The rain gods doused the Island with heavy showers Saturday morning, perhaps in a nod to the themes of growth and sustainability represented at the Vineyard’s third annual Living Local Harvest Festival. The mud crept under the three activity tents that stood over the soggy fields surrounding the Agricultural Hall, but that did not stop Islanders from coming in droves.
Wearing rubber boots as their hedge against the mud, they trudged through the damp tents for lessons in beekeeping, composting and pumpkin carving. Inside the hall, the Mestre Chuvisco dancers twirled, flanked by endless booths manned by old-fashioned, forward-thinking Islanders. Vendors offered sweaters woven from alpaca fleece, colorful jars of fruit preserves and ready-to-eat quahaug pancakes. Others proffered the more technical side of sustainable living, from demonstrations of regional energy efficiency to exhibitions of local farms.
The event kicked off the night before with a panel discussion featuring an upcoming generation of Islanders concerned with protecting the seeds sown in their community by the generation before them. The four panelists, all in their 20s and 30s, declared their generation ready to accept inevitable change, but intent on preserving the rural character that defines true Island life.
“Our generation is unique because it was born into an Island community very different than the one we have now,” said Chris Fischer, who makes a living as a farmer and chef in his hometown of Chilmark. Cell phones and the Internet are contributors to these changes, he said. But by embracing throwbacks to simpler times, which in Mr. Fischer’s case include agriculture and food production, the youthful generation can balance out rapid changes. “In the next 25 years, I hope the Island continues to embrace tradition,” he said.
Moderator John Abrams, president and founder of South Mountain Company, introduced the group with a question posed by panelist Jannette Vanderhoop: “How do you keep the young and idealistic when they are not so young anymore?” The response was varied and the discussion strayed across many topics from the influence of older generations to the scarcity of young people in Island politics. But it was Ms. Vanderhoop who pulled it all together.
A native Islander and Wampanoag who works as an artist and educator, she drew a colorful social and political timeline for members of her generation to grow up on. And she cited personal experience and a bit of rebellion as necessary factors in the progression. “First we see that there is a need for change, and then we live it,” she said, adding: “Then we shock our parents, and then we shock the system, and then we take over the world.”
The panel discussion was described by presenters as the first course in the weekend’s full menu of local living highlights. “Tonight and tomorrow are all about planting seeds,” said Randi Baird, chairman of the festival committee. “We really need your help to nurture those seeds and to pick and choose what you want to do to make yourself more self-sustaining and more self-reliant . . . We all need to take a look at more of a responsibility to the Island’s future and where we want it to go,” she added.
True enough, on the following day there were plenty of choices. One tent featured discussions on wind energy and waste management; another offered workshops in gardening, putting food by and fishing for dinner. A third tent offered farm and field activities for kids.
Inside toddlers were elbow deep in pumpkin pulp while other children folded dried corn husks into dolls.
Entering the hall, the spicy smell of homemade burritos hung in the air. Vendors manned a corner booth covered with fresh Island produce, a fall farmers’ market. A circle of spectators surrounded the Chuvisco dancers dressed all in white. Their performance was a cross between dance and martial arts, a graceful battle of swinging limbs. The Afro-Brazilian art of Chuvisco was described as a combination of dance, music and acrobatics.
Mr. Abrams, who spent most of the festival in the children’s tent with his grandchild, commented on the large turnout despite the deplorable weather.
“Under the worst of circumstances, people seemed to have a very good time,” he said.