Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The election is now over. Thankfully, the ridiculous television commercials will no longer play on every channel twice an hour as they were these last few days. Phew. To both Democrats and Republicans, I say this:
The job of a senator is to represent the constituents of his or her state, to listen to what all the people that he or she represents believe on the issues that will be voted upon. If the job is done as it should be, then whether a Republican or a Democrat holds the office should not matter. If Scott Brown votes along Republican party lines (against the health care bill, most immediately), then he is stepping right into the machine that he campaigned against. This is “the people’s seat,” as Mr. Brown said, and he should honor his word and do his job honestly. We are the people. So contact Senators Kerry and Brown (when he arrives in D.C.) via letter, phone or e-mail and tell them how we want them to represent us. This is the duty and the privilege of being an American. Just because we voted today and the election is now over does not mean that our involvement in our government should be put to rest until the next election. There is now a true sense of urgency to make our voices heard.
FARM OWNER RESPONDS
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Though I’ve been told that you can’t please all the people all the time, it’s still upsetting to read the letter from Edward Klien in the Jan. 7 Gazette which says negative things about me and my farm. Fortunately, everything he lists as a fault is false so it should be easy to dismiss as ignorant bluster; however, I think it is important to provide some facts about our farm in case there are other readers out there who as uninformed. For the benefit of Mr. Klien and anyone else who wants to know, please allow me to list a few facts.
Morning Glory Farm operates as a retail farm stand in a residential/agricultural zone because Section 3 of Chapter 40, the state’s zoning act, specifically outlines that farms may also sell bought in products provided that we grow a required percentage of our own agricultural products during the growing season. For this reason we work hard at farming locally and producing tons of our own food, not only because it is our primary mission, but also because we need to maintain the right balance of local food to be imported to keep our legal status as a farm. This ratio of homegrown to imported was tested, rightfully, by the building inspector before he would accept our application for a building permit, was then reviewed and approved by town counsel, and found to be securely within the legal parameters.
In order to grow enough food for our farm stand we plow, till, plant, weed, water and harvest 57 acres of vegetables, fruit and flowers. In a typical year we will harvest about 15,000 dozen ears of corn from about 24 acres, about 5,000 pounds of beans from two acres, 22,000 pounds of potatoes from two acres, 2,200 pounds of swiss chard from a quarter acre, and over 15,000 pounds of cucumbers, 32,605 heads of lettuce, about 10 tons of winter squash, up to 17,000 pounds of tomatoes and dozens of other crops on the rest of the acres of Vineyard land we cultivate in Katama, Edgartown and West Tisbury in 12 locations. In addition we harvest hay, which we have planted and fertilized, on 40 additional acres and graze 20-30 head of cattle on pastures we have developed on about 16 acres of land in Chilmark. We also take care of and collect eggs from close to 800 laying hens and raise about 600 meat chickens over the summer sharing pasture with the cows. We also raise about 20-24 hogs a year, supplementing their diets with about one ton of ear corn we grow in Edgartown. If this is not a farm, what is?
Many farm stands in Massachusetts sell imported produce to supplement their own, including Bartlett Farm on Nantucket, Wilson Farm in Lexington, Verril Farm in Concord, and Volante Farm in Needham, all with significant acreages of spectacular crops of their own. These farmers, and the legislators of the commonwealth, all recognize that in order for a farm to be successful retailing sufficient volume of their own products, they must provide their customers with the assurance that the food products they seek will be there, even if there is a crop failure or it hasn’t ripened locally yet. The insurance of imported produce helps to make possible the sale of local produce and, likewise, the local produce provides the reason that people go out of their way to shop at local farm stands. All the produce is clearly labeled in the store as to its origin.
We would also like to note that we buy over $60,000 worth of produce from our fellow Island farmers and we sell over $100,000 worth of our own produce to stores and restaurants around the Island. We make regular contributions of produce to the Food Pantry, Camp Jabberwocky and other Island organizations,
It’s ironic that Mr. Klien says I’m against a bike path when, in fact, we donated an easement 10 feet by about 1,600 feet for a dirt path on our land. It winds nicely around trees as it runs alongside the Meshacket Road and follows the natural contours of the land. There is not enough space in the narrow town layout for the road and a bike path. As our new path wears in it will be a pleasant place for families and children to ride and walk while the serious road bikers can continue to ride on the paved road, which they do very nicely now with the traffic. Why he says I am against sewers I have no clue, except that I have said on occasions that I am against extending sewers which would encourage development of raw land.
