Part geek, part farmer, and 100% able to “make meaningful conversation with wallpaper,” Heidi is co-owner with Curtis of Down Island Farm, LLC. Heidi is passionate about living local and reviving the tradition of making sea salt on Martha’s Vineyard. She draws inspiration from her entrepreneurial father, Milton Feldman (d. 2007), her mom, Joan Turits Feldman, and sisters (Sharon Rowe of ECOBAGS™ Products, Inc. and Ellen Ornato of The Bolder Company™), and from Curtis, the love of her life for 35 years.
From the Connecticut river valley, Curt’s family farmed 20+ acres. Lucky for MV Sea Salt, he is also a master carpenter. When not working for the South Mountain Company, Curtis builds things for the house and his and Heidi’s Down Island Farm. Curtis designed and built the solar evaporator.
With Heidi as taster, Curtis also develops MV Sea Salt’s flavor varieties like Oak Smoked. If it weren’t for Curtis, the world would not know about the joys of MV Smoked Oak sea salt on peanut butter.
Recipe for Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt:
Start with one small farm on the beautiful little island of Martha’s Vineyard in the town of Vineyard Haven then combine:
+ one tech consultant-turned-entrepreneurial farmer
+ one master carpenter raised on a farm and with a vision
+ a whole lot of devotion to local, renewable resource, fresh food produced sustainably
+ proximity to the wild Atlantic Ocean
+ a fateful binge on a bag of Cape Cod ® Sea Salt & Vinegar Potato chips
= the authentic taste of Martha’s Vineyard wherever you are in the world.
Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt is husband and wife team Heidi and Curtis. The couple first discovered Martha’s Vineyard, a 87.4 square-mile island off the coast of Cape Cod, through the eyes of 10 friends and then joined those friends on a vacation in Oak Bluffs the summer of 1990.
It was love at first sight.
For the next 10 years, Heidi and Curt returned with those same 10 friends in July, spending lazy vacation days beaching, clamming, cooking outrageously good food, and seeking out all that the abundant natural surroundings had to offer. Curtis had a motorcycle back then so they ventured out to the Island’s every nook and cranny.
In 1993, Heidi and Curtis married in Boston but celebrated with a January on the island honeymoon – yes, January – on the Vineyard.
They found the island off-season even more beautiful.
The following year, they came back to celebrate Valentine’s Day. They just could not get enough of this place.
In 2001, Heidi and Curtis threw caution (mostly their family and friends thought they were nuts) to the wind and moved to the Vineyard. Somehow they found and affordable 9.63 acres in Vineyard Haven. Two years later, established Down Island Farm. They had dreams of growing produce, but what soil existed was atop all clay. That’s when they heard from other farmers why they passed on the same land. “Oh, well” they thought, “there’s got to be something we can farm from this property.” After a bunch of research, they got creative, producing edible flowers and later Shiitake mushrooms in the abundant Oaks
Farming is tough work, though, and edible flowers and Shiitake can only pay so many bills. Curtis and Heidi continued on with their day jobs but dedicated significant energy to cultivating a farming existence. Just when the Shiitake mushrooms were selling well pests inundated the Oak trees thus putting an end to the ‘shroom dream.
Undaunted, Curt and Heidi dreamed and schemed about ways that they could farm full-time – grow hops for local beer? Sugar beets or potatoes for local vodka? Each crop seemed cool but unsustainable. One day, in between meetings, Heidi sat in her car hoover-ing (her own words) a bag of Cape Cod Sea ® Salt & Vinegar potato chips for lunch.
A light bulb went off in Heidi’s head.
She turned the bag over and looked at the ingredient list. Rather than local sea salt, all that was listed was a generic “sea salt”. Heidi ran into Alley’s General Store and checked for other locally harvested sea salt on the shelf but found none.
That night, Heidi & Curtis began a new adventure involving, science, physics, all kinds of business-y things and, yes doubt and doubters. It took three years but MV Sea Salt became a reality in 2013.
It takes a lot of energy, salt water, sunshine and elbow grease to produce Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt, but that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
~ Heidi and Curt