Live and learn, locally, at this year’s Harvest Festival

The annual Living Local Harvest Festival returns to the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury this Saturday. -Randi Baird

It’s the biggest event of the season: a two-day family-friendly party that attracts thousands of visitors to West Tisbury’s Agricultural Hall, featuring food, music, kids’ games, a harvest dinner, and dancing. And on top of all that, the Living Local Harvest Festival offers an educational and interactive experience and an opportunity to learn more about the many local businesses and organizations that contribute to our Island’s sustainability.

“The idea is to to bring all these locals together after a busy season to show us what they do,” Living Local director Nevette Previd said. More than 50 vendors will participate this year, including nonprofits, farms, energy organizations, and more. Visitors will get a chance to stroll through the hall and meet many of the people representing our agricultural and fishing traditions, as well as newer organizations dealing with environmental issues.

The outdoor areas will feature music, animals, kids’ activities, local food purveyors, horse and carriage rides, a hay-bale maze, and more. The musical lineup will include Nina Violet, David Hannon, a Brazilian jazz trio, and Sabrina Leuning with Don Groover. New this year is the Young Fiddlers’ Hour. The showcase is intended to revive an Island tradition from years ago.

The festivities will kick off with a storytelling evening with Susa Klein on Friday, continuing on Saturday with a full day of indoor and outdoor fun and followed by an evening community supper. Throughout the day, the festival will offer hands-on experiences. You can try your hand at spinning wool or pressing apples into cider, make a reusable bag from a T shirt, meet an alpaca or a pig, participate in outdoor games for kids and adults, and try samples of Island-grown and -produced foods. “We’ve encouraged everyone this year to have an interactive element,” Ms. Previd said.

This year’s theme is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. “We hope to educate and motivate Islanders to think before they buy, and to involve the community in ways that we can reduce the amount of waste we create,” Ms. Previd said.

The presentations this year will include demos on how to store your food for longevity hosted by Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard, the Cape Light Compact and MV Science Kids “Energy Carnival,” and a composting talk with Island experts. Games for kids like “Wait, Wait Don’t Throw it Away!!” will teach children ways in which they can be part of the solution.

The Chicken Alley Thrift Shop will be launching Hatched, its new line of upcycled items made from thrift shop discards.

On Friday night, storyteller Susan Klein will serve as moderator for “Back in the Day,” a conversation with Island elders and educators who will share their stories about simpler times on the Vineyard. In the spirit of the festival’s theme, longtime Vineyarders will talk about homesteading, creative uses for waste, and living consciously.

A highlight of the festival will be a community discussion about “The Life of Trash” on Saturday afternoon. The two-part discussion will present information about how much waste we create on the Island and where it goes, followed by an in-depth talk about food waste. The conversation will be moderated by food reporter Elspeth Hay from WCAI.

Among those participating will be representatives from the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District and SEMASS Southeastern Massachusetts Resource Recovery Facility in Rochester.

Other speakers will include recycling educators hosted by Vineyard Conservation Society and “Compost on the Coast” project manager Sophie Abrams. Also featured will be a presentation on “Electric Utilities of the Future” with Maggie Downey, Cape Light Compact’s administrator.

As always, the festival will incorporate the popular Community Supper on Saturday night. “Food with Roots” will be hosted by the Scottish Bakehouse, and feature Island produce donated by Slip Away Farm, Thimble Farm, Whippoorwill Farm, and North Tabor Farm. After the dinner, guests can dance to the tunes of the PickPocket Bluegrass Band. The dinner is $15, $5 for kids. You don’t have to pay admission to enjoy the music.

Whether you stop by for a talk or presentation or just drop in to enjoy the fun, you’re bound to walk away having learned something new. Rebecca Gilbert of Native Earth Teaching Farm will be showing people how to use onion skins to dye wool. “I was thinking of the theme,” she said, “trying to use something that people normally throw away.”

Ms. Gilbert has been involved with the festival since its inception more than 10 years ago. “It’s a time for Vineyarders to learn more about local farms,” she said. “For a small Island, we have such a great, diverse agricultural community. We have a lot of farms that are quite different from one another. It’s not just acres and acres of GMO soybeans as far as you can see. It makes for a great mix. There are different personalities to all of the farms, and we all support each other.”

Program schedule


6-8 pm “Back in the Day” with storyteller Susan Klein


10:30 am: Native reptiles and amphibians with Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary (compost tent)

11 am: “Electric Utilities of the Future” with Cape Light Compact’s Maggie Downey (front hall)

12 pm: “Sing the Blues” with David Hannon (music tent), “The Life of Trash” (front room)

1 pm: Brazilian jazz with Helloizio Gomes, Leonardo Alves and Oziel Santos (music tent)

2 pm: Sabrina Leuning and Don Groover (Island tent); “All About Composting” (compost tent)

3 pm: “Wait, Wait Don’t Throw it Away!!” MC’d by Ben Nadelstein

5-7 pm: Community Supper

6-9 pm: Dancing to the tunes of the PickPocket Bluegrass Band