Vibrant flowers and fresh produce, the smell of frying egg rolls, locally made cheeses, live music, homemade soaps, salves, and spreads, and the first local strawberries of the season. The West Tisbury Farmers Market is back! Every Wednesday and Saturday between 9 am and noon, check out the wide array of Vineyard vendors and their handmade, homegrown wares at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury.
This year a new tent has joined the mix, introducing smoked Island-caught seafood. Martha’s Vineyard Smokehouse is a brand-new business, created by fisherman Gus Leaf and Chef Nathan Gould of the Beach Plum Inn and Home Port restaurants. While Mr. Gould spoke with customers and encouraged everyone to try their smoked mussels and bluefish spread, Mr. Leaf gave us some background on the business, and noted that Saturday’s Farmers Market was actually their first day of sales together. The pair came together in a somewhat serendipitous way: “We met when I was selling fish to him,” Mr. Leaf shared. “We just got to talking, and realized, hey, we should get our products together, like Reese’s — two great things.”
Martha’s Vineyard Smokehouse is selling all local products. Mr. Leaf catches all of the fish in the waters surrounding the Vineyard, then bleeds and brines them himself. An associate in Menemsha then fillets the fish, after which Mr. Gould takes over, using Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt and and Island herbs to salt and flavor the product. The variety of goods available from Martha’s Vineyard Smokehouse will vary throughout the year, just as local produce does, depending on what is in season. Mr. Leaf noted, “We’ll do fish as they come in season, like striped bass, sea bass, fluke — bluefish is probably the most popular because its the earliest.” On top of being a local product, the smokehouse is also working toward sustainability. Their commercial-grade kitchen smokehouse is located on Mr. Leaf’s property, which is solar-powered. The pair chose to use electric smokers, instead of propane, so that when the sun shines, the fish smoke with little environmental impact.
Mr. Leaf expressed that he was both excited and nervous about how the first day would go. However, it seemed that Martha’s Vineyard Smokehouse didn’t take long to acquire new customers, nor did any other vendor, and the market was not yet as busy as the bustling throng it will become in July.
Besides Martha’s Vineyard Smokehouse, the other 40 or so vendors have all been at the market for quite some time. Rusty Gordon of Ghost Island Farm and Wendy Oliver of Frosty Hollow Orchids are the managers of the Farmers Market, and seem to be doing a great job at wrangling all the offerings. The market is clean, the vendors are passionate and excited to share their stories just as much as their products, and besides the occasional crying child, nobody leaves the market unhappy. The band, led by Kevin Keady, plays a collection of lively, folky tunes on Saturday, which surely contributes to the market’s cheery atmosphere.
Vendors were deep in conversation with customers throughout the day, but during a few momentary lulls, some were able to share their news and ideas.
Raspberry peach or strawberry rhubarb? Pie queen Krissy Kinsman of Pie Chicks has a few words of advice, “I tell a lot of people: Look at the pies, and then the right one will tell you.”
Pie Chicks offers more than pies to make you salivate this year. New products include granola, whoopie pies (which Ms. Kinsman refers to by the more healthy title of “oatmeal cream pies”), and frozen scones for customers to bring home and bake for themselves. The booth sells large pies, small pies, and slices. In the event that you can’t decide from the wide variety of flavors, nobody regrets buying two.
The West Tisbury Library Foundation also has a booth at the Farmer’s Market, offering information about the library, which, after somewhat recent renovations, is now larger and accommodates countless meetings and gatherings within its conference rooms. At the market, the library sells caps and engraved bricks, which are incorporated into the walkway leading up to the library. You can engrave a message, name, memorial, memory — whatever moves you, and know that it will be seen and stood on by many. Fran Finnegan, who operated the booth last weekend, noted that “you can write whatever you want,” and there are already a lot of engraved bricks in the walkway, the proceeds of which help support the library. “It’s a very dynamic library — it’s actually as much a library as it is a community center, a community gathering place,” noted Ms. Finnegan. “I haven’t done [a brick] for my family yet, even though I’ve planned it for years. I think this is going to be the year, though,” she told us. On your way into the library, be sure to take a moment and look down at all of the names and notes on the pathway.
Vendor Holly Bellebuono, creator of Vineyard Herbs, Teas and Apothecary, continues to sell her blended teas at the market. Each of the 17 blends (most of which are looseleaf) has a unique Island title and representative photo, all of which Bellebuono photographs herself and then uses her knowledge of graphic design to turn into a logo. “They’re all my blends,” Bellebuono explained. “I specialize in formulary — they’re herbal, some are black and green, and some are citrus. Some of them are good for helping specific ailments and conditions, but most of them just taste really good.” Ms. Bellebuono’s business is rooted on the Island; however, she has far-reaching branches, and sells her products all over the Island and on the Cape. When she isn’t blending teas, she has a slew of other products,“salves and tinctures and liniments and syrups and powders and salts,” and beyond her knowledge of herbs, she is also an author, speaker, and women’s health coach, offering seminars all over the country.
Similarly, Heather Lee Thurber of Breezy Pines Farm also concocts tinctures, syrups, soaps, salves, and more. Heather grows all of her own ingredients, and the honey from her 10 hives is used in most every product she sells. “They’re all fairly complex herbal formulas,” she notes, before describing her education, first from her grandmother, and then in a formal setting:
“I’ve always gardened and farmed, so it was a good match for me.” She describes her products as “from farm to skin.” Some are internal and others external, while all are suited to heal or prevent specific ailments. Of her work, Ms. Thurber remarks, “I enjoy it immensely.”
If you’re looking for local food, homemade gifts, good conversation, or a great snack, take a few minutes (though you’ll likely end up staying longer) to stop at the Farmers Market and meet some of the vendors that contribute to our local economy. Laura Barbera, for instance, co-founder (with her husband Bob Barbera) of Nicky’s Delectable Dipping Oils of Martha’s Vineyard, has an array of oils for sale at the market, and can tell you about her inspiration, and what she plans to do next. Don’t miss Todd and Jennifer Christy’s Chilmark Coffee cold brew, which, while 100 percent coffee and containing no alcohol, comes out of a keg, and precipitates like a Guinness. Cheers to coffee, Saturdays, and locally grown goodness.
For more information about the West Tisbury Farmers Market, visit thewesttisburyfarmersmarket.com, or stop by the Grange Hall on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 am to noon.