Fresh Festivities with Sustainable Nantucket

by Catherine Macallister

How important is it to know where your food comes from and who made it? Sustainable Nantucket is a local non-profit organization dedicated to growing sustainable foods on Nantucket through a number of community programs. They operate under the mission: “To preserve the community character of Nantucket while sustaining its economic and environmental vitality.” They have been a part of the Nantucket community for nearly two decades, shifting towards more of an agricultural focus about six years ago. Their popular Farmer and Artisan’s market has been a Saturday morning staple for the last 12 years and they work with people of all ages, including youngsters in their Farm to School Program. Diverse programming and a commitment to creating a sustainable food source program on island has propelled them to host popular events such as the NantucketGrown™ Food Festival.

The NantucketGrown™ Food Festival is in its fourth year and runs Friday through Sunday, October 18 to 20. It is three days of events that perfectly capture what it means to be part of sustainably-sourced foods on Nantucket, whether you are a grower, a chef, or a consumer. This year’s events start with an opening reception at the Nantucket Yacht Club and close with a Brunch Throw Down at Proprietors Bar + Table. A number of top chefs and growers will be presenting at ticketed and non-ticketed events. Participants will get to sample food and drinks from places like Cisco Brewery, The Beet, and 5th Bend Oysters as well as more than ten local restaurants. It is a “celebration of the locally grown food movement on Nantucket,” says LeAnne Richard, the Office Administrator and Development Associate for Sustainable Nantucket. Marketing Manager, Cavel Mattison adds that the festival is “about preserving the seasons bounty.” She also hopes that visitors and residents will have the chance to “sip, savor, and explore” the local culinary and growing scene on Nantucket.

The festival was the “brainchild” of former Executive Director, Michelle Whelan. It embodies the core tenants of Sustainable Nantucket while encouraging attendees to focus on the connections between sustainable growing practices and delicious and healthy options available here on-island. The first year that Sustainable Nantucket hosted the Food Festival, there were about 24 events—a number that has since been reduced to be more carefully curated. “It’s about quality over quantity,” says Richard, who is excited about this year’s events and the ways in which the festival has evolved over the past few years. “Nantucket is known for fine dining,” says Mattison, “now you get the chance to meet the growers, farmers, chefs, and producers who make those magical experiences possible.”

The bulk of the events are on Saturday, October 19, starting bright and early at a Fermenting Workshop in the Hayloft at Bartlett’s Farm. Patrons will work with Chef Quang Tran from Nantucket Prime learning about techniques and processes and will be served a continental breakfast. Festivalgoers can also head over to the upper level of the Nantucket Culinary Center, where Chef Michael LaScola will present a demo and tasting called Root to Top. The demonstration will discuss how and why you can use every part of a vegetable, from skins to tops, to provide a waste-free, delicious meal. At 2:30 pm, the Barn at Cisco Brewers will be the site of a Behind-the-Scenes Cocktail Class and Barrel Tasting with Carl Sutton and Randy Hudson. “Not many people get to see it from the inside,” says Richards of this exclusive event, which she is certain will be a hit. Cisco Brewery will also be creating a special brew for NantucketGrown™ that will be available during the festival. The Farmto- Table Lunch with Chef Chris Morris is a favorite of the festival. All of the food is prepared at the Community Farm Institute, and it’s a great opportunity to get a tour of the farm and meet local farmers. Saturday closes out with another feast at PPX events, The Farm-to-Table Dinner that will showcase apples prepared three ways by Chef Kyle Daley.

There is something for everyone during the festival, even the kids. Head out to the Joyce N. Furman Youth Garden from 9 to 11 am on Saturday for the free Family Fun Day where families can explore the garden and learn gardening facts from Calin Duke, the Farm-to-School Manager. Children can learn how weather affects gardens and participate in fun crafts like creating a lavender eye pillow. The Educational programming for NantucketGrown™ has been provided in part by the Community Foundation of Nantucket’s Re- Main Nantucket Fund.

From 9 to noon on October 19, Sustainable Nantucket will hold a Pop-up Mini Market at the Nantucket Culinary Center. Local apiary owners and beekeepers will share honey samples and honey to buy, and you will have a chance to learn more about beekeeping on island and how you can get involved.

The closing event on Sunday will feature a “ShACKshuka Brunch Throwdown” held in Proprietors and hosted by Chef Michael LaScola and four other chefs who will compete to present a fabulous brunch complete with raw bar and drinks. The name “ShACKshuka” is a play on Shakshuka, a dish of poached egg, tomato sauce, and spice made in a number of variations. There will be several seatings for the event: tickets were available at press time, but the event is expected to sell out.

Sustainable Nantucket and the NantucketGrown™ Food Festival are a large part of how Nantucket is trying to change the landscape on locally sourced and foraged foods. By buying locally, you have the opportunity to know exactly where your food comes from and what was used to grow it.” Locally grown farming is what communities are doing,” says LeAnne Richard, adding that she is “happy to have the choices we have,” but that it would be great to have even more involvement in creating a sustainable source for food on Nantucket.

Interim Executive Director Dr. Tom Richard is “excited for the future of Sustainable Nantucket…and overjoyed to be a part of it.” He hopes that as Sustainable Nantucket grows they will consider expanding their mission statement: broadening their appeal and hopefully partnering with other local groups that have similar missions. “We need to be more supportive of each other,” Dr.Richard says, hoping that organizations will move forward toward a common goal of preserving this “precious piece of real estate.” Whether you are attending the NantucketGrown™ Food Festival or looking to be a part of Sustainable Nantucket, there are plenty of options available to begin your farm fresh journey on Nantucket!