My father was the manager of the Keith farm for about 25 years and our family lived in the old farmhouse on the property.

Our nearest neighbors were Robert and Leona Vincent. I don’t remember Leona very much because she died when I was quite young. Robert liked my father and me, and he would often drive over in his old truck to talk. I remember times when I would be helping Dad pick feathers off the young chickens that he butchered and Robert would come roaring into the barn, shut off the truck engine and talk away. Robert liked to chew tobacco, the juices from it made stains around his mouth. My mother said he was a dirty old man, he smelled and that he once touched her leg when she happened to be sitting next to him. Me being me, I teased my mother for years about Robert being her old boyfriend. I liked the smell of Robert as I often sat in his lap while Dad was driving to the dairy to deliver milk. He always had a prickly, unshaven face and smelled of homemade apple jack and chewing tobacco. Today I probably would find the smell offensive.

I used to take a shortcut across Robert’s pasture when I walked to school, but before I stepped off the stone wall I would carefully scan the pasture to make sure one of his mean cows wasn’t nearby.

Robert used to leave candy on the dip in the wall where I used to cross. When I questioned him about it he would deny putting it there. “Oh a little bird must have left it.”

When I was 10, my mother handed me a container of her homemade spaghetti sauce and told me to bring it to Robert for his dinner. I remember Robert was sitting near his coal stove in his rocking chair as I pulled up a chair to chat with him. Every once in awhile Robert would reach with his cane to open the small door on the stove and spit a stream of brown tobacco juice toward it. Most would end up on the floor. I remember his mangy dog Brownie releasing horrific body gas and Robert whacking him with his cane, telling Brownie to get the heck out of the room.

The next day when I was returning from school, I noted that the little bird didn’t leave me any candy on the wall. When I walked into our house my mother informed me that Robert had passed away in his sleep. I liked Robert, he was nice to me and I was sad that he died. And I teased my mother until the day she died that her spaghetti sauce killed Robert.

Robert stated in his will that my father would have first refusal on purchasing his property. Both my parents worked hard and saved what they could, and their hard work enabled them to buy Robert’s six acres of land. Later my father sold a half acre to the Martha’s Vineyard Co-operative Bank, now the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank. This allowed my parents to pay off their mortgage.

In the mid 1960s, my sister Marie started a vegetable garden on the property under our father’s tutelage and the name Beetlebung Farm was established. Over the years, Marie expanded the garden and Dad grew many flowers.

My parents would vacation in Florida for three months a year in the winter and pay for the trip with the money Dad made from selling his flowers.

One day my mother announced to my father that they should put in a swimming pool. My father was against the idea but my mom got her wish. Later in life my father admitted it was one of the smartest things they ever did because their grandchildren would visit practically everyday to swim in the pool during the summer. I often stopped by for lunch and the outdoor picnic table was always filled with at least eight grandchildren, my two sisters and my parents. Most of the grandkids learned how to swim in the pool. My parents often talked about how they loved hearing the kids squealing with delight as they jumped in and out of the pool.

Marie grew vegetables and sold them at Beetlebung Farm stand for 35 years. Her children often helped her, as well as my own children working in the garden. It was a lot of work done mostly out of love for working the soil and growing plants — not much of a profit but your soul got enriched.

Marie reached a point where she no longer could do the work required to grow the quality vegetables she wanted.

She turned the reins over to my son Chris, and he too was given advice from Dad on how to grow vegetables. Chris dove in head first with a tremendous amount of energy. Like Marie, he expanded the size of the garden every year. He raised pigs and rabbits for market. Chris is a chef, so he put on a lot of dinners inside his greenhouse and in the pastures. Eventually he wrote a cookbook titled The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook which won a James Beard award.

When my father was almost 97, he tripped when walking to his garden and broke his hip. Dad couldn’t heal, the pain was overpowering and we brought him home where he passed away in his bed.

Our family thought my mother would die from grief shortly afterwards. We took care of Mom. My niece Alysse lived with her for a couple of years and lots of family members stopped in and helped with cooking or working outdoors around the yard, gardens and orchard.

Chris worked the gardens hard and ran a couple of restaurants. He got creative by cooking his produce in his restaurants, sold at the farmers’ market and sold vegetables to other restaurants and markets.

My daughter Lydia took over the gardens at Beetlebung for the past couple of years and sold her produce at the farmers’ market, restaurants and other market places.

Lydia also has worked hard at Beetlebung Farm. She has enjoyed working in the soil with her bare feet, takes pride in the vegetables she’s grown and has enjoyed the kinship with fellow Island farmers.

Mom passed away this past August at age 103. Like my father, she died in her bed on the farm she loved surrounded by our family who loved her dearly.

The money that my parents had in the bank ran out after five years of having a caregiver live and take care of Mom 24/7.

A little over two years ago we took out a reverse mortgage on the farm to continue paying for Mom’s care so she could live in her own home.

The buildings on the property are in need of major repair, and along with a huge bank loan to pay off, it wasn’t feasible for our family to keep the farm.

Today we sold the farm.

We are very pleased with the people who bought it; they’re going to keep it as a working farm and they have some great ideas that will benefit the town and surrounding communities.

It was a sad day today for the Fischer family, especially for my sister Susie who has been living on the farm for 25 years.

When my father turned 80, my mother surprised him by driving up the driveway on a brand new Kubota tractor — her birthday gift to him. Dad loved that tractor and he often told me that he was going to still be driving it when he was 100.

Today I loaded up Dad’s tractor bucket with soil from the farm and drove along Middle Road to my home in West Tisbury.

The ride was surreal. It was sad, but my father rode with me and we shared memories along the way that made me smile. We passed the Keith Farm and stopped to look over the pastures that Dad created and what wonderful memories of growing up on this farm helping my father.

I felt proud as I drove slowly down the road because I could feel my father’s pride in knowing our family did what he would have wanted us to do in taking care of Mom. And he would approve that we sold the farm today to people who will take good care of it.

Albert O. Fischer 3rd lives in West Tisbury.