Cultivating a Healthy Nantucket

The NantucketGrown Food Festival is a unique event that celebrates Nantucket’s growing local food system, educates the community about the benefits of land and sea sustainability, and supports and celebrates local growers, farmers, fishermen, and food producers. For four days from October 12 to 15, the festival offers more than 25 events, some free, many low cost, and a few ticketed that includes celebrity chef cooking demonstrations and hands-on lessons, meals, tastings, tours of farms, scalloping lessons, storytelling, and many educational opportunities.

At the beginning of the “off-season,” the NantucketGrown Food Festival offers a chance to experience the real Nantucket. The island has always drawn an exceptional group of people who have varied skills and expertise. This weekend is no exception. Bren Smith and Tama Matsuoka Wong will be featured alongside Nantucket’s chefs, growers, and harvesters. This is an ideal chance to speak with and learn from people who are committed to living their farm (or sea)-to-table passion. Opening Night will represent a microcosm of Nantucket’s food system, showcasing beekeepers, oyster farmers, food producers, and many of the island’s celebrated chefs. One of the highlights of the Festival will be a hands-on lesson at the Nantucket Culinary center followed by a multi-course Chef’s Table dinner prepared by Chef Mayumi Hattori at her new restaurant, the Club Car.

There is an ever-expanding movement in the United States to learn how and where food is sourced, how to eat local, and how to utilize native foods. Highlights of the 2017 Food Festival include foraging expeditions and a Wild Weed Harvest cocktail party led by author and forager Tama Matsuoka Wong. Wong is an attorney turned forager, who has re-imagined what is possible with lowly “weeds” in her book, Foraged Flavor. As a forager for the renowned and luxurious NYC restaurant, Daniel, and as a nominee for a James Beard Award (one of the highest awards in the culinary world), Wong has elevated edible weeds to a culinary pedestal. Winner of the prestigious Fuller Challenge Award, Bren Smith was chosen by Sustainable Nantucket as the 2017 NantucketGrown Food Festival “Future of Food” Presenter based on his visionary work designing multi-species, 3- dimensional ocean farms. At his Thimble Island Farm in CT, Smith has created a sustainable and profitable ocean farming business that uses a small, low-tech footprint to grow several different types of shellfish and the fast growing superfood, kelp. From these crops, Bren produces food, animal feeds, fertilizers and more. His farm helps to restore, rather than deplete, the ecosystem as the shellfish filters harmful pollutants out of the water and the kelp sequesters carbon while growing.

It is not often that a farming entrepreneur develops a new way of farming that involves low economic and environmental investment with such high return. Smith established GreenWave, a non-profit that provides education, training and support to aspiring farmers as they establish their own sustainable ocean farms by replicating his infrastructure. Smith’s GreenWave is currently fielding requests from potential ocean farmers in every US coastal state and 40 different countries.

Based on Smith’s extraordinary success, Sustainable Nantucket is working with local farmers to lead the charge in exploring the potential to create an ocean farming hub in our island waters. Smith will be speaking at a number of events during the Food Festival.

Sustainable Nantucket is cultivating a healthy Nantucket by building a more locally-based and self-reliant food system, and a stronger island economy. In addition to the annual Food Festival, their regular programs include: the seasonal Saturday Farmers & Artisans Market, the NantucketGrown Campaign, the SN Community Farm Institute, and Farm to School. The Farmers & Artisans Market, now in its 10th year, is designed to raise the profile of our established farms and give our beginning farmers a chance to connect with the community and get retail value for their produce. It also fosters entrepreneurship, production of value-added food and artisanal products, and cottage industry.

SN’s NantucketGrown Campaign encourages the consumption of locally grown food by promoting food service establishments with a proven commitment to sourcing locally, and encouraging consumers to support those establishments and to source directly from our farms and producers. The Community Farm Institute, located at the Walter F. Ballinger Educational Community Farm, is a beginning farmer training program that offers potential growers a hands-on education program in sustainable agriculture and farm business planning, along with access to land (each successful applicant receives a 1/8 acre parcel) and farm infrastructure such as water, solar power, walk-in cooler, propagation greenhouse, and tools.

In 2016, the Nantucket Islands Land Bank awarded SN an additional 6.5 acres adjacent to our existing farm. And this year, they developed the basic infrastructure for this property, to ready the space for graduating farmers. SN’s Farm to School program, established in 2010, offers island children hands-on, lifetime lessons in nutrition, agriculture and environmental stewardship in the garden, farm fields, classroom and cafeteria.