Morning Glory Farm, started in 1975 by James and Deborah Athearn, grows about 65 acres of vegetables and small fruits on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Small successive plantings of a wide variety of crops supply the farmstand from May through December.
Crops include sweet corn, lettuce, carrots, beets, tomatoes, melons, potatoes, beans, squash, pumpkins, and more. Our morganically grown herb garden supplies a full assortment of culinary herbs. We also raise 2 acres of cut flowers, and small plantings of strawberries, grapes, peaches, and beach plums.
We keep beef cows on pasture in Chilmark for which we harvest 40 acres of hay and we also produce eggs, pork and fresh, pasture-raised chickens to sell in the farmstand. Seven acres of our vegetable fields are farmed “morganically” (not certified) and we try to manage the rest of our land with a minimum of pesticides and with attention to the long-term health of the soil.
Jim and Debbie started the farm on family wooded land on Meshacket Road. In the first years they cleared a small vegetable plot and room for a barn and pasture for milking cows. The yields of the small plot were sold at the farmhouse in a small shed, and at the Farmers Market in West Tisbury. The farm name grew from the vision of the sun rising over lush, green fields, cows with udders full of milk ambling past bountiful gardens and hedgerows lively with honeybees: true wealth of nature’s glory.
Eventually the young farmers outgrew the shed and seeking a greater market, they moved to the end of Meshacket Road in the lot at Ed Tyra’s locker plant in 1979. After two years there Jim and Debbie decided to build their own farmstand on the site where it is now. The original building, built in 1981, was a 18′ x 20′ foot post and beam structure. There have been several additions since then: more greenhouses, an employee residence, the vegetable barn with its farm kitchen and bakery and an equipment maintenance building, among other improvements. The fields and crops grew and flourished, and the Athearns now are actively working more than 120 acres with a staff of more than 100 employees in high season. In 2010 a large post and beam barn replaced the original farmstand.
Jim and Debbie raised three children on the farm. Their daughter Prudence, and her husband Josh Levy, both Registered Dietitians, and their two boys Kyle and Judah are now back on the island after years in Boulder, Col. and Portland, Me. Prudence & Josh are the owners of Vineyard Nutrition, a medical practice that offers nutritional counseling and specializes in diet and lifestyle consultations, weight loss guidance, diet planning and related services. Prudence had previously worked on the farm for many years. She had become a specialist in the flower field and was the farmstand manager.
Son Simon, after high school, went to culinary school in New Hampshire and then to small business school at the University of Montana. Simon has become Chief of Operations for the farm. Simon married Robyn in April of 2011 and they have two children, Rose and Ignatius. They live on a farm in West Tisbury which has been in the Athearn family since the 1800’s. Robyn was the cut flower manager at Morning Glory Farm overseeing the cultivation of 2 acres of annual flowers and a half-acre perennial field.
Son Daniel returned to the Vineyard and Morning Glory Farm after receiving a degree in aquaculture from the University of Maine. Daniel quickly became indispensable on the farm as a skilled machine operator and irrigation specialist. Although he spends many hours in the tractor seat working the soil and tending the crops, he still maintains his presence on the water in both commercial and recreational fishing. Meeghan Athearn, Daniel’s wife, works on the farm, at the farmer’s market and in the farmstand. Dan and Meeghan have three young children, Clara, Zeb and Penelope Louise. They live on family land in Chilmark, where the Morning Glory Farm cattle graze in water-view pastures.
The extended farm family is a large one. Not only have many Athearn relatives have been part of the farm in different ways, but also many employees over the years have brought in their sisters, mothers, daughters, sons, mothers-in-law, and so forth.
Each year we meet a new crew of farmers, bakers, cooks and farmstand staff who become part of the farm family. The farm has benefited from a variety of wonderful people who have endowed Morning Glory with their own special contributions. With the younger generation involved there is the expectation that the farm will continue to provide quality fruits and vegetables to the community and provide people with meaningful employment and memorable island experiences.