Farming the Land

The agricultural renaissance on the Vineyard has shown the Island not only is a fertile place to raise crops and livestock, but also a place where a thriving informal network of woman farmers has grown.

The resurgence, in fact, taps some very old roots. When Vineyard men went to sea in past centuries, Vineyard women ran the farms.

At present, of the twenty-seven farms listed on a map by the Island Grown Initiative, a Vineyard nonprofit dedicated to encouraging the growth of Island food for Island consumption, nineteen list a woman either as a principal or the principal operator.

Rebecca Miller of North Tabor Farm in Chilmark is one of them. She and her husband, Matthew Dix, grow greens, mushrooms and flowers, and raise animals. Ms. Miller, who runs the farm during the week while her husband works an off-Island job, said the support she receives from her fellow female farmers is crucial. Caitlin Jones helped her birth her first lamb; Prudy Burt helped her to start growing greens.

So Ms. Miller makes it a point to help other aspiring female farmers, such as Heidi Feldman, who formerly volunteered for Ms. Miller and now has her own farm in Vineyard Haven.

The close cooperation of the women who farm the Vineyard is cause for celebration, a reminder of what Islanders can do when they work together.