The FARM Institute in Edgartown — where for close to 20 years Martha’s Vineyard kids have experienced agriculture first-hand, meeting barnyard animals and learning farm chores — is widening its audience to families and adults who love Island-grown food and cooking.

The nonprofit’s new teaching kitchen, unveiled this summer, welcomes a mix of ages to its cooking classes, which continue with an adult/child taco class and a kombucha-making lesson in October.

Engagement site manager Lindsay Brown is excited about the new garden-to-kitchen classes. Jeanna Shepard

The cooking lessons rely on local, seasonal ingredients, and frequently result in something to take home and savor afterward. Often a harvest is part of the class.

“Our mission here at the farm has always been to connect people to agriculture,” said engagement site manager Lindsay Brown, who has worked at the FARM Institute since 2012.

One recent Saturday morning, a group of twentysomethings and older moms with kids gathered at the Katama nonprofit to make beach plum jam from scratch.

The lesson, led by FARM Institute chef and educator Meave McAuliffe, began with mugs of coffee in the teaching kitchen and a trip to the farm’s beach plum bushes just outside to pick the freshest possible fruit into white-enameled bowls.

It would end with all the participants taking home glistening jars of freshly made beach plum jam.

A pickle-making workshop earlier this year was booked entirely by members of a single family, Lindsay said. There were dill pickles for everyone.

At the upcoming kombucha class, led by local maker Katama Kombucha, participants will not only learn to make the fermented sweet tea, but will also leave with their own kombucha starter, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast known as a scoby.

Chef Meave McAuliffe has put together professional kitchens before, but this time it meant thinking about kids. Jeanna Shepard

Meave, whose résumé gleams with fine-dining experience on two coasts — from California restaurants Gjelina in Venice and Saltwater in Inverness to the Vineyard’s Behind the Bookstore and Kitchen Porch Catering — set up the new teaching kitchen the way she prepares her acclaimed food — from scratch. From the induction cooktops to the whisks and bowls, she chose everything.

“I’ve outfitted restaurant kitchens before, a couple of times, but this was different because I had to keep the kids in mind,” she said. That meant ordering items like knife guards that aren’t generally found in a commercial kitchen.

The FARM Institute had a kitchen before this year’s renovation, but it was “very residential, to put it nicely,” with only one stove, Lindsay said.

“We occasionally did classes in it, and it was not the best,” she said.

In the new kitchen, work tables and appliances are on wheels. Jeanna Shepard

With a 500-square-foot addition and a complete refitting, the new teaching kitchen has multiple workstations with rolling appliances and tables.

“Everything’s on wheels, including our stovetop and our ovens,” Meave said.

The result is a multi-station kitchen and a wide-windowed dining room that can be configured almost endlessly to suit the need at hand, from hands-on cooking classes and workshops to sit-down dinners and presentations.

“We also have a large commercial grill outside, so we can always cook with fire,” Meave added.

Induction burners are a safe option for kids and adults. Jeanna Shepard

The induction burners are particularly good for cooking with children, she went on, because they stay cool. (The heat they generate in a pot is the product of the pot’s magnetic materials reacting with electromagnetic coils beneath the burner’s surface.) 

Working with FARM Institute garden manager Rebecca Sanders, Meave has designed a year-round series of kitchen classes based on the farm’s seasonal harvests.

“We created all our cooking programs to highlight what was available seasonally in the garden,” Meave said.

The vegetable garden at The FARM Institute inspires and supplies the cooking classes. Jeanna Shepard

Sometimes the crop and the class schedule can get out of whack. The jam workshop, for instance, was originally planned for a week later.

But the beach plum crop ripened early, Meave said, so she and Lindsay sent out word to those who’d registered: “Whoever can make it, come out, because the bounty’s there!”

While the teaching kitchen was completed this year under The Trustees of Reservations, a Massachusetts conservation nonprofit which has managed the FARM Institute since 2015, “It had been a dream for many years,”Lindsay said. Fundraising by The Trustees made it come true. The teaching kitchen joins similar facilities at other Trustees farm properties, including Powisset Farm in Dover and Appleton Farms in Ipswich and Hamilton. 

The next class at the FARM Institute kitchen is The Katama Kombucha class, happening on October 12 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

After that, there will be a series of Kids Can Cook classes on Saturday  mornings this fall. One will feature donut and apple-cider making, another will feature jack-o-lantern-stuffed peppers.

For more information and to register for classes, visit

Louisa Hufstader is a reporter for the Vineyard Gazette.