but sadly I am not. Please sir, before your next letter, do some homework? And yes, a bike path would be nice.
Monica (Skye) Miller
The plan didn't notice the iceberg
To the Editor:
In "Not the Last Word" (Jan. 7), Nis Kildegaard frames the Island Plan as a conversation. I'm intrigued.
Where did this conversation come from, and where is it taking place? Let me guess: at meetings and hearings? People who thrive on meetings and hearings tend to equate meetings and hearings with democracy; if you don't go to meetings and hearings, then you've forfeited your right to participate in the conversation. Everyone's the hero of their own story, right? This particular story makes people who go to meetings and hearings feel virtuous. The Island Plan will probably do likewise.
Having read what's been written about the plan in both Island newspapers, including the "quick (sort of) look" published in the M.V. Times for December 3, 2009, I don't see much evidence that the planners have dealt with the most important truth of all: that the Island's fate is being driven by off-Island money. Nearly all of us who work for a living depend, directly or indirectly, on that money. We're helping to create and perpetuate the conditions that make it impossible for us to live here - but what are our alternatives? Starving or, somewhat less drastic, leaving. Economic necessity trumps democratic ideals almost every time. What we do at the ballot box and at town meeting and at all those meetings and hearings is being continually shaped and undermined by forces that are largely beyond the control of most of us.
The planners' recommendations focus on things like energy efficiency, waste reduction, and vista preservation. Commendable for sure, but what I want are the answers to questions like "Where is the year-round workforce going to come from if working people can't afford to live here year-round?" What kind of "community" do you have when an ever-increasing proportion of the year-round workforce doesn't live here and it's hard to make a half-decent living without catering to seasonal residents and off-Island money? What you get is a theme park community. Like Sturbridge Village and Colonial Williamsburg.
Theme-parkery is already well advanced on Martha's Vineyard. Some Vineyarders talk about "rural character" and "living local" as if such things were possible where land goes for $300,000 an acre and people complain about roosters crowing in their neighborhood. Does the Island Plan address this? Does it offer any suggestions about economic diversification? How about a call to Islanders to organize in our own behalf, following the lead of the labor movement and the civil rights movement of the last century?
Is this Island Plan a conversation? I guess it is. It's a conversation taking place on the deck of the Titanic, among first class passengers who are envisioning the business deals they're going to make and the concerts they're going to go to when they get to New York. How about that iceberg, people?
Susanna J. Sturgis
The coach would continue
To the Editor:
I would like to respond to the notice in the help wanted column of The Martha's Vineyard Times, about the boys JV lacrosse coach position. First and foremost, I did not quit. I told the administration that I wanted to be your JV coach for 2010. As soon as the notice came out, I called the superintendent's office to remind them again that I wanted the position.
There is no way that I would quit a job that I love doing. The players, coaches, and parents made my job a pleasure. Throughout the season I felt welcomed and appreciated. The players gave 110 percent, both in practice and in games. This was a coach's dream. Therefore, of course I want to be your coach again. I look forward to seeing you all again in 2010. Wish me luck.
Thanks to Coach Sherman
To the Editor:
I just wanted to take a moment to thank Coach Sam Sherman for all his years of hard work and dedication to girls ice hockey on the Vineyard. Without his efforts, who knows how many Island girls would have missed the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful and unique sport.
For those who have never had the pleasure of coaching, the commitment is enormous, especially at the high school varsity level. It's not just a huge dedication of your time. You're investing so much emotionally into the program and players, and the job extends beyond the locker room. Coaches are not around for the paycheck; they really love what they do. I wish the best for coach and hope he sees the day the Vineyard girls finally beat Barnstable.
To the Editor:
Can someone explain to me, with a straight face, why the new bridge is considered to be temporary? It seems sturdy enough to me. Why do we have to spend another $35 million?
Seems like someone at MassHighway needs to explain the reasoning behind this. Let me know when they plan to destroy this new bridge because I will gather a number of folks who feel this is a travesty, and we will stand in the middle of the bridge in protest.
Mary L. Rapoza
On memory's road
To the Editor:
Just finished my usual skim of Island news via MV Times, and a short article by Doug Cabral caught my eye. In my usual hurry to do nothing, I scanned the first and last paragraph with a quick glance of the middle, just enough to activate my memory bank and return to the article after dinner.
