A $200,000 harvest for Ag Society

Donor emerges to help double proceeds; one bidder pays it forward.

An Ag Society auction, which featured this tractor among other items, generated enough money, along with donations, to win a matching grant.

The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society gleaned more than $100,000 from its community auction and associated donations, and an anonymous donor has made a matching grant of another $100,000. The combined sum offsets financial losses the society suffered this year, and puts the 160th Agricultural Fair on track for 2021, according to Ag Society executive director Kristina West. West said the Ag Society was “thrilled” with the results.

“This event has truly brought out the Island spirit in so many,” West said. “Not only were people bidding up items and donating monetarily, but our friends and neighbors who couldn’t afford to offer financial help stepped up to donate items or their time.”

The auction made roughly $85,000, but the threshold for the anonymous donor to match proceeds was $100,000. A handful of people rallied to make up the difference. 

“Hearing we were still in need, our community stepped up again,” West said. “Bob Mone of Mone Insurance sent a donation that was matched by Barnstable County Municipal Insurance.”

West Tisbury homeowners Aileen and Brian Roberts then “stepped in and matched them both,” West said. Additional donations from Steve Bernier and Constance Messmer, as well as David and Nina Fialkow “put us over the top,” she added. 

The generosity of the community didn’t end there, West said. “One bidder won an incredible item, and is doing something even more incredible with it,” she said. “The winner of the catered fried chicken party for 40 wants to bring joy to our most-in-need residents this winter. So they are donating the party to the Food Pantry.”

That dinner came courtesy of Jefferson Monroe, who runs the GOOD Farm in Tisbury.

The winning bidder has asked to remain anonymous, West said, and the logistics and timing of the event are still in the works.  

West provided a statement from the anonymous bidder and donor: “The Ag Society means a lot to us, and the Ag Hall is in many ways our all-Island community center,” the donor stated. “The fair and the weekly winter farmers’ markets are wonderful anchor events. And our best memory this past year was the Meat Ball, which not surprisingly, Jefferson had much to do with. Being able to get together as a community and share dinner with neighbors and friends and with kids dancing the night away was priceless, and we appreciate it all that much more given the pandemic. We want the society to stay in business well beyond 2020. We are hopeful our Island will weather the winter better than initially expected, given summer was not a total disaster. However, we know some people will come up short, given current circumstances. So let’s fix some of this with the food donation. Maybe others will join in. We think our community is going to need it. And finally, Jefferson runs a farm and a business — neither is easy. There is no Thanksgiving in our home without him. So we’ll work on some extra sales by buying chickens for the food pantry during a slow period this winter.”

Monroe told The Times “it’s really, really cool” to see his farm product provide aid to the Ag Society, and then to be shared with the community in another way. He said he’s excited to help implement the dinner for the FoodPantry. Monroe, who is an Ag Society trustee, said he is grateful for all the resources the Ag Society provides the local agricultural community, himself included.