Beetlebung Farm celebrates its arts and edibles

— Photo by Ralph Stewart

The combined talents of the crew of Beetlebung Farm collaborated for a fun gathering last Sunday, Nov. 6, at the Chilmark Community Center. A large, all ages, crowd filled the hall for the first Beetlebung Festival of the Arts and Edibles. Farm owner Chris Fischer served up some dishes made from the farm’s fall bounty, while employees Emma Young and Jason Nichols, along with a band imported from Boston, provided the entertainment.

The event celebrated the end of the farm’s season. From the center’s kitchen, Mr. Fisher sold five locally grown options — meatballs made from Beetlebung Farm pork and Grey Barn Farm veal, a mixed green salad, and three dishes featuring farm-grown kale — a caesar salad, a greens and pork dish, and a Tuscan kale and bean stew. Chilmark Cottage Bakers offered cookies and Chilmark Coffee Company sold beverages.

After the crowd had had their fill of the edible gifts of the farm, Ms. Young introduced the entertainment portion of the evening by saying, “We’ve grown a lot of things on the farm. We grew vegetables. We grew flowers. We grew poems. We grew music.”

Ms. Young read a selection of her poems. The first works that she read were a nature series from a little bi-fold pamphlet book, which she said in an interview were inspired by her work at the farm. Then she read from a series called Color Letters — bits of lovely imagery that she noted were written as if they were short descriptive letters to friends.

The 25-year-old Ms. Young, who works as a librarian at the West Tisbury Library as well as part time at Beetlebung Farm, had her small handmade books for sale at the event. She printed the books herself with a letterpress — painstakingly setting each of the letters by hand in a 19th century platinum press. The bi-fold book, “Gazette,” features a hand-carved block print of a West Tisbury scene that Ms. Young copied from a drawing by her great-grandmother. The multi-talented young woman has used the letterpress process to print small minimalist menus for Mr. Fischer’s catered events and she had these on display. At the end of her performance she read from a sampling of the menus, which, she noted, are “almost poetic in a way.”

Mr. Nichols, a singer/songwriter, was second on the bill. He performed a set of original bittersweet songs with a strong, personal vocal style, accompanying himself on guitar. This was the third time that the Waltham native, who moved here just this past spring, has performed on Island. Mr. Nichols and a friend released an EP earlier this year and the farm held a record release party for them in August. Mr. Nichols also played a set at Aboveground Records this past summer.

The evening ended with an electric set from indie rock band You Won’t. The two members, Josh Arnoudge (guitar and vocals) and Raky Sastri (drums, xylophone, and harmonica), rocked the house with a set of cutting edge tunes that mixed up some folk-inspired melodies with a hard rock sound. Mr. Arnoudge noted that the band is accustomed to playing in bars and urban nightclubs and said, “I’ve never played with so much wood around,” referring to the rural setting. The venue and music may have made an incongruous combination, but most of the crowd stayed for the set and seemed to really enjoy the band’s original sound and high energy.

Mr. Arnoudge was a classmate of Ms. Young and Mr. Nichols at Hampshire College in Amherst. The show was the beginning of the band’s second east coast tour which will take them as far as Athens, Ga. They recently released their first CD, which was also for sale at the event.

Mr. Fischer, who took over the family farm this year as the third generation proprietor, says, “This was a celebration of all the things that we do. It’s really been a great season.” He notes that the farm has a lot of creative energy buzzing around it. The current exhibit at the West Tisbury Library is a series of oil paintings by Susan Johnson, who is completing a thesis project by spending a year executing paintings of Beetlebung Farm. Mr. Fischer says that she is among a number of artists who have painted at the farm.

No plans are in place just yet, but Mr. Fischer hopes to host another festival celebrating the creative spirit of the farm in the future — possibly next spring.