Food Minded Fellow podcasts highlight Island’s food ecosystem

You may have heard of the Food Minded Fellow, Gavin Smith; now you can listen to him in his latest venture, a podcast. A chef on the Island, Smith combines his love of the community, his respect for its rich agrarian food culture, and his love of the local food movement with a real fondness for all those old-time radio shows his parents listened to when he was growing up.

Smith was awarded a tourism grant through the Chamber of Commerce, which recognized the new podcast series as an innovative marketing idea, so the podcasts are funded in part by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. A new Food Minded Fellow podcast will air every Friday for the next several weeks. The first, an interview with Island Grown Initiative’s farm hub director Matthew Dix, is already available. Podcast No. 2 drops this Friday, March 6, and features Jenny DeVivo, the cafeteria director of the up-Island schools, who Smith says has “basically reinvented the idea of school lunches, bringing local and real food to our children.”

A voracious listener of podcasts, Smith produces the Food Minded Fellow shows himself, right down to providing his own music for them. He wrote it, played it, and recorded it himself. “My parents started me with the violin when I was 2,” he laughs. He said it has been tricky figuring out the detailed editing aspects of recording the podcasts, but doing it all himself has been rewarding.

“It’s something I’ve thought about for years,” Smith explains. “I grew up on radio. My parents didn’t have me until they were in their 40s, so we listened to a ton of old-time radio programs.” Smith felt there was a place for a dedicated podcast that focuses on the food ecosystem of Martha’s Vineyard.

“There are so many interesting and innovative things that go on here, with people being here for generations,” he said. “Island people have foraged here for hundreds of years.”

We may be familiar with the Farmers Market, but not as familiar with stories about what people on the Island are doing to make sure farming and aquaculture are not just sustainable, but regenerative, Smith said. “It’s a beautiful thing that people like IGI are working to innovate the way that we farm.”

Dix explains in the first Food Minded Fellow podcast that though the buzzword for years has been “sustainable,” the real need is to go beyond sustainability and move toward ways to create farming methods that rejuvenate the ecosystem, rather than just sustain it.

IGI seemed the natural choice for Smith’s first podcast. “Matthew is an important person in the farming community on the Island,” Smith said. “Island Grown seemed like a great starting point. We discuss his role as farm director there, and the programs that IGI offers to help support growth of local food in the community.”

Thimble Farm, the hub of the IGI’s farming program, leases land to three local farmers, one of them Kuloko Farm, run by Jason Danielson and Caitlin Krol. Smith purchases some of the produce he uses as a chef, both in restaurants and in his private chef business, from Kuloko Farm.

“I use a variety of things … greens, radishes … This year they asked what they could grow for me,” Smith says. “They’ll grow black radishes, green radishes, and ancient Peruvian potatoes.”

Smith and his wife Angela Prout, who runs Shored Up Digital with her partner Marnely Murray, traditionally make travel plans this time of year, spending much of the off-season scouring the globe for new experiences and new food to enjoy. He was in Fort Stockton, Texas, when The Times caught up with him this week. This time, they’ve traveled across the U.S., meeting up with friends and exploring the outdoors. We asked which meal he’s enjoyed the most on this trip.

“The best thing I’ve eaten on vacation? I would have to say we had an absolutely incredible meal in Pittsburgh, at an Argentinian steakhouse. We have some friends who moved there, and when you are a chef and you visit your friends, they think really deeply about where they’re going to take you for dinner.”

They will return to the Island in a couple of weeks, in time for Smith to start thinking about his next season of podcasts. He’ll also be teaching some cooking classes at the FARM Institute, and kicking off the season with a private dinner for the first annual Martha’s Vineyard Oyster Fest in May.

Smith keeps it simple when he cooks at home, using whatever produce is available locally, and relying on underutilized native seafood. He’s an avid fisherman, and has written the fishing column for The Martha’s Vineyard Times. While summertime means “lots and lots of work,” Smith said, one of his goals is to enjoy the summer, and not let it pass him by.

“My first couple of years here, I didn’t make enough time to just enjoy the Island,” he said. “It’s very easy to get swept up in the summer and then realize you’ve missed it. My goal is to enjoy the Island while I work.”

While the Food Minded Fellow podcast came with a learning curve, Smith is ready to take a short break, and then he’ll dive back in, coming up with season two. So far he’s loving it.

“Everything I do is because I enjoy it,” he says. “I try not to do anything I don’t enjoy, and I’m really fortunate to be in a position to do that.”

To listen to the Food Minded Fellow podcast, visit foodmindedfellow.com/podcast or listen to the podcast on your favorite podcast listening apps: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Google Play, and listen soon on iHeartRadio.