I was happy to read Abigail Higgins’s column in the Martha’s Vineyard Times last week. She wrote about the National Animal Identification System. I wrote about it in my September column from information I gleaned from the Hightower Lowdown.

Apparently, the plot has thickened. Several Islanders have received letters from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources informing them that they are already enrolled in the program unless they “opt out” by mail on Dec. 14.

The National Animal Identification System wants small animal owners to pay to imbed a microchip in every one of those animals. Supposedly this is to keep track of mad cow disease, bird flu, and foot and mouth. Give me a break. Will we be next? Do certain of our politicians, who shall remain nameless, have to burn the U.S. Constitution right in front of the American people in order for us to wake up and take some action? Please, people, write, call and e-mail those who represent you in Washington and get outraged.

Last fall I bought a couple of holly trees. I had been admiring and coveting them for some time. Naturally I bought a boyfriend for the female to ensure lots of berries this year. Well, I took count and ended up with seven berries. What’s up with that? I am going to fertilize with Pro-Holly like crazy and hope for the best next year.

One lovely alternative to the holly is skimmia. It grows well in full shade and produces wonderful fruits similar to holly berries right now. It also needs a male for pollination. The male has pink flowers that are equally attractive. The one clear advantage over hollies is that the leaves are soft and do not get caught under your fingernails during fall clean-up.

I hesitate to be critical, especially in print, but I cannot help myself. They are putting in a sidewalk-bike path along the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road between the youth hostel and God’s Pocket. The road crew literally hacked and whacked (two words which should never be used in reference to pruning) the evergreens along the proposed walkway. It is, however, a fine example of what not to do.

The Island Grown Initiative hosted a well-attended program to an interested group of parents, teachers and farmers last week. The Farm-to-School lunch program was presented. We covered everything from the alarming rate of childhood obesity to the impact on global warming (moving food an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table).

We did a bit of brainstorming about how to get local and better foods into our school lunch programs. It was a great meeting and we are looking forward to a Jan. 8 follow-up. Those of you who may be interested can go to or

I feel sorry for my readers in the next several weeks. Gardening is taking a bit of a hiatus, so here I come with my various agricultural politics. What follows is a letter written by Ellen Smith of Pittsfield, N.Y., to the editor of the Mother Earth News magazine:

“I was reading your latest article on free-range eggs, and I would like your readers to be aware of possible home-owner’s insurance problems if they want to sell eggs. We have about 80 pastured hens, and we were informed in late May by our insurance company, Atlantic Mutual, that we had to immediately stop selling eggs or face losing our homeowner’s insurance.

“Why? They claimed salmonella. If a customer were to get salmonella, we could not prove that it did not come from our eggs. We’ve spent all summer looking into farm policies from the local farm bureau office, but they did not really have a policy for us — a small farm who sells only four to five dozen eggs a day. We also sought to get a separate, additional small farm policy just to cover the egg business (not our house and buildings), but then Atlantic Mutual told us they would not let us keep our umbrella homeowner’s policy. We then went to other insurance companies, and were given prices upwards of $2,000 in addition to the homeowner’s policy price in order to sell our eggs. Sadly, I made the decision this week to keep only a few of the hens, and give the rest away.

“I had been doing this for about six years now, so it was a real shock. My husband is an attorney and, believe me, tried to find a way around this, but couldn’t — at least not honestly.”