Martha’s Vineyard’s Living Local Harvest Festival

At last year's Living Local Harvest Festival, Tristan Scott (left), Owen DiBasio, and Harper Hearn worked at the pumpkin carving station. This year's festival is Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. — File photo by Randi Baird

Vineyarders love a down-home outdoor celebration and to our way of thinking the annual Living Local Harvest Festival coming up this Friday and Saturday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, in West Tisbury, is one of the best. Set at summer’s end, it offers residents and visitors a relaxing chance to gather with friends and neighbors and re-connect with some of the essential things that make the Vineyard a great place to live. Better yet, it’s all for free.

“It’s a combination of fun and education,” said Nevette Previd, coordinator for the event with sponsoring organizations the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS), Island Grown Initiative (IGI), and the Vineyard Energy Project (VEP). “It’s a sigh of relief. The season has passed, the crowds have gone. It’s a real local event. It’s all about the Island.

“The Vineyard has always had the juxtaposition of the pretty and perfect with the rustic and wild,” she added. “This festival aims to celebrate all of it.”

Ms. Previd stressed that a large number of organizations, supporters, and volunteers have joined together to make the festival possible.

Whether meandering around the Fairgrounds enjoying the early Autumn weather, feasting on locally grown and produced delicacies, browsing among informative exhibits, or learning new skills at hands-on demonstrations, festival goers will find more than enough to stay busy. The Martha’s Vineyard Horse Council’s Fall Fuzzy show will be underway in the ring. Nearby, the unmistakable sounds of engines whirring and sputtering will draw crowds to the Antique Power Show to see motors from tiny to huge, and a collection of beautifully restored vintage vehicles.

Friday evening’s dessert program, at the Grange Hall, offers an unusual opportunity to get a glimpse into traditional farming, fishing, hunting, and foraging ways with Island elders. Storyteller Susan Klein moderates the program with veteran dairy farmer Elisha Smith; gardener Paul Jackson; David Tilton, who will share fishing stories; and former chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe, Beverly Wright, who will talk about gathering.

Along with exhibits packed with useful information, hour-long demonstrations are the centerpiece of Saturday’s program inside the new Agricultural Hall. Learn to filet a fish from Warren Doty, or explore the secret of making soil-nourishing compost with winners of the Ag Fair’s composting competition. For the utmost in mouth-watering learning, Bill Manson (founder of the Wild Food Challenge) and chef Kevin Crowell (chef and co-owner of Détente) will prepare tempting gourmet dishes from wild and foraged food, and would-be beekeepers can gather tips from expert honey man and educator Everett Zurlinden and hear about IGI’s Bee School project.

Conservation groups have long urged property owners to forego suburban perfection in favor of an environmentally friendly “Vineyard lawn.” Native plant specialist Kris Henrikson will show how to avoid toxic fertilizers and pesticides and have a lawn that can be cheaper and easier to maintain than the manicured kind.

“This will help people get a picture of a different way we can tend to our property,” said demo organizer Tad Crawford.

Solving another mystery, the waste area sponsored by Bruno’s with information from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission will focus on “The Life of Trash,” what to do with it, where it goes. Organizers have set a Zero Waste goal for the event, challenging exhibitors, vendors, and visitors to leave disposables at home and eliminate trash.

Among the exhibits are interactive energy games with VEP, land conservation strategies and ideas from VCS. Live bees will buzz at the IGI booth where there will be information on the Island Grown Schools program.

Kids & edibles

Youngsters will have a heyday – literally – as they navigate the popular maze of bales, and that is only the beginning! There will be pumpkin carving, face painting, pony and carriage rides, sack races, the Camp Sassafras Fire Circle, and the thrilling sight of flying pumpkins hurled by Morning Glory Farm’s catapult.

An array of educational kid-friendly demos will entice grown ups too. Felix Neck shows how to prepare surprising wild edibles – imagine Autumn Olive Roll-Ups and Sumac Lemonade. Visitors can plant a seedling, play plant identification games, and help transform apples into cider using the old-fashioned press.

Melinda deFeo will set up shop at “The Tortilla Factory,” shucking and grinding corn then making fresh tortillas. “The Life of the Tomato” maps the succulent fruit’s journey from farm to table, contrasting local vs. industrial food production. Visitors can try their hands at felting, and learn some important differences between the natural and synthetic fibers wear.

Food lovers – and who isn’t? – will find the real best of the Vineyard right here. Choose among a variety of homemade soups and salads from local produce, baked treats, Island-raised meat burgers, and more. Hover near the Grand Tasting Table for samples of Island-made bread, honey, chocolates, freshly shucked oysters, and Mermaid Farm feta. And try some conch fritters by The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head.

Saturday is topped off with a sumptuous community potluck supper and dancing. Bring a dish using at least one locally grown ingredient, plates and utensils to minimize waste, a big appetite, and plenty of energy to dance the evening away.

Living Local Harvest Festival Opening Night, 6–9 pm, Friday, Sept. 30, Grange Hall, West Tisbury. Hunting, Fishing, Farming & Gathering: Our Vineyard Elders Reminisce. Desserts served. Free.

Living Local Harvest Festival, 10 am–3 pm, Saturday, Oct. 1, Ag Hall, West Tisbury. Rain date: Oct. 2.

Living Local Harvest Festival Community Potluck, 6–10 pm, Saturday, Oct. 1, Ag Hall, West Tisbury.

Pat Waring of West Tisbury is a former Calendar editor at The Times.