Native Earth Teaching Farm

Chilmark, MA
Sanctuary Steward: Rebecca Gilbert

Native Earth Teaching Farm is located in Chilmark on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. My grandmother bought this farm in the 1920’s from the estate of a whaling captain’s wife. One hundred fifty years ago it was mostly naked of cover, sheep were everywhere and the walls were being built by African slaves and Indians paid mostly in rum. The only trees were by the brook and in the woodlots. Now it is mostly woods and swamp with about five acres of the 30 under cultivation and inhabited. Our habitat is very diverse for it’s size, with lots of edges. It includes pine-oak succession uplands, swamp pockets, swamp along brook, blueberry thickets, cotton grass, and the largest patch of inkberry bushes the state biologists and Audubon people had ever seen!
Plants we have established are Bloodroot, Echinacea, Ginseng, Lady’s Slipper, Calamus, and Pipsissewa. Plants we want to grow include: Black and Blue Cohosh, Goldenseal, Osha, Arnica and Slippery Elm. There is a publicly deeded walking path, a conservation restriction is being negotiated, and the fledgling teaching farm is set to open to the public this spring.

Recently, we have given farm tours or provided half-day activities for the following: Island Head Start, neighbors, day care groups, a pre-school co-op and all the parents, eighth graders and two church groups. We display our rare breed poultry at fairs and festivals and talk about sustainability. I have also given occasional herbal walks and workshops. These will only increase with time, as our vision is to be a cooperative teaching farm, encouraging people to practice fulfilling and sustainable relationships with the land. We emphasize restoration and healing here, and we use the plants for food, medicine and inspiration, beauty and challenge. We find that healing energy always flows through, both ways. We attempt to send city people home with a little more self-love and enthusiasm, a little more protective determination to connect with “True Nature” both within and without. We pray for Earth Healing.