A HISTORY OF
AT 1056 STATE ROAD
By Kristen Kingsbury Henshaw
The thirty-acre farm property was created when two purchases of land were made by Joao Pereira [John Pray] and his wife, immigrants from Portugal. In 1874, Sally Norton sold them 12 acres for $125 ; in 1886, Benjamin Chase sold them a contiguous 15 acres for $75.
"They were tough, hard- working people," said Craig Kingsbury, a later owner of the property. "They had one plum orchard out in the far field, another small one close to the house, and an apple orchard with ten trees near the church property. They couldn't afford a horse, so they used their milk cow to pull a plow. "
In 1917, the administrator of the estate of the late John Pray conveyed the farm to Joseph Silvia for $600. In 1937, Silvia is deeded the property.
Craig said that Silvia, whom he always referred to as' Joe The Barber', "...was not a farmer, not by a damn sight. He sold whatever topsoil they could scrape off the place to make the greens at the Mink Meadows Golf Club. That killed all the Pray's fruit trees. No, Joe was more interested in livelier ventures. He ran card games and other forms of gambling on the place, sold moonshine, even though Prohibition was over. The locals liked their bust-head home-made. It was cheaper and packed a better wallop than the tamer stuff you could buy in stores. Joe was also in the 'import' business, 'importing' girls from New Bedford who were skilled in the ancient art of the horizontal hula."
Joe sold the farm to Arthur Colling of Plainfield, NJ, in 1937, who placed it in trust for his daughter Gertrude, and her new husband, Craig Kingsbury. The sale price was either $2,000 or $3,000, depending on which of Craig's versions you believed. "It was the Depression, and land and a man's labor didn't count for much," said Craig.
The farmhouse was built in 1890; there was no running water or electricity, no telephone. There were oak trees where pastures are now. "I cut them down and sold them for firewood, let the stumps rot in place, then dragged them out with the oxen in 1943. The valley had lots of small trees. Got them out easy," Craig said.
Craig and Gertrude Colling were divorced in 1939, and Craig's mother, Anne Kingsbury, bought the property from Arthur Colling for $2400.
Craig remarried in 1941, Gertrude 'Turk' Tereski, a Finnish girl from Quincy, MA. They had four children. The marriage lasted for 52 years, ending with her death in 1994. Except for the last five months of his life, at Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation in Oak Bluffs, Craig spent the rest of his life on the farm. He died in 2002. In his more than six decades as a farmer, he raised, at various times, horses, oxen (3 teams), cows, goats, sheep; the usual barnyard birds and some exotics (chickens, ducks, geese, Guinea fowl, Egyptian Cinnamon geese, Japanese silkies). He grew fruit and chestnut trees, vegetables, water lilies and lotus.
Photographs of Craig's early days on the farm show a moonscape, land barren of any vegetation. Over the years, with loads of composted manure and fertilizer, spread out of the back of an ox cart or wagon, the property became an arable and once more productive farm.
The farmhouse was built in 1890, had been shingled by Joe Silvia, but not painted. In 1947, war surplus paint was on sale for $2.00 a gallon. There were two choices: grey or red. "Turk liked the red. She was a Finn, and they like their buildings red. So we painted the house red. Ours was the first red house in Vineyard Haven; the idea caught on after awhile," said Craig.
"We got electricity in 1949, and it cost us $250 to pay for the poles. We got running water in 1956. Connie [Conrad] Kurth dug the well for us. Hit water at 62 feet. Cost us $700."
The farm has been subdivided twice, Craig and Turk giving daughter Elsie ten acres in 1977, and their son Bill ten acres in 1989. Craig gave the last ten acres to Kristen weeks before he died in 2002.
