On Tuesday afternoon as thunderstorms threatened, they came to the West Tisbury Grange Hall early and straggled in late: fishermen fresh off their boats, cooks from Chilmark and New York, politicians and lawyers in coats and ties, teenagers on skateboards. They came to honor Clarissa Allen and Mitchell Posin, recipients of the 25th annual Award for Creative Living from the Ruth J. Bogan and Ruth Redding fund. The Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha’s Vineyard gives the award every year to acknowledge an Island resident who embodies the spirit of Vineyard living.
Ms. Allen and Mr. Posin own the Allen Sheep Farm on South Road.
The evening began with remarks from board members Deborah Hale and Emily Bramhall. Executive director Ralinda Lurie gave a report on the endowment fund. Then others spoke. Though the speeches were different, the theme was the same: Ms. Allen and Mr. Posin are salt of the earth; they work hard, love what they do and share that love with young and old alike.
What follows is a poem written for the occasion and read aloud by Chilmark poet laureate John Maloney:
The Allen Farm
How fitting to choose the Grange Hall’s Rainbow Room,
To honor a duo who dodged the tech startup boom.
And passed on a quick cash infusion via an I.P.O.—
Just a half-house, barn, land, and plenty of Pro-Gro.
It’s not something you begin if you want to be famous—
Worming sheep, mucking stalls, what doth it gain us?
From Brooklyn and Chilmark, but somehow they met;
Now enormous photos in The New York Times, Vineyard Gazette.
Clarissa and Mitchell out feeding on an August night,
The sky pink into purple, mist rolling to Menemsha Bight.
Raising soil, putting the source before the mart;
Bees over roses and cosmos, colors of the heart.
It’s as lush as Ireland, as fertile as Holland—
The ideal farm imagined by Michael Pollan.
Everywhere growth, by the push of their intention;
Surge through stem and leaf, creation without a pension.
They brought us back to a century past,
When your word was your bond and friendships would last.
Compost throbbing and they realize without thinking:
This is the Garden of Promise we planted without blinking.
A place where teenagers arrive to encouragement and raves,
For years of driving tractors and building gates (unless there’s waves).
And where else in the world could you get such training,
Find out what you were made of and rejoice when it’s raining?
You could become a blacksmith, a chef, knitter, mechanic,
Watch Clarissa make stew and know everything’s organic.
(And the portions gigantic, in the middle of the Atlantic.)
There’s The Center in Chilmark, but this was the hub,
With a newborn lamb, Teacup or Stinky, sleeping in the bathtub.
The house was always open to every and all comers,
Spring, winter, fall, and of course, especially summers.
And was there ever more joy in asking a question?
You’d get the tool/utensil you needed and a teaching session.
And oh they can cook, the spread of holiday parties:
Smoked hams for the Island and eggnog with Bacardi’s.
On boards and committees, they serve the town proud,
Blending descendants and Crickers with the summer crowd.
This was a farm where it seemed we all had a claim—
Rooting for them to end up winning, not playing the game.
Before the vogue, all their animals grass-fed,
Yolks as orange as oranges, lamb cuts born and bred.
They showed us how a life could be full,
Shearing sheep till late Saturday for three bags of wool.
Handmade throws spun and woven on looms;
It was business and pleasure, like mowing with iTunes.
And so they deserve the Award for Creative Living,
Having perfected the Art of Giving.
They each engender our wonderment and praise,
As the ewes, rams, and cattle rotational graze.
You’re the Soul of the Island, the wind through the trees,
Dressed in frayed Carhartts, weeding on your knees.
We admire your courage and the conventions you flout,
Farming the land till the money runs out.
— John Maloney