Name: Heidi Feldman

Nickname(s): Red” and “Salty”

Profession: Farmer and Techie

Washed Ashore From: Boston   

Years Ago: 17

Job in a Former Life: Websphere Project Manager for IBM (official); fundraiser for homeless women and children at Pine Street Inn (most meaningful)   

Favorite Spot on the Island: Anywhere her toes are in the sand

Favorite Way to Eat Sea Salt: Some “Naughty” sea salt on half an avocado stuffed with diced peaches, sprinkled with a tad of Meyer Lemon balsamic vinegar.  


We all know how easy it is to fall in love with the Vineyard. You want to stay, but then what? This isn’t the easiest place to earn a year-round living. 

Somehow, this Island attracts the most imaginative people who answer this question in endlessly creative ways.

On Down Island Farm, Heidi keeps miniature horses, peacocks and laying hens. Alison L. Mead

Heidi Feldman is one of those. She and her husband, Curtis Friedman, bought land here, built a house, started a small farm, raised mushrooms to sell and found day jobs—she as an IT consultant, and Curtis as a carpenter/owner with South Mountain Company.

But after the mushroom business was destroyed by three consecutive years of damaging caterpillars, Heidi and Curtis turned to farming something completely different—sea salt. They built a solar evaporator and founded the Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt Company.

Q. So you came summers and explored as many do.  Why did you move here?

A. I fell in love with the fact that you could have the best of all worlds on this nice, little island. I realized there were downsides to living here, but it was beautiful, it was diverse, it had a farming community, but mostly there was access to beaches and conservation land.

Q. So why sea salt?

A. Sea salt started when mushrooms failed. We took a couple of years off and went to our day jobs only. Then we became interested in sea salt because it’s from here, it’s abundant, it is universally appealing, it’s shelf stable when dried properly, and I just felt it was something we could bring to the market and everyone could understand.

Q. Is it easy to make?

A. It’s challenging because of the technical aspects. You need to provide the ocean water with a platform on which to dry. We had to build a building that encased the salt water and then develop a system that would air out all the condensation. Then it was just a matter of coming up with all of the physics of moving water in a sanitary way. Happily, now it is all pretty much rote, and this year we increased our capacity.

Heidi packages travelers' size sea salt into gift packs of three and five. Alison L. Mead

Q. Who buys your product? What do they love about it?

A. I have, generally speaking, two markets: One group is foodies, about 28 to 50 years old; the other group is sensible people who see the value in buying a gift for people that will be used, that won’t go bad. We are fortunate in that we get a kind of international crowd here and that crowd loves to buy and taste a bit of the Vineyard while they are here and then take it home and say, ‘Oh that tastes so great.’ That’s when they contact us and say, ‘Hey, we need more.’

Q. Is sea salt more exotic for those who do not live near an ocean?  

A. That’s a good question! I do have folks who buy it here and then ship it to friends in Indiana, but also to other states, including California, Texas and Arkansas. We’ve shipped to 30 or 40 states so far and a couple of countries.

Q. Is there something special about this sea salt as opposed to Cape Cod sea salt or sea salt from anywhere else?

A. Well, it’s a little bit about the lure of the Island, but it’s also taste. You can taste the differences in sea salt depending on where they are procured. You can taste a difference in how they are dried. You’ve also got texture, you’ve got “merroir,” the taste of the sea. And we also flavor our salts. So that brings a whole new crowd in.

Q. So what flavors do you have?

A. Smoked Oak is one. We use our natural hardwood, and we smoke our salt over the oak. So it gives it that big smoky flavor that helps round out the flavors on a plate. So if you take an egg and put a little of our smoked salt on it, it is going to change the complexity of the flavor of the egg.

We also have Lemon-Dill, Blueberry-Honey, and Naughty (with activated charcoal). And we are coming out with new varieties soon. 

Q. So what do you see for the future of MV Sea Salt?

A. Our goal is not to be a national sea salt company. We are looking at maximizing saturation locally and moving out into New England and ultimately to the whole eastern seaboard. We are in about 50 retail stores now, most on-Island but also on the Cape. Sea salt is almost to the point where it can financially support me, but I would love to get it to the point where it can financially support both Curtis and me.  

Q. What do you enjoy most about what you do? 

A. I was born and raised in retail. So I love meeting people. I love representing a product that I have a lot of faith in, that I know I am doing my very best to procure in a sustainable, manageable, healthy way. That’s what I really love.  And sea salt is of this place and I feel like I am putting the best of the Vineyard forward.

Q. Lastly, I hear you still keep some animals and raise a few vegetables on Down Island Farm.  

A. We raise a mixed flock of egg chickens (versus a straight run of heavy producers) because we appreciate the nuances in the hens and their eggs. The resident peacocks are a noisy whimsy, but with a job to do; they protect the chickens from overhead hawk attacks. The miniature horses— Sir Speed A Lot (aka Speedy) and No Doubt (aka Gwen, as in Gwen Stefani)—allow us to keep horses, just with a lower feed bill than a full-sized horse. And the neighbors love walking and jogging with them! And the resident goat, Bucky (aka “fence tester”), is an Islander with an attitude. We grow herbs and garlic to use in our sea salt blends.

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Paula Lyons is a former ABC and CBS television consumer journalist who is now semi-retired. She lives in Vineyard Haven.