Well it was a pleasant surprise, and I enjoyed Doug's reminiscing of days past when the automobile meant everything if you were a teenager. I remember my first car at the young age of sixteen. A 1950 Ford coupe was sitting in the driveway, a $100 birthday gift from my family. That was the beginning of a love affair with four wheels, glass packs and any customizing I could afford. The rest of my high school years on MV would entail a job at the A&P and finagling in any way I could to upgrade to a newer cruiser, maybe a convertible, bigger engine, dual exhausts. I remember finding a 1950 Ford convertible (pretty much ready for the auto graveyard) and pulling the engine out of my old coupe just to ride around in style. That was another story, but from there I was wheeling and dealing to improve my status with a newer and better convertible.
Doug, thanks for giving me a moment to reminisce over the good old days of rock and roll, white walls, spinners, and fender skirts. I only take exception to the last paragraph of your article. You see, out there in the big world, Hemmings magazine, Old Cars Weekly, Carlisle, and many other options exist for us old guys who still enjoy dwelling within past memories. I am about to hit my 67th birthday and one look in my garage would have you realize some of us still hold on to those wonderful days of past. Doug, if you get a chance stop by, we'll take a cruise in my newest addition, a 1955 Austin Healey 100-4 or maybe the 1968 Corvette convertible. Any excuse will do to get me on the road.
Better health care choices
To the Editor:
Thanks, MV Times, for the well researched, clear and helpful article that still gives us hope for some better choices ("Hospital dollars to fund $1.1M in health projects," January 7, 2010). I thought that all hope was lost in this matter a year ago, when I checked with the state staff in Boston and saw a worthless, self-serving unchanged plan re-submitted to them by Martha's Vineyard Hospital.
Sounds like nothing has changed, and the lion's share is still going to be gobbled up by the hospital itself in buying up and controlling primary care, controlling access to primary care, and allowing the hospital to continue to cherrypick insurance companies and deny not only hospital care but primary care to some Islanders who have the "wrong" health plan.
The new hospital really is a beautiful and large building but has no signs of improving its care or developing new clinical programs, e.g. expanding access and capability to better medical cardiology outside of the ER and beyond a few sessions a week from the Falmouth crew and one every three weeks from Boston.
Regarding primary care, in truth primary care in "the real world" (I really enjoy saying that "real world" stuff now for the first time) is always done best and much less expensively outside of hospitals.
Regarding public accountability, the hospital's non-plan for benefiting the community will not make us healthier. Apparently they will try to do what they will do and continue what seems like overcharging us, and continue to act arrogantly turning down "low-paying" health plans that people on the mainland have access to, but we don't and won't. I guess there will be no more public accountability at MV Hospital than before.
Regarding having to go elsewhere for care, those of us who can't make their delivery system work for us on-Island will continue to get our care to work on the mainland, and leave in difficult times until we are well again enough to live in our rural health care non-system.
We cannot care for family members whom we would normally bring home and care for in our Island home anymore (without fraudulently playing the Medicaid-eligibility long-term-care-asset-hiding game). So who benefits?
Tell me, again, who pledged and paid the $40 million for the building? And who's benefiting? And why do these hungry little seagulls grab after their own community benefit dollars (other than that the dollars are there for the grabbing regardless of their intent)?
What about funding non-hospital community services, the Health Care Access program that really does benefit people in need who lose their coverage or fall through the cracks (and many still do, especially on our Island). The Health Care Access program's benefits are very easy to measure. They have been the hospital's biggest new "donor" for years. They have brought millions of public and private insurance dollars to the hospital and other Island health care agencies for years, and continue to chink the cracks in our fragmented and undependable health care financing system.
What about helping the rural health clinic find a bigger space (without a corporate takeover, please)?
What's the plan to help MV Community Services a few years with some funding for children's mental health programs that might be sustainable if the core staffing for it could be put in place for a year or two?
Apparently, there is still some hope. Go for it. I can't help much on Island this time since I am one of those who can't bring their medically fragile parent home to live with us without putting her in a nursing home. But if she ever needs HospiceMV care, we would bring her here in a flash. Now that's real health care and real caring. That's medicine as a state-of-the-heart art, not managing some commodity.
Thanks to NStar
To the Editor:
In the very early morning hours of January 7 (about 12:30 am), an unidentified vehicle struck and wiped out the main transformer in the Iron Hill Farm subdivision, causing a power outage which affected some 75 homes. All of the cables had to be spliced, and new elbows had to be installed along with a new transformer. This was accomplished under adverse conditions. The crew worked throughout the night, and power was restored around 2:30 in the afternoon, roughly two hours earlier than expected.
A huge thank-you to the N-Star crew for such great work ethic. And certainly, no thanks to the so far unidentified driver who caused all of this chaos.
