Meet the artisan and farm based community that gives Martha’s Vineyard its unique charm at the West Tisbury Farmers Market (and find out my 6 favorites!).
It was a hot, summer, mid-August morning in Martha’s Vineyard. My mother and I had familiarized ourselves with the 3 main towns the day prior and now were ready to explore the area known as Up-Island made up of the towns of West Tisbury, Aquinnah, Chilmark, and Menemsha. What makes Up-Island so special is its stark contrast to its Northern cities. Rolling hills of century old farms, forests, and private beaches give it a quieter more quaint vibe. One of the most notable gatherings held Up-Island in the town of West Tisbury is the twice weekly West Tisbury Farmers Market, a can’t miss event if you want to experience the true locals of Martha’s Vineyard.
Why is it called Up-Island if you’re going South?
Although technically you are going South, they are referred to as Up-Island because in the whaling days, everything was spoken about with regards to latitude and longitude. So the further South you went, the higher your coordinate of longitude.
The West Tisbury Farmers Market was on the top of my list. Growing up in Italy, I knew exactly what real fruits and vegetables tasted like. Once you’ve tasted them at their prime it’s hard to go back to just regular produce, so I wanted to re-experience those tastes all over again. Our host at Nobnocket Boutique Inn was kind enough to throw our complimentary bikes in the back of his car and give us a lift to the market located halfway down (or up!) the island.
Interesting! I had never seen such a thing, but I saw one of the farmers use a hearse (yes a funeral car!) as a means of transportation for their vegetables!
The market was started in 1974 by a small group of local island growers making 2019 its 45 year anniversary. Over time, the market expanded from a small dozen farmers to more than 45+ local farmers producing local food, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, cheese, baked goods, and even household and apparel products. The event is held Wednesdays and Saturdays in July and August at the iconic Grange Hall. Grange Hall was originally built in 1859 by the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society and was the location of the Agricultural Fair held every August until 1994.
We locked our bikes onto one of the wooden fences and began to wander through the West Tisbury Farmers Market. Wandering through the various stalls, trucks, and tents feels like you’re wandering through a gourmet shop, so make sure you go on an empty stomach! Although the produce and blast of smells and colors that can only be found on Martha’s Vineyard pulled me left and right, I couldn’t help but stop to notice the local interactions taking place around me. You weren’t just visiting any farmers market, you were listening to the stories of how these local artisans sourced the produce and made it or plucked it themselves. A local band was playing and locals sat on picnic tables listening and some even dancing to the live music. It was a very genuine and unique feel I hadn’t felt yet on the Vineyard.
Here are 6 notable and long time Martha’s Vineyard artisans and farmers that stood out to me during my time at the West Tisbury Farmers Market:
1. Chilmark Coffee Truck – Best coffee according to Nobnocket Boutique Inn
Started by a man with a passion for coffee who worked for the Town of Chilmark, he quit is job to pursue his own coffee roasting company. He spent years refining his roasts and creating signature blends. Stop by Chilmark Coffee Truck for some of the best coffee you will have—hot or iced.
2. Stannard Farm – The only certified vegetable grower on the island
Organic certification was always important to Lisa Fisher since she purchased her plot of land in Martha’s Vineyard in the ’70s. By 1990 she began to grow greens and vegetables and selling them at the farmers market. To this day she is the only certified vegetable grower on the island and the only one that grows and sells asparagus! Among her crops are 8 varieties of beans and potatoes. You can’t miss her white pick up truck that lays out vegetables that you might be growing in your own garden in a beautiful and elegant manner. Her motto is to “share her garden with her customers.”
A Walk Through Oak Bluffs’ Gingerbread Cottages
3. Fresh Lavender – Don’t miss out on her big seller, Lavender Cookies
Andrea’s farming roots go back to her childhood in Southern Italy where her grandfather would grow sustainable food. Andrea on the other hand had an interest in flowers, specifically lavender, which her grandfather ultimately gave into. In 1980 she began selling her lavender sachets, sleep-aid pillows, and famous lavender cookies at the market. Don’t leave without tasting one of them!
4. Grey Barn Farm – a little bit of everything including their new bakery products made in imported Italian deck ovens
If you’re looking for pure New England vibes, Grey Barn Farm is the place for you as it celebrates its 10th year as a market vendor. It has a little bit of everything, but is best known for its diary products such as its award-winning cheese, milk, and eggs. Owner Eric Glasgow recently added home-made baked goods made from an Italian deck oven imported directly from Italy!
5. Yommi: Healthy Frozen Treats – hand-crafted popsicles with unique flavors
Yommi Healthy Frozen Treats is impossible to miss with its solar-powered blue mini van and surf board sign, it looks like something straight out of Montauk. The story behind its two owners is near and dear to my heart since it involves travelling. The two came up with the concept of hand-made superfood popsicles while travelling the world. They were inspired by a turmeric popsicle they had in Costa Rica and decided to bring their own frozen super food brand right to Martha’s Vineyard. A lot of the popsicles you see on their menu are inspired by trips they took around the world like Costa Rica (turmeric) and Nepal (mocha monkey).
The Yommi hand-crafted popiscles are made with the best and healthiest possible ingredients, many local, in a fun variety of flavors for both adults and children. The handwritten chalkboard menu includes: Mexican Chocolate, Golden Goodness, Mint Chocolate Chip, Strawberry Basil Cream, Blueberry Cheesecake, Lemon-Alive. What’s even better? All the popsicles are gluten- and dairy-free, unless otherwise noted.
Did you know? You can rent Yommi Healthy Frozen Treats vintage camper for weddings, parties, and events.
6. Allen Farm Sheep & Wool Company – one of the oldest historic farms located on Martha’s Vineyard
The Allen Farm was originally built in 1762…! The timber-framed farmhouse still stands today near the South shores beach. The family is still very much committed to preserving the farm and visitors are able to stop by and visit the sheep and store on property. There most famous products are the wool products which are a representation of the joint efforts of the artisanal community of Martha’s Vineyard. Local knitters contribute a selection of hand knit sweaters, hats, scarves, shawls, blankets and the list goes on using their Corriedale wool, as well as cashmere among other yarns. My mom and I took a bike ride out there on our way to Menemsha and got to speak with one of the family members while there.
>> Next: Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard: An Unchanged Place
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