A longtime West Tisbury resident has donated $12,000 to support and encourage female farmers on the Vineyard.
A documentary film on women in agriculture and a panel discussion which followed inspired Kenneth Malcolm Jones, a machinist and founder of the nonprofit organization Up the River Endeavors, to give the money.
The event, entitled Ladies of the Land, was part of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival which took place in Chilmark last month.
“I have a billboard on my car that says, It’s okay to support women. Our survival depends on it,” Mr. Jones said this week. “I guess it was time to put my money where my mouth was.”
Heidi Feldman of Down Island Farms organized the panel discussion, which featured many of the Island’s own ladies of the land, with the help of film festival director Thomas Bena.
Following the discussion, Mr. Jones called Ms. Feldman. They met over breakfast, where Mr. Jones suggested the gift in the hopes that Ms. Feldman would bring the female farmers back together.
“As things begin to get tighter and tighter in the world, if we don’t cooperate, things are going to get serious,” Mr. Jones said.
“He wants women to work together in an attempt to protect themselves from economic pressures,” Ms. Feldman said. “With the cost of real estate, the cost of taxes, the cost of fuel, not only women, but farmers in general are getting pressured more.”
Although the women have yet to meet together formally, they have begun communicating by e-mail and some ideas have been shared.
Ms. Feldman said possible projects include a loan program for female farmers, a communal booth at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market for women farmers who do not now sell there and a scholarship program for girls wishing to attend programs at the FARM Institute in Katama. Rather than form another nonprofit organization on Island, Ms. Feldman hopes to align with an established group.
Until they can meet in person, Ms. Feldman has established a Google Group, an online forum where the Vineyard women can communicate with each other and post ideas. Female farmers interested in becoming involved have been invited to send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Farming angels wishing to make additional gifts can also contact Ms. Feldman at this address.
“Let’s make this money work for us,” Ms. Feldman said. “Let’s use it and grow it.”