Housing Trust clarifies affordability safeguards
To the Editor:
Last week's article in the Vineyard Gazette regarding the Island Housing Trust's request to amend the West Tisbury planning board's special permit conditions for the 250 State Road project contain certain statements that are inaccurate. The trust's requested language would provide consistency between the project's special permit conditions and the trust's Fannie Mae approved ground lease form (as well as the town of West Tisbury's own affordable housing covenant), which provides banks the right to sell an affordable house without restrictions at foreclosure.
Our local banks have always been required to follow certain federal mortgage underwriting standards and practices that enable them to offer conventional mortgage financing to income qualified homebuyers purchasing trust homes. These measures protect the bank's investment and provide homebuyers with competitive mortgage financing options.
The trust's ground lease model, used over the past five years in four Island towns involving 30 properties, ensures that the affordable housing we create and invest in today is affordable for future generations. Many layers of protection are built into the ground lease to ensure the trust's right to purchase any trust home that goes into foreclosure. These rights and protections held by the trust are agreed to in writing by the mortgage lender and the buyer in a recorded permitted mortgage agreement.
Most importantly, the trust maintains an ongoing relationship with homeowners through a nominal ground lease fee. In this way, the trust has an opportunity to work with homeowners and prevent a foreclosure from ever happening. Copies of the trust's Fannie Mae approved ground lease form as well as other information about trust may be found at the Island Housing Trust's website at http://www.ihtmv.org or on its Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Island-Housing-Trust/215501119575
Executive Director Island Housing Trust
Striper fishing now a political issue
To the Editor:
I urge all of the public to pay close attention to Nelson Sigelman's article last week and to the upcoming House Bill 796 that would ban the commercial fishing for striped bass in Massachusetts waters.
It is most important to note that this is not a bill designed in any way to preserve stocks of striped bass.
Rather, it is a bill solely intended to reallocate the 1.2 million pounds of stripers currently allowed commercial fishermen to the use of recreational tackle manufacturers. This is being done under the guise of conservation, by paid professional lobbyists led by a group called Stripers Forever.
These lobbyists are very, very good at what they do. Listening to their rhetoric could convince an unknowing public that these are the last stripers left in the ocean, not a carefully managed, sustainable commercial harvest determined by marine biologists not to be detrimental to the overall striper population.
There are many factors governing the health and patterns of the striped bass population. The oceans are changing, and many of these fish, once almost exclusively coastal migrators, are now to be found beyond the three-mile state water limit. Since all commercial fishing for stripers is mandated within this three-mile limit (recreational as well), it has been determined by the recreational tackle industry and their lobbyists that the small percentage of stripers allocated to commercial fishermen could translate into big profits for them. The entire rest of the striper population is not enough. They want everything.
This should never have become a political issue. We have an excellent Division of Marine Fisheries, advised by the best marine biologists, and they all oppose House Bill 796. Please listen to them and don't let paid lobbyists do to commercial fishermen what they have already done to so much of the rest of America.
West Tisbury and Cotuit
Windemere's devoted care
To the Editor:
The new year brought great sadness and grief to our family. My mother, Claire T. Coggins, passed away in the early hours of 2010, at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
This news, while bringing our family much sadness, also brought great reflection on the beautiful life my mother had as the centerpiece of our family for many, many years. We were very blessed to have her in our lives for a very long time, but also doubly blessed that she was able to be with us on the Island for almost the last two years at Windemere.
Being able to see her on a regular basis was a source of great comfort to us, but also more importantly to my mother. The fact we have such a facility as Windemere on the Island is an incredible blessing for those of us with aging loved ones. As a firsthand observer of life in Windemere, we should be very proud of the facility and even more of all the many wonderful people who work there. Their devoted care and their attention to each person's dignity even in their failing health has to be experienced to be explained. Just to see the daily lives of these wonderful people as they are fed, cared for, and entertained by the devoted staff is inspirational.
There are just too many people to name without leaving someone out, so to Debbie Ben David and the rest of the staff, our family will be forever grateful for your tender loving care of our mother and all the other guests you have.
To fellow Islanders, I suggest visits to Windemere whether to volunteer for visiting, entertaining, or just going to support the people there. In this era of budget cuts and the impersonal trends of Internet, texting, and other non-person to person interaction, this vital facility's survival is dependent on its own Island peoples' support.
As a lifelong Islander, I feel confident that the many caring and thoughtful people on the Vineyard will rise to the occasion.
William and Emily Coggins and family
To the Editor:
With heartfelt gratitude, I want to say thank you to the person who returned my wallet, which I left in the shopping cart at Edgartown Stop & Shop on Monday, January 11, in the early evening. I contacted the store early the next morning and sure enough, thanks to you, they had my wallet with everything in its place. Your honesty is commendable.
Alice June Thompson