Evenings at Pumpkin Pond Farm are when the magic begins.
Although, perhaps that could be said about any farm: that the hours that cap the long, sweaty days of hard labor - the early morning when the mist is rising off the fields and dusk when the fields are backlit by the setting sun - are always magical on a farm. As if the people and the land take a breath in unison. A deep breath of fortitude in the morning. A sigh of relief in the evening.
But there could be just a little more of this magic at Pumpkin Pond. A by-product of the rhythms of being a biodynamic farm where leaves are planted on leaf days, fruit on fruit days, roots on root days, all as demanded by the moon and its movements.
Or, perhaps the magic is a by-product of the sense of other-worldliness, a European flair, brought to the farm by the vision and artistic sensibilities of owners Marty and Holly McGowan. A farm where greenhouses filled with tropical plants, look more like a personal collection of a Victorian orchid-hunter than a garden center storefront and provide respite from a busy summer. It could be the antique steel and timber gates that protect the fields from deer and rabbits. Gates that have the weight of history creaking in their hinges every night when they are locked. But, whether the moon and her influences or the magical spaces and vignettes dotted throughout the farm that the McGowans have created, it is a place where art and agriculture collide and it was a perfect venue for an evening born out of a shared sense of stewardship over the island’s natural beauty and a menu wholly inspired by the bounty of Nantucket’s farmers.
Most of our events start, at the very beginning, with a small-producer or a season. We have had events inspired by Taza chocolate, Dovetail Sake, Jasper Hill cheese and just plain-old root vegetables. But this event was different for us. We had taken a break over the summer as various things outside of 100 Mile Makers took precedence. Things like new jobs and fledgling political careers. But what caught our attention and reset our local food radar after a busy Spring was a conversation with Morgan Raith, from the Nantucket Watershed Project, about the need to come together as an island to protect our water quality. To tell stories, to share stories, to create new dialogues around water and the way we think about water because as an island, our water is our everything - both our harbors and our aquifers, and it is threatened in all its forms by the impacts of development and let’s face it, humans being humans.
So how to inspire these conversations?
With food? And a movie? And some local cookies?
Like many seeds of ideas, this one took some turns and loops and circles as we went through the creative process as a collaborative effort with Morgan and also The Dreamer Collective, a grassroots group who are focused on finding ways to protect our island’s waters. In the end, on Morgan’s recommendation, we decided to screen the film ‘Island Earth’, a visually-stunning documentary that highlights the philosophical and ethical conflicts inherent to GMO foods and industrial agriculture as well as the small-scale, local responses.
The film takes place in Hawaii. It was not an easy film to watch. Most films with anything environmental as the subject are not easy films to watch.
They engender important conversations but definitely not easy conversations, whether they are internal monologues or heated debates with friends and family. You have to be mentally prepared for these movies which is why we started the evening with a beautiful meal and followed with piles and piles of local cookies. My favorite quote of the evening was from one of our local farmers who came out of the movie and said ‘That meal was even more meaningful after a movie like that’.
So even if it was just one person, the idea had worked.
Local Food + Eco-Movie = Thoughtful contemplation around environmental issues.
We had paired local food, that is so important to us, with a movie about small-scale farming and the two made each other stronger.
At this point, you may be wondering what the heck this meal WAS seeing as most people are here for the food and not the self-indulgent story about how that meal and the whole event came about. So here it is, the short and long of it as for us, every dish and almost every ingredient we choose has a story.
Bluefish Pates from 167 Raw and Nantucket Fresh Catch
Bartlett Farm Watermelon Tasting
Dish #1: Deviled Eggs
The Details: A classic garnished with chive blossoms
Boatyard Farm - Eggs
Nantucket Native - Chive Blossoms
Nobska Farms - Hot Sauce
Someone says picnic. We say deviled eggs. Even though they are a beast to prepare in quantity and we didn’t even know if we could get eggs from Boatyard these days as they are more precious than gold. We have been there many a time this summer in a line for eggs! And, after waiting in line, there may not even be enough to go around. Is it because so many of us love getting local eggs they just can’t keep up? Or is it one of the myriad reasons why chickens might cut back on the laying of eggs. For example: they are broody, it’s too hot, not enough daylight, new additions to the flock, diet change, certain breeds just don’t lay as many eggs…and more. Who knew it was actually so tough to get an egg!
