Sweet Neck Farm gets new farmer

Local fisherman gets added to aquaculture savant Jack Blake’s aquaculture license.

Dan Gilkes, standing to the right, will inherit Jack Blake's aquaculture license. — Brian Dowd

There’s a new farmer in town, and his name is Dan Gilkes.

At an Edgartown selectmen’s meeting Monday, selectmen approved adding Gilkes to fellow shellfisherman Jack Blake’s aquaculture license. Blake is the owner of Sweet Neck Farm in Katama Bay, and something of a godfather of aquaculture on the Island.

Blake was one of 15 people who started the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group’s aquaculture program in 1995. He farmed oysters with homemade upwellers and tumblers.

Gilkes’ addition to Blake’s license was previously approved by the Edgartown shellfish committee.

“Dan’s been added to Jack’s license in a transition to get Dan down on the farm and Jack off the farm eventually, but only when he’s ready,” shellfish constable Paul Bagnall said, adding that it will be business as usual at the farm.

Speaking to The Times by phone on a rare day off Tuesday, Gilkes said he was thankful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It’s exciting. I’m learning from the man who started it all here on the Vineyard,” Gilkes said.

For the past three years, Blake has mentored Gilkes and taught him all he knows. Gilkes comes from a fishing family. He runs the charter boats from his father, Cooper “Coop” Gilkes’, shop, Coop’s Bait and Tackle in Edgartown.

“What he does is incredible,” Gilkes said of Blake. “He’s a great steward of the ocean.”

In other business, selectmen continued an Eversource hearing concerning the installation of conduit and moving a pole on Mill Hill Road.

Eversource requested approval to install 60 feet of conduit and move a pole the same amount of feet to provide service to a home being built on 14 Mill Hill Rd.

David Burke, whose property abuts 14 Mill Hill Rd., said the new placement of the pole would put it in the way of his driveway.

Michael Ciancio, another abutter, said he never gave permission to Eversource to run power lines through his property.

Selectmen suggested Burke, Ciancio, Eversource right-of-way agent Jessica Elder, and architect for the 14 Mill Hill Rd. property Dudley Canada meet to discuss exactly where the pole was going before coming back to the hearing on Jan. 6.