Our compost pile takes leaves and grass clippings and digests them into a form that is very stable with less than one per cent soluble nitrogen. It is the desired form for slow release of nutrients as well as improving the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. It is our understanding that if there are residues of pesticides on the grass clippings that come to us, the 12 to 18 months of heat and bacterial digestion will disintegrate them, thereby neutralizing them. The compost pile has been good for the community and good for the land.
I think that if the letter writer, and anyone else who may have doubts about our authenticity, knew more about the work we have done, he or she may then have more respect for the blood, sweat, and tears, as well as the decades of financial insecurity, that have been our dues for the privilege of operating our farm business. People can visit our Web site, morninggloryfarm.com and join one of the tours of our farm we will be running this summer to learn more about where our food comes from.
James A. Athearn
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I write this letter from England, thousands of miles from the tight-knit community which our Island holds dear. Since leaving the Island, I can say I completely understand how special the Vineyard is and how lucky I was to grow up on it. What has become most apparent, though, is that a community is only as strong as the members within it. It’s easy to not get involved, so the people that become valuable, contributing members must really be recognized for their positive impact on this community.
I entered the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 1999 and played for Sam Sherman and the varsity girls’ hockey team in its first year as a varsity sport. Prior to that, I played youth hockey from third grade on, and was allowed to play on the girls’ team as well in its early years from sixth grade on. Sam knew girls would love hockey, but they just needed an opportunity to get out and play. It was clear from the beginning that all he wanted to do was get a new demographic to love the game that he so obviously did.
Sam’s commitment to making our team a “real” one was unwavering. From the warm-up suits we had for away games, to our team dinners, to off-ice and early morning practice, to building our own locker room, it was clear Sam wanted us to be legitimate on and off the ice. He would pore over videos of past games in preparation for the new season, and if I saw him in the off-season, the topic of conversation would always drift to the season to come. He undoubtedly was more committed than most of us ever were.
Here was someone without a daughter on the team and no real benefit to be gained from coaching it. But he advocated for us in the male-dominated hockey community, getting us a board with our names on it just like the boys and making sure we got similar ice time. We unfortunately lost most of our games, playing teams which had girls who, similar to me, had grown up playing ice hockey, while we had some girls who had never put a skate on before! How could Sam not have let the frustration of all his hard work not paying off in the form of wins get to him? If you were privy to Sam interacting with our team for one minute, it would have been obvious: Sam loved ice hockey and all he wanted was for a new group of people to be exposed to and have the opportunity to love it as well.
The ocean which surrounds us, keeping our Island the unique and beautiful place it is, also isolates us. The population that can live on the Vineyard and come to it is not boundless; it’s limited by the ferry, land and income. We must understand that and really recognize the people that are active members of this special community. I’m far removed from Island politics, but the apathy that runs rampant in my generation has not consumed me to the point that I would let a pivotal member of this community — of my life — leave the limelight without his just recognition.
As a member of the team from the beginning and a captain as an upperclassman, I hope I can speak for the girls who I played with and say thank you to Sam. Our winters would not have been filled with nearly as many laughs and smiles, weekends would never have had as many bus trips, New Year’s Days would not have been spent at morning practice, and we may never have met this individual who selflessly gave his time so that we would have the opportunity to play a game that he loved so much.
WIND PLAN SHORTFALLS
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s wind energy siting plan for Dukes County (released on Jan. 11) is a commendable first draft. It strives to “serve as the main reference document in the process of arriving at a definitive plan and set of standards for siting wind turbines.”
The body of the plan summarizes a list of 13 important issues: wind availability, turbine safety, noise, flicker, relation to transportation, impact on the natural environment, economic impact, property values, recreational activities, visual impacts, cultural values, electromagnetic interference, turbine construction, decommissioning and maintenance.
But the list is incomplete. What’s more, the document fails to adequately herald wind turbine qualities, explain why we might need to relax or re-think some of our standards or judgments against them, and explain why we might need to take some steps or paths that are uncomfortable or risky in order to get what we really want.