Dish #2: Corn Chowder with local fish
The Details: A delicate, light chowder made with Bartlett’s corn and a broth meant to showcase, not smother, the local Bass
Bartlett’s Farm - Corn
Glidden’s - Fish Racks and Bass
Moor’s End - Fennel, Leeks and Potatoes
The Thinking: We initially wanted Dogfish for this chowder as Dogfish are a common bycatch with very few willing buyers - 99% of the Cape’s catch is shipped to Europe. Of course, the one day we wanted them, none were caught. So we substituted local bass.
Dish #3: Composed salad of Burrata, Greens and Pickled Blackberries
The Details: hand-pulled, individual burrata served with mixed greens and more
Gioia - Burrata
Moor’s End - Cucumbers
Nantucket Native - Blackberries, herbs
Nantucket Organics - Kale, Turnips
Pumpkin Pond Farm - Lettuce Greens
Washashore Farm - Edible Flowers
Five farms. One amazing local cheesemaker. Heaven.
Dish #4: Tomatoes and Basil
The Details: A medley of local heirloom tomatoes dressed with a trio of basils, olive oil, edible flowers and fennel pollen
Bartlett’s - Heirloom Tomatoes
Lazy Man Gardens - Basils
Nantucket Organics - Lemon Cucumbers
Pumpkin Pond - Tomatoes, Fennel Pollen, Edible Flowers
Because it’s summer and you just have to.
Dish #5: Stuffed Eggplants
The Details: Weatherlow Pork Sausage and Herb Stuffed Eggplants with Sungold Cherry Tomatoes and Roasted Shishito Pepper Relish
Bartlett’s Farm - Sungold Cherry Tomatoes, Eggplants
Moor’s End - Shishitos
Nantucket Native - Herbs. Edible Flowers
Pumpkin Pond Farm - Tomatoes, Zucchini
Washashore Farm - Edible Flowers
Weatherlow Farms - Pork Sausage
The pork in this dish is a big deal. Supplied by Weatherlow Farms in Westport, MA, a very special farm - they follow the principles of restorative agriculture where crops and livestock are seen as mutually benficial and necessary to each other in this struggle for achieving self-sustainability in agriculture. Goats are the landscapers, the ocean is near - go for a visit if you get a chance. You may never come back. If you end up staying, you can find their meats in the freezer section at Bartlett’s Farm.
Dish #6: Seared Nectarines
The Details: Seared Nectarines with Husk Cherries, Micro-Basil, honeyed Ricotta and Maine Grains oat crumble
Bartlett’s - Husk Cherries
Bee Happy - Honey
Carlson Orchards - Nectarines
Maine Grains - Oats
Pumpkin Pond Farm - Micro-Basil
Carlson Orchard grows nectarines and peaches that dreams are made of. Stone fruit like the good old days when they didn’t travel far and had all the flavor and juiciness in the world. There were almost no Massachusetts peaches or nectarines last year because of a warm spell too early in the season so this year, we are making sure everyone gets a chance to enjoy the harvest.
The Producers and where to get their goods:
Bartlett’s Farm - their farm market, open every day of the week
Boatyard Farm - at their farm stand on Hummock Pond Rd
Carlson Orchards - Bartlett’s
Gioia - Bartlett’s Farm
Glidden’s - at their shop
Lazy Man Gardens - Farmer’s Market
Jack’s Abby - Brix, Nantucket Wine and Spirits
Lieb Cellars - Bartlett’s Farm
Moor’s End - their farm market, open every day of the week
Nantucket Fresh Catch - Bartlett’s Farm
Nantucket Organics - sometimes Annye’s, Farmer’s Market
Nantucket Native - Farmer’s Market
Pumpkin Pond Farm - stop by the farm or at the Saturday Farmer’s Market
Washashore Farm - Farmer’s Market
photos thank you to Dan LeMaitre unless otherwise noted.