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Background photo by Don Sylor

Debbie Farber

Farmer

Louisa Gould

My parents are both from Romania. They were both born in Transylvania, which is really a place, not just Dracula’s home. I’m a first-generation American really. We lived in Queens until I was 10, then my parents bought an apartment in Manhattan.

Have you ever heard of the Trailside School? It’s an alternative school that I went to. You travel around the country in a yellow school bus. You get to climb a mountain or do an archaeological dig or meet a folk singer instead of regular schoolwork. And the Vineyard was one of the places they brought the kids. They had a camp here and we spent two weeks riding our bicycles, meeting people, and doing things that somehow managed to pass as schoolwork. I thought it was paradise here. I thought everyone that got to live here was really lucky. That was in 1976.

On January 1, 1979, I moved to the Vineyard. I was waiting for one of my friends from college to be done with her semester and she was going to move here with me. We bought  a $200 car and packed all of our stuff up and moved out here to a house on Indian Hill Road.

Have you ever heard of the Trailside School? It’s an alternative school that I went to. You travel around the country in a yellow school bus. You get to climb a mountain or do an archaeological dig or meet a folk singer instead of regular schoolwork. And the Vineyard was one of the places they brought the kids. They had a camp here and we spent two weeks riding our bicycles, meeting people, and doing things that somehow managed to pass as schoolwork. I thought it was paradise here. I thought everyone that got to live here was really lucky. That was in 1976.

At Nip-N-Tuck Farm, they used to sell raw milk, and they used to bottle it themselves. I would wash the bottles, collect the empties, and bottle more milk with this really ancient bottling machine, where you pulled a crank and a bottle would fill up and you’d stamp on this little cardboard lid. It was all really archaic, but I thought it was cool.

Old Mr. Fisher, the owner, taught me how to plant a garden. He was one of the real island characters, a crotchety old Yankee farmer. He actually wasn’t even that old—he was probably in his early 50s at the time. And he tried to do everything the old-fashioned way. He tried to farm with horses and hand-bottle the milk. He always had a vegetable garden in front of the dairy. He taught me how to plant, which I realized a few years later wasn’t very efficient. He paid me $1.80 an hour. I made that times four hours.

I remember there was always something to do back then—whether you wanted to meet people or play music or read poetry. There was always a coffee house or a potluck dinner. It was really easy to find something to do with people close to your age. I think the winter population back then was like 8,000 people. Is that even possible?

I moved into my house with my husband in 1986. He built this house and we started collecting animals—now we have 10 cows, two draft horses, 12 pigs, and 300 chickens. And I feel an obligation to grow food for people. Somebody’s got to do it, and I have the opportunity to do it, the land to do it, and something of an education to do it. A lot of times I wish I could just get up and maybe travel, but I’m really tied to this place and these animals.

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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Gay Head Light and Cliffs, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass

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