From the March 24, 1950 edition of the Gazette:

Col. Edward Roth, whose smiling face and jaunty white mustache add a note of cheer to the purlieus of Vineyard Haven, is renowned not only for his hospitality but for his activities as a gentleman farmer.

During the winter, the Roths inhabit their house on Main street, but their summers are spent industriously on their farm on the North Road. Ushered into the Roths’ capacious living room, a reporter sank into a comfortable chair.

“Would you like a cigarette or a pinch of snuff?” asked Mrs. Roth.


“Snuff. I love the stuff. It clears the head,” she explained.

Feeling somewhat lacking in the spirit of adventure, the reporter settled for a cigarette.

“I’m just a laborer,” said Colonel Roth, when questioned about his farm. “I spend my time moving rocks and cultivating the land. Building walls, too. We built eighty-six feet of wall last year.”

His engineering education, which he received at Harvard, has been of great help to him in construction work at his farm, Colonel Roth said. Most of it he does himself.

One problem the Roths have to face in cultivation of vegetables is destruction by deer.

“There’s just no planting some kinds of vegetables,” he said. “It helps a little if the wild growth is prolific on the outside, but the drought last summer made it worse than usual.”

Last year the Roths had peas by the first of April, and their beans were ready thirty-nine days after they were planted. One section of the farm is low, swampy land, which, it seems, is especially appealing to beans.

“It stayed damp all through the drought,” said Colonel Roth. “We raised a lot of carrots too. People came in and dug ‘em up for the winter.”

Running the farm for pleasure, the Roths operate it as a sort of gratuitous vegetable dispensary for their friends. The lazy and gardenless can sit around and stuff themselves on the fruits of the Roths’ labors, which pleases them right down to the ground.

His knowledge of Island geology (he studied under Profesor Nathaniel Shaler) has helped Colonel Roth make his farm a success. Also, he has found the advice of Chilmark old-timers helpful.

“I’m clearing out a field right now,” he said, “which is said to have been good grazing land once. You can make grass grow anywhere on the Island with a little work.”

At the moment, Colonel Roth is doing a good deal of plowing in preparation for this summer’s garden.

“I think a horse plow is better than a tractor plow for rocky ground,” he said. “A horse will go around a rock, but a tractor can’t. With a tractor you either have to take out the rock or leave quite a lot of unplowed area around it. But there’s a lot of fascination in moving rocks. I think they grow. I told a friend of mine that and he just laughed at me. But we plowed one field every year since ‘44, and each time we discovered enormous rocks that hadn’t been there before. Now he agrees with me.”

The Roth farm on the North Road, one of the show places of the Island, was bought by Mrs. Roth in 1943 as a surprise for her husband when he came back to the Vineyard to retire. Originally the farm consisted of a small, rather unattractive Victorian house, surrounded by about fifty acres of land. The energetic Roths have transformed the house into a large, rambling affair, delightful both inside and out.

As far as the grounds are concerned, they have developed them in a big way. Where there were once worn-out pastures and scrub growth, the Roths have produced wide lawns, gardens and fruit trees. One of their favorite pastimes is rooting out huge rocks, weighing tons, and distributing them about where they will do the most good. One of these monsters has been put to work as a seat beside an outdoor fireplace which Colonel Roth constructed near the house, and smaller ones have been incorporated into stone walls.

The house is situated on the side of a hill which slopes gradually back from the road. It is surrounded by lawn, fruit trees and flower beds, and as the hill rises behind the house the Roths have set out a flourishing stand of young pine trees, most of which have withstood the ravages of deer so far.

Near the road is a well with its sweep still in place, and another fascinating feature of the place is the duck houses behind the full-size house, which are replicas of real houses down to the last detail, including little shutters on the windows, about three inches long. Though on the outside these appear to be doll houses that any child might envy, inside they are furnshed to appeal to ducks. These houses are vacant at the moment, as Colonel Roth found raising ducks to be impractical.

Though the Roths may be said to farm as a hobby, it is certainly a large-scale and worthwhile one, and gives pleasure to many other people. .

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox