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Bartlett's Farm hay field on Nantucket

A Moveable Feast: The Bartlett’s Farm Heirloom

Emily Elise Hennelly has been working in the market at Bartlett's Farm all summer. She was moved to share her thoughts as she prepares to move on to her hext adventure. 

Dusk, the fields are pink and the cast shadows of crops stretch out longer than they did a month ago. Most of the Bartlett’s summer crew has dispersed; there isn’t a hum of girls getting ready for a night out, no frisbee playing, a dried hydrangea flower passes me like tumbleweed. With the sweet peace of autumn beneath my bare feet, I know it is time to go into the kitchen and can. I find myself in a swirl of spattered puree and sauces: among a mountain of tomatoes and herbs, beach plums and Massachusetts apples. I slow myself and consider why? Why am I in such a tizzy to fill all these jars?  At first I laugh at myself. But later the answer occurs to me in a quote by Ernest Hemmingway, "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." With Hemmingway in mind, the answer to my zealous preserving became clear. Bartlett’s Farm is a place I intend to carry with me the rest of my life.

The idea of the “ocean view farm” being a moveable feast was reaffirmed by the phrase’s origin in Christianity. The term originally referred to holidays on the liturgical calendar that do not have a fixed date.  Like Easter, the corn does not come in on a fixed date. This definition of a moveable feast reminds me of a certain amount of unpredictability that comes with agriculture. Working with the land depends upon certain flexibility…. “Yes indeed, flexibility…” I think to myself as I stir colossal Cherokee purple and San Marzano tomatoes together.

The summer itself was a late bloomer and many of the crops, namely the tomatoes, followed in kind. The ever-popular “Caprese Salad” took a devastating hit I suspect on Nantucket tabletops with the slow tomatoes and scarce basil. Personally, it highlighted an important aspect of Bartlett's Farm. The Farm and market act as a window into the natural world. The farm confronts people with the questions “who is your farmer” and “how and where does your food come from?” The farm provides us with a chance to develop awareness between our connection to our food systems and to the community around us. As Wendell Berry says “Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world.

In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude…” While growing vegetables is a reward in itself, helping to grow a community of people is something I think the Bartletts value and take pride in. For the last thirty years, the Bartletts have invited people from over forty countries to join them on their farm for the growing season. And, for a majority of the summer work crew, a Bartlett Farm Summer is a growing experience. Bartlett’s Farm has become a breezeway to adulthood. Not only does the crew learn more about life on a working farm, but we make the loves of our lives, friends, husbands, wives, we stumble upon new ambitions.

We work and learn that there are no shortcuts to a job done right, to lead by example, and to actively pursue goals. I have never worked in such a supportive environment. For several of us at the farm, the summer did not pass easily—there was injury and loss and there were difficult transition periods. Instead of treading on the surface level of usual professional environments, we rolled up our sleeves and asked and answered honest questions. In the backroom, at closing, on the walks back to our houses we talked and offered our time, advice, or a beer. Where else does your employer offer you a ride to a doctor’s appointment or a plane ticket to help you get home in case of emergency?

This summer was also full of moments we celebrated together. From the small joyous days when new vegetables had their debut on the market floor to the beautifully executed Harvest Dinners to John and Sarah’s wedding on Labor Day. We shared in each other’s moments of accomplishments and milestones. Bartlett’s farm continues to create an alchemy of people, morals, work ethic, and connection to the land.

So here I am--hoping to take as much of this place as will fit into twelve mason jars and a duffle bag. My next stop is to Brooklyn to help develop a CSA: to extend what I have learned on this island. To preserve what is good and pass it on where I can.

-Emily Elise Hennelly