What issues might justify relaxed standards or risk-taking? James Hansen, Al Gore, Bill McKibbon, George Woodwell and other experts have identified many: runaway global climate change tops the list, followed by sea level rise, decertification, food shortages, housing shortages, mass human migrations, ecological imbalances, ocean acidification, extinction of species, energy shortages and severe violence.
Yes, all of these additional 11 issues, to some extent, can be heightened or diminished by the wind turbine decisions that we make during the next few years.
Let’s do our best to include them in the next draft of the siting plan, for we Vineyarders need a document that allows us to grasp and prioritize all the issues —local to worldwide — and reach sensible decisions soon enough to secure our children’s future.
SEEKING COLLEGE FUNDS
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Massoud Kohistani of Afghanistan arrived in the United States five years ago at the age of 15. He was chosen among many to qualify for the Cultural Bridge Program, Founded by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, this program was designed to bring students from Afghanistan, for the first time in history, to our country for one year, to learn the principles of democracy.
My family’s involvement was unplanned and truly unexpected. While Massoud was training in Kyrgyzstan to assimilate into the American culture, the family who had committed to host him withdrew, leaving him without support and housing. My daughter Kara, who worked for American Council in D.C., told me of Massoud’s plight. Shamefully I admit I did not know where Afghanistan was or anything about its culture and the timing could not have been worse. What I did know then and what I do know now is that it’s one thing not to volunteer for service, but when God puts a request for service in one’s direct path . . . let’s just say I did not want to go on record as saying no.
Massoud arrived at the Martha’s Vineyard airport frightened and frail in need of extensive medical and dental care. He spoke little English and his disadvantaged past presented him guarded and insecure in his new surroundings. With love and patience and the constant companionship of my son David, and the support of my husband and five children and friends, Massoud began to thrive.
Massoud was enrolled in the high school. He possessed a burning desire to learn, achieve and succeed. He mastered the English language, received honors grades and participated in school sports and in many social and community service events. Massoud touched the hearts and souls of his teachers, his host family and the community. Many articles were written about his challenges and successes.
Sadly, as agreed when the year ended, Massoud returned to Afghanistan to complete high school and meet new challenges returning to a country in turmoil. Because of his achievements in the U.S he was chosen the next year to prepare the new students preparing to enter America. Massoud completed his studies and remained a top student in Afghanistan.
We have kept in constant communication with Massoud these past five years and it has been challenging. Calls accepted are often sporadic and interrupted. E-mail has been difficult because of limited access to computers and destructive bombings by the Taliban directed to limit communication. During this time, Massoud has had only one goal: to return to the United States to further his education. I have diligently pursued every avenue these past five years to help Massoud achieve his dream. There have been many obstacles and disappointments during this venture, but we have never given up hope.
One month ago we received word that Bunker Hill Community College in Boston was willing to enroll Massoud. A plethora of documents and appeals collected over the past years were accumulated and submitted and last month Massoud was granted his visa to return to the United States. Our reunion with this son of our heart has been life-changing.
As you know a young man Massoud’s age is in great danger in Afghanistan. Again, my family knew we needed to respond.
Our family situation is greatly changed since Massoud was with us five years ago. My husband is a casualty of the recession and has been unemployed for two and a half years. Our youngest son David is a junior in college and although I am working full time as a hospice nurse, our finances are stretched to the limit, but how could we say no?
Because Massoud is not a citizen he is not eligible for any college financial aid.
Hence the purpose of this letter: my family will enthusiastically provide housing, food, clothing and daily living expenses for Massoud but we will need assistance to pay his tuition. Massoud will be obtaining a student work permit and will obtain a job through the work study program.
So with humility and a determined resolve, I have set up a college fund for Massoud. There is no contribution too small as this is going to be an uphill battle. All contributions are tax deductible (ID # 61-1608193). Please pass this correspondence along to others who may be willing to help. The address is: Massoud Kohistani College Fund, P.O. Box 785, Vineyard Haven MA 02568.
My family and I wish you many blessings, happiness and prosperity in the year to come.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Surely your veteran reporter made an error in the Jan. 8 story on the wind farm. The writer certainly must be mistaken íthat the Wampanoag tribe wants a place at the íCape Wind ítable íbecause “5,000 years ago the area was dry land where Indians lived, hunted and buried their dead.”
That would be a silly as someone claiming that they rented a ítwo-floor íoffice but didn’t notice there was no íelevator until a few months into the lease.
New York city and