A Few words about Kristen Kingsbury Henshaw,
by Kristen Kingsbury Henshaw
I was born in the summer of 1945, the third child of Craig and Turk Kingsbury. My two older sisters were born in the farmhouse; I was born in the hospital, as was my younger brother. I grew up on the farm where Jefferson Munroe now operates the GOOD Farm. There were four of us children, born within a six-year period, and we kept things busy for my mother. Without electricity, running water, or a car, she was stuck with us. She didn't even have a telephone to call for help. My father was often out on fishing boats, and would be gone for days at a time. I don't know how she managed, but she did (we all lived to adulthood, proof of her forbearance).
In 1949, we got electricity. In 1956, running water. A telephone came along at some point, and a series of cars that could have been winners or losers in demolition derbies; they had the look of enthusiastic participants, at least.
We were poor, but resourceful. Living alongside busy State Road was a boon: a car with New York plates could always be counted on to provide a meal when a luckless wild turkey ventured onto the highway to see why the chicken crossed the road.
Dad scoured the dumps (in the days before they were called landfills), and brought home usable building materials, which he transformed into poultry and pig housing that had a 'hobo encampment' quality to them. My mother, meanwhile, canned and preserved, cooked, sewed, mended our clothes, and tried to civilize us.
We raised pigs, had a few milk cows, a bull sometimes, a team of oxen, fruit trees, vegetable gardens; we grew a lot of corn, both for our consumption and winter fodder for the livestock. We butchered our hogs, smoked bacon, made sausage, gave the heads away to friends to make head cheese. It was an organic operation long before that term was in common parlance.
Turk died in 1994 of metastatic cancer; Craig died in 2002 of 89 years of living life on his own terms. I don't know where they are, but I know that they are pleased with Jefferson and what he is doing: growing good food, being kind to both animals and the earth, and teaching others to do the same.
Plus, he even looks like Craig (see photo).
What’s in a name (aka the future)?
By Jefferson Munroe
The GOOD in GOOD Farm stands for the Gardens Of Our Descent, referencing the fact that we are living in a time of unprecedented energy descent. Cheap, easily accessible energy is a thing of the past – shale oil extraction, deep water drilling and the financial viability of wind power are indicators that our consumption of fossil fuels has passed into a new era, one where the economy will be modulated by access to energy and costs will fluctuate accordingly. Additionally, the extension of Western style living conditions to a larger portion of the global population means that even with increasing capacity for energy production the amount of energy available to individuals is decreasing over time. Finally, the imperatives presented by the onset of climate change suggest that even if we could unlock endless amounts of fossil fuels, the effects upon the human environment would be catastrophic. This transition from increasing amounts of energy to decreasing amounts on a per capita level means that we are in the process of energy descent.
Energy descent has the potential to disrupt, demean and destroy many of the institutions and experiences that we currently take for granted. Such disruptions will engender both negative and positive changes. The possible negative outcomes of this will almost entirely involve living with less material wealth. Luckily, almost all measures of happiness do not correlate with material wealth once basic needs are met. In fact, the positive changes most likely to emerge from disruptive events are those of relative thrift. Think of the organic food movement, the rebuilding of urban centers and the familial connections engendered from multi-generational households. As our society transitions from one where economics is driven primarily by speed to one of resilience we as people will find that there are pleasures and activities that still capture the imagination. Whether that involves watching chickens instead of television, knitting to the radio or spending the extra time to prepare a meal with family, the trade offs will be changes, not calamities.
Here at the GOOD Farm our practices reflect the realities of our time period – the chickens and pigs we raise require relatively large inputs of grain and labor to bring to market in a rather short period of time. Given the cost and access to land on Martha’s Vineyard these are practices that we can follow during the near future to “make hay while the sun shines.” However, in developing the property and thinking about the future our goal is to put in place systems of self renewing fertility that restores the land. That is why we’re planting mulberry trees for chicken and pig fodder, experimenting with perennial vegetable crops and investing in bio-char to retain the nutrients our animals apply to the soil. Our goal is to maximize our positive impact upon the land within the time allotted given the limitations and possibilities inherent to our time.