The recent emergence of the oyster farming industry on Martha’s Vineyard can be traced back to the Martha’s Vineyard Private Aquaculture Initiative in 1995. With this money and the work of fishermen like Jack Blake, who developed the floating shellfish hatchery/nursery, there has been a solid growth in the number of farms across the island. Although the oyster