Slough Farm in Edgartown was created as a nonprofit educational farm and gathering space in 2017. The majority of the food raised and grown on the farm goes to Island Grown Initiative (IGI), and to support food equity programs on the Island. It also donates a large amount of its meat and produce to Island schools for their lunch programs.
But the farm does much more than just produce food. Brooke Ditchfield, who ran the theater department at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School before becoming program director at Slough Farm in July, and Charlie Granquist, a culinary director who started last spring, were brought on to add arts and culinary endeavors into the mix.
“Since I’ve come on, I’ve tried to make the connection between sustainable farming and the creation of art,” Ditchfield says. “I think that agriculture and art go hand-in-hand. Agriculture is where we grow the food and raise the animals that nourish our bodies, and the artistic process grows art, which nourishes our soul.”
This past summer, everyone from the farm gathered to talk about the initiatives they wanted to tackle. But given the craziness on the Vineyard at that time of year, and given how busy the farm is then, they waited until the fall to launch some of their many projects.
Slough Farm is dedicated to working with a broad swath of the community, and its reach is quite varied; the programming in November reflects this. November began with a bang with the initial meeting of Granquist’s fermentation club, where people came together to enjoy the tastes and smells of this preservation technique.
The farm works with all ages. Every Thursday, staff meets with the Voyagers — students ages 18 to 22 from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School with varying disabilities who are transitioning into the Island community and beyond. The program reinforces the young people’s life skills curriculum, employing hands-on experiences to help prepare them for jobs and independent living. At the farm, they participate in cooking, music, yoga, gardening, fiber arts, and animal care, among other options. “It’s a demographic that I know from my work at the high school that needs and deserves support,” Ditchfield says. “It was a no-brainer to bridge that gap. They’re helping us, and we love having them come.”
The farm has also resumed its partnership with Martha’s Vineyard Charter School’s Experiential Learning Program. Every Friday, students participate in a rotating offering of courses led by farm staff, partnering artisans, and other farms. First up were a woodworking class taught by Kate Hubell and a gardening course taught by Melinda Rabbit DeFeo, in collaboration with the FARM Institute. Woodworking students learned basic woodworking skills and built their own toolboxes. Gardening students gained experience in everything from composting techniques to garden turnover and planting. Now they are in a culinary class with Granquist.
There is also the Super Silos 4-H Club for 5- to 7-year-olds, where youth learn about a wide range of skills from animal care to gardening to cooking and community engagement. And, for good measure, the farm hosts many school trips. They hosted five field trips from Island schools just in the past two weeks, ranging from preschoolers to exchange students from England at the West Tisbury School.
Slough Farm has a robust artist-in-residence program. Early this month, four writers lived at the farmhouse, working on their latest novels, poems, and essays. In collaboration with Featherstone Center for the Arts, they are conducting a workshop for MVRHS’s AP English classes and the Charter School’s high school English department.
Later in the month will be the visiting artists from Heartwood, an ensemble of song writers who believe in the power of singing to connect us with each other. They will be working on the initial stages of creating a musical, which includes songs related to their time at Slough Farm and beyond. In addition, Heartwood will hold a free community sing on Nov. 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm (RSVP at email@example.com), and conduct a songwriting workshop with the Voyagers.
Ditchfield explains that the goal of these residencies is to give the artists the space needed for the creative process to happen. “So often, residencies culminate in some kind of pressure for product or performance,” Ditchfield explains. “We’re trying to allow for the creative process to unfold without that kind of pressure.” The only requirement is that the artists do some element of community engagement. “It’s a really special residency program that I think can have a real impact, and I hope that it’s something our community can be proud of,” she adds.
In collaboration with M.V. Community Services, Slough Farm offers pre-and post-natal yoga classes in the studio space with Molly Flam. “We also just started what I think will be a very popular initiative with them called Parent’s Night Out, for 20 couples to take a yoga class with Molly, followed by dinner cooked by Charlie, while providing childcare,” Dithfield says.
On Saturday, Nov. 19, there will be a daylong beginner’s woodworking class taught by Hubell for women and gender-expansive people ages 16 and older. Students will dive into the basics of tools, practice accurate measuring, cutting, and assembling, and discuss resources and ways to break barriers that might stand between you and a totally doable building project, all while making their own set of foldable sawhorses to take home.
Rounding things out, just in time for Thanksgiving, you can spend the weekend of Nov. 19 and 20 learning how to make the perfect pies for your holiday feasts.
While there is usually a registration cost or suggested fee, with the money going toward paying the artists or instructors, Ditchfield reassures everyone, “We really want our programs to be as accessible as possible, and there are scholarships to everything, so anyone can participate. Pretty much every single day, there’s something going on in our farmhouse, in the kitchen, or out in the fields. And that’s just the month of November!”