February 18, 2015

Farm of the Month: Martha’s Vineyard Organics

Each month, as part of our Harvest of the Month program, we will be featuring one island farm here on our blog. We’ll talk to our Farm of the Month to learn all about the growing process, seasonality, and favorite ways to enjoy the crop! February is here, and we’re celebrating pea shoots. On a snowy day this February, Lloyd Hart wore a striped wool sweater, a knitted hat, thick pants, and a pair of blue latex gloves as he dunked hundreds of pea shoots in water and rinsed them in a mega-sized salad spinner. Lloyd and his wife Namiko operate Martha’s Vineyard Organics year-round inside their greenhouse in Oak Bluffs. The greenhouse is filled with tray after tray of pea shoots – some just poking up from the soil, others showing their first little leaves, and some ready to be cut. A shoot or micro green is simply a seedling, usually harvested 7 to 14 days after germinating. The Harts also grow other micro greens and herbs – sunflower shoots, Russian kale, arugula, tatsoi, radish, mustard greens, and cilantro. On this particular day of the week (a Thursday), Lloyd was cutting and packaging 45 pounds of shoots for market. Here’s what he had to say: When did you begin growing shoots and why? Early 2008. We started earlier but that’s when we got serious. I had always been involved in agriculture at some point in my life. I’d worked on farms in California. I’d worked on farms in Canada when I was a teenager. I have always been on and off the farm. So this seemed like a great survival tactic after the economy blew up. We did it to see if we could make a living. We realized very quickly that if we stick with doing this one line of products really well, and start delivering off island to other retailers, that we could actually make a living at this. We put everything we had into it. Where do you currently sell your shoots? Year round at Cronig’s and Stop and Shop, as well as 14 Stop and Shops on the Cape. It’s a wintertime crowd so it’s actually the working stiffs that are buying our stuff. If the working stiffs here are buying our stuff, than the working stiffs will buy our stuff anywhere. And that’s how I view this whole enterprise. I’m bringing superfoods to the masses. Namiko sees it that way, too. It was actually her idea to go to Stop and Shop and start spreading our wings. She really pursued that account and she landed it. Which goes to show that the corporate culture in retail is changing. They are beginning to realize that people really do respond to local product. And they do respond to big corporations when they weave themselves into the local economy. There’s a whole connection -- from buying the product, to making it in a recipe, to oh yea I bought this at a big grocery chain but it comes from the community I live in.

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What do you enjoy about farming? I’m really not farming. I’m just assisting nature and providing food for my species. I’m just going along, learning -- it tells me what to do. I’m being told what to do by nature. How to get good productivity without gene splicing. And producing a food that people will be glad to eat. And the big thing about micro greens is that they are superfood. There’s a USDA study showing that, by weight, micro greens have about 7 times more Vitamin C than blueberries. And that there are 7 to 10 more nutrients in micro greens than in the same plants when fully grown. Do you eat your greens? Oh yea, we eat this stuff everyday. We sample it every day. We eat it to test the flavor. Through the different parts of the season, there are different results. We do add grow lights in the winter. Constantly looking for the effects of less natural light. But yea, we are able to provide a really great green vegetable year round. And pea shoots? Kids love them. We were surprised when our grandchildren started grabbing at them and eating them. We put them on the table, and they are snacking on them before the main entrée comes down. A lot of parents are very excited there is a vegetable out there that kids will eat. I had to bribe my kids to eat vegetables. I had to pay them.

Purchase MV Organics local pea shoots or micro greens at Cronig's or Stop and Shop, or buy online.