Robert Skydell of Chilmark, owner of Fiddlehead Farm Market in West Tisbury, said he will close the doors permanently after Labor Day. Kristen Kinser and her daughter, Kendra Mills, terminated his lease and plan to open their own family farm next summer.
“This came as a complete shock to me. She [Ms. Kinser] had just agreed to write me a new lease, and a week later she said she and her daughter were taking over the farm,” Mr. Skydell said in a phone conversation with The Times on Wednesday.
Mr. Skydell said the news came roughly a week ago and that his lease ends in October.
The site of Fiddlehead Farm has a history dating back to the 1950s, when farmer Louis Green sold fresh produce at his farm stand. The farming tradition was then carried on by Donald Mills, the father of Kendra Mills, who ran the site as Hillside Farm. In 2007, Mr. Skydell began leasing the property.
Mr. Mills died in 2014. Ms. Mills and Ms. Kinser now plan to carry on their family’s farming tradition. Ms. Mills said she’s “hoping to honor her father’s memory” by reopening their family’s farm next season.
“I’ve grown up here farming, and I would appreciate the opportunity to experience what both my parents experienced here on Martha’s Vineyard,” Ms. Mills told The Times in a phone conversation on Tuesday.
She said that it will continue to operate as a farm stand, with gardens in both the front and the back, and that she hopes to engage different vendors in the community.
The change came as a surprise to Fiddlehead Farm customers as well. Although Mr. Skydell said the sudden termination of his lease was a “hard blow” to both his life and his business, he also said that his customers have been tremendously supportive.
“I am looking to find an alternative location in nearby West Tisbury — hopefully North Tisbury, because I love it here — for a new farm market that would be a transformative project to create a new food hub for this side of Island,” Mr. Skydell said.
For the last 10 years, Fiddlehead Farm has been known as a provisional farm stand market. They offer fresh produce grown on the property, sold alongside a myriad of grocery items, much of it organic. In addition to produce, the farm sells baked goods, meats, cheeses, pastas, oils, and other specialty items.
Mr. Skydell said the farm has been a central location for his customers to find things they can’t get elsewhere, and that they are upset that the farm is closing.
“Maybe I’ve outgrown it,” Mr. Skydell said. “Maybe it’s time to do something in a much more substantial way.”
Mr. Skydell said he hopes to work with an established farmer to create a place that will continue for multiple generations; one that is small and intimate and captures what he believes the Vineyard is about. As an example, he pointed to the success of Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown. Mr. Skydell has an extensive restaurant background. He opened Obie’s Barbeque, The Dry Town Cafe, and Offshore Ale Company, which he also designed and built.
“I like to think my life as a shopkeeper and a restaurant owner has impacted the lives of people who live here and visit here through food,” Mr. Skydell said. “It’s my passion, and many share that with me.”