Entering the offices of MV Tech, next door to SBS in Vineyard Haven, it’s hard to know what to look at first. Brightly colored fish rubbings by Jeffrey Canha adorn nearly every wall, along with thumbtacked maps and Derby plaques. A paper sign reads FREE ADVICE $20. A bulletin board pinned with customers’ thank-you notes includes one in a childish hand, with a drawing of an orange tractor:



Dad who drives the tractor

Daddy your cool!



“It’s organized mayhem. Well, actually it’s not really organized,” said Emmett’s Daddy, Brian Athearn, who founded MV Tech in partnership with Gary Barlett 17 years ago. The business has prospered, expanding until the two men had nine employees. Now, by design, it’s just them and Steve Jordan, a college student from the Vineyard who began at MV Tech as an intern six years ago.

“We realized we were better off with one really good employee,” Brian said. “Stevie’s got a little following of his own. He’s built up a clientele.”

The three computer techs work with both hardware and software on behalf of clients among the Vineyard’s businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. 

“We try to be the middlemen between them and the real nerds,” said Brian, before offering a quick run-down on what that means.

“We do networks. We go to big houses and put wi-fi all over the place. We fix computers and we do networks in businesses,” Brian said. Home computer users looking for help are generally referred to an independent consultant on the Island, although “we keep the ones that we’ve had for years.”

The company also donates its services, adopting two nonprofits a year and declining to bill other customers who are short on funds. “We do a lot of free work for people who don’t have any money,” Brian said.

While MV Tech’s clients may be Vineyard homeowners, their computer needs can be planetwide. “We do a lot of stuff remotely,” Brian said. “I can remote in to computers all over the world, answer questions and help them out.”

He can even link, simultaneously, with up to about five clients using the large monitors on his desk. “Any more than that and it gets a little hectic,” Brian admits, especially when he’s got eight to 10 computers on his repair bench and walk-in customers to help.

The secret to successful multitasking on this scale? “ADD,” said Brian, who in his youth took the drug Ritalin for attention deficit disorder.

Brian describes ADD as “like watching someone else channel surf,” while with Ritalin “at least the remote was in my hand.” 

But then, after a stint in the Air Force and some travels abroad, Brian found another way to take control: He discovered computers while majoring in electrical engineering at the University of Massachusetts. His first job was at Educomp in Vineyard Haven.

“I never found anything that came so natural to me,” he said. “I could go in 20 different directions at once and it worked out. It’s so much more logical working with computers. It just makes sense. It’s fun.

“I’d do this job for free if someone paid my bills. I really would.”

But Brian has a lot of bills to pay: When he’s not at the office or on a service call, he’s raising livestock and vegetables on Runamok Farm, the five-acre Lambert’s Cove property he and his family — wife Kate and sons Hunter, 15, and Emmett, 13 — share with his parents, George and Debby.

“We started with a couple of chickens. I wanted my kids to know what it was like where I grew up in the middle of West Tisbury, and to have chickens. The next thing you know we had sheep.” 

Farm life was new for this branch of the Athearn family, but they quickly grew comfortable with animal husbandry, adding pigs and then cows.

“As we felt that the land could sustain the animals, and as we felt that we could process and do justice to harvesting the animals, we just kept going and going and going and going,” he said.

Friends helped Brian install a walk-in cooler for a small slaughterhouse, which he shares with other home farmers and Island hunters. 

“Everybody contributed a little bit, and everyone gets to use it,” he said.

The pig pen is also a cooperative: Each of the pigs that wallow peacefully there is owned by a different Island family, who will take the meat after Brian butchers the animals in the fall. In the mean time, “all they eat is Little House (Restaurant) slop and bread,” he said.

As for his own meat: “I give most of it away.”

The sheep are a longer-term project: Brian has been working for years to develop a cross of the meaty Texel sheep with the Dorset strain. He hit the jackpot this year with two baby ewes, already markedly husky, that he’ll breed with an all-Texel ram when the time comes.

“I’ve been trying to crossbreed for six years to get those two lambs,” he said.

Still, Brian is careful to distinguish himself from his farming cousins at Morning Glory Farm, founded by his uncle Jim and aunt Debbie. While their farm and retail stand employ more than 100 workers at the height of the season, Brian’s farmhands are his sons: Emmett handles all the morning chores and Hunter takes care of the afternoon duties. On the weekend, Brian mows and whacks weeds.

“I’m a gentleman farmer.  Simon and Daniel and Jimmy and Deb — they are farmers. This is a hobby. I just try not to lose as much as I lost last year, doing what I do,” Brian said.

It’s worth it for the feeling he gets when he steps out of his truck at the end of a work day.  

“When I get home, it’s like the biggest exhale you could ever imagine,” he said. “This completes me. This is where I want to be.

“I love what I do for work and I love what I do for play. If I could freeze any point in time in my life, it would probably be now. I am very happy, and I try to spread that around as best I can.”

Louisa Hufstader leads a double life in Edgartown as a cheesemonger and journalist.