Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt, Sea to Farm to Fantastic

by Guinevere Cramer on June 4, 2013

in Changes On The Vineyard, Dining & Food, Interesting Islanders, On Point - MV Lifestyle

Down Island Farm Girl - Heidi Feldman Martha's Vineyard Sea SaltMeet Heidi Feldman of Down Island Farm, a woman who has been on a mission trying to figure out how to contribute to the local food movement here on Martha’s Vineyard.

Her farm just happens to be on a sandy plot of land in West Tisbury which is not necessarily conducive to growing things.

Heidi was a shiitake mushroom farmer, but the caterpillar blight the Island experienced, destroyed the trees she used to grow the mushrooms. She has a number of chickens, goats, a miniature horse and some peacocks (which are awesome), but she wants to do more.

So, what does this computer tech, farm girl at heart do?  She makes salt, not just any salt, but salt made from the water of the shores of Martha’s Vineyard.

Salt – That’s the Ticket!

How did she come up with the idea to make sea salt?  It was one of those “ah ha” moments.  Heidi was in her car in front of Alley’s one day, eating her lunch on the go, which included a bag of Cape Cod Sea Salt & Vinegar potato chips.

Savoring the sheer joy that can be found in eating salty potato chips, it came to her – SALT!  She would make sea salt from the waters surrounding Martha’s Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt.  You don’t get much more local than that.

She ran the idea by her husband and several friends and there was one answer – yes, do it!  So, Heidi began researching how to make salt.  She visited a friend of hers who makes his own salt up-Island and and even went to a couple of local sea salt makers in Maine and on the Cape.

Turns out that Cape Cod Sea Salt is relatively new as well, and the two women, Janice and Penny, who run it have become fast friends with Heidi.  The three have developed quite the friendship and support network for each other regarding sea salt.

The Process

To make Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt, water is harvested from the south shore, where they have been approved by the state, and the water is brought back to the farm.  There, it is placed in a hoop house which is an unheated green house.

There the water evaporates — and this chilly weather is not helpful in the evaporation process — which typically takes about 4 – 6 weeks to get a crop ready.  New England is a tough place to be a sea salt farmer because of the weather,  just think about our wonderful cold Spring days, humidity, etc.

Heidi and her husband are in the process of  building an 80 x 20 foot evaporator that will have solar panels to help make more salt, more quickly.  And I think they’ll need to do that, since I think this sea salt might be a big seller on the Island.  So, the process of making Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt has almost zero carbon footprint, cool isn’t it!

Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt

The packaging for Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt is so simple and fresh, pale blue and brown, reminding you of land and sea.  Interestingly the inspiration for the colors came from the brown of their living room and the blue of their bedroom.

The sea salt is available in a couple of different sizes, a Traveller, .4 oz and fits perfectly in your bag, the Hostess Gift 2 oz and comes in a lovely bag, and the Crave bag which is 3 oz.  Starting mid-June, you’ll be able to buy Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt at LeRoux, Black Sheep, West Tisbury Farmers Market and more.

Why buy Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt?  The answer is simple, it’s pure, from the sea by the sun, as Heidi says. It hasn’t been stripped of minerals or processed in any way, and it tastes amazing, a gift from the sea.

It’s the perfect way to top your favorite food since it’s considered a “finishing” salt, not a cooking salt.  It’s somewhat briny, like the juice of an oyster.  You just want to sprinkle it on a tomato and go to town.  There’s no aftertaste, and each batch is different because the ocean changes daily.

Another wonderful thing about this salt is that Heidi is bringing back an old-world craft.  Two-hundred years ago, there were salt works in Vineyard Haven and Chappy.  Then it became way too convenient and cheap to get at the store.  With the Slow Food movement and people paying attention to what they’re eating, there is no better time than now for reintroducing locally made sea salt.

Down the Road

Heidi is a pretty fun and outgoing person, and of course wants to have some fun with the salt she’s making. So in the future, be on the lookout for flavored sea salt.  I was able to try one of her blends, blueberry honey, from Martha’s Vineyard Honey Company of course, and her salt — it was amazing.

Imagine a combo like that on a salad or for a cocktail?  We’ll have to wait a bit for the flavored salt.  There is an extensive permitting process involved unfortunately.

Also, Heidi and a number of other sea salt farmers are working hard to change legislation to have sea salt production to be considered agriculture.  Also, the salt is tested by the state during the year just to make sure everything is kosher.

So when you see Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt at one of the markets, you know you’re getting to take a piece of the waters of Martha’s Vineyard with you which is pretty cool.

Thanks for reading On Point.  You can learn more about Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt on Facebook.  Speaking of social media, don’t forget to  “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on TwitterLinked InPinterest and YouTube.  Also, if you’d like to learn more about Martha’s Vineyard Honey Company, check out The Sweet Story Behind The Martha’s Vineyard Honey Company.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

georgia netherland June 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm

love youre story on seasalt , would love to vist Marthas vineyards someday , can I buy this seasalt and how much !

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Guinevere Cramer June 6, 2013 at 7:46 am

Hi – I would reach out to Heidi and see. She is launching into stores this month. You can contact her via Facebook or her website. Enjoy:-)

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Joan Turits Feldman June 6, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Great story. Aren’t we lucky to nature’s best really where we sometimes never look. Good luck Heidi. I’ll be looking for your clean salt on island and in the future in stores. Best to you and your husband. Rocky Hill, CT

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Kathleen Cowley June 8, 2013 at 6:01 am

Guinviere- Their salt is fabulous and Heidi is great fun too- so glad to know her! We are thrilled to be using MV Sea Salt with our new line of chocolate covered treats- Chocolate Almonds with MV Sea Salt and Pie In The Sky Espresso Beans with MV Sea Salt. Delicious! You can also find Heidi at the OB Open Market on Sundays.

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Guinevere Cramer June 8, 2013 at 7:19 am

I’ll have to con sample! I love your chocolates too!!!

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Kathleen Cowley June 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Thanks Guinevere! Will be using MV Sea Salt on our Pirate Food and Stoner Food too!

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