The Local Food Report: you have to get creative

Sometimes, to make a living, you have to get creative. Chris Fischer's great-grandfather, for instance, used to own a store downtown in Chilmark. When he started to have a family, he bought a cow so they'd have milk. Nine months later, there was another child on the way and the cow was dry—carrying a calf. So he bought another cow, and another one, and before long, he had a whole herd of cows and children and the store was shuttered up. He became a farmer instead.

Four generations later, Chris is trying to find his niche. At first he thought maybe that was off the farm—off the Vineyard in kitchens in places like London and Rome and at Mario Batali's place, Babbo, in the city. But a few years ago, he came home. Beetlebung Corner and the land his family's been farming for nearly a century now was simply in his blood. He would have to get creative to make it work, he knew, and so he did.

He devised a business planting backyard gardens for other people, and cooking what they grow. He helps families design, install, and maintain summer vegetable gardens, and then if they like, acts as family chef. At one place he's even put together a miniature farm—pigs and hens and fruit trees and a strawberry patch and row upon row of lettuces and peas. His days are a string of digging and checking and planting and turning on sprinklers and hunting for cucumbers and zucchinis under the leaves. He's doing what he always wanted to do—farm—it's just a little more spread out these days. Still, if you get to work with produce like this, that seems like a pretty good compromise to me.

Plus, as Chris points out, when he acts as chef, he gets to use not only what the family has grown, but also produce from his own farm and others around the island. This means he's able to make his income do doubletime when it comes to promoting and supporting local food.

He still maintains his own plot and sells at the West Tisbury Farmers' market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and he also does some t.v. clips—a segment with Plum T.V. called Edible Island—that go even further towards this goal. He goes on a food foraging adventure—picking produce or fishing off Squibby or visiting a farm—and then cooks a meal with the fresh, local stuff they find. He has all sorts of recipes, for things like patty pan squash salad and stuffed fish and ox tongue with salsa verde. I haven't had the time, er, ahem, the courage to try that last one just yet, but almost. In the meantime, if you get curious, you can peruse his selection over here. There's also a 10-step guide to a successful vegetable garden, and a composting manual, both of which I think you might enjoy.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a garden to weed.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the recommeds...can't wait to check them out.

Kelly said...

Gee, that one little hen, pig, and tree farm sure sounds romantic! He must make one's yard do wonders, I will be sure to check out your links, great story about Grandad!

Elspeth said...

Kelly, it is sort of amazing, isn't it? I mean, it was a big yard, but still. They were really set up—fresh eggs every day, their own meat, their own fruit. Every night when I go to sleep, I cross my fingers, close my eyes, and pray for a cheap farm to come up for sale in Wellfleet. So far, nothing, but I haven't given up!

And Rebecca, you'll have to let me know if you try any of the recipes. Especially the ones that require a bit more courage...ox tongue, anyone?

All the best,

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story -- both fun and inspiring! Hats off to Chris for his creativity and hard work. And thank you for the links. I've looked briefly at them and will definitely be revisiting them, as they have some great info.

I love your blog and the Local Food Report, Elspeth. Nice job! ~A Maine Reader

Bie said...

Very interesting. Wish I could followup on your suggestions.Love biee.

Bie said...

Very interesting. Wish I could followup on your suggestions.Love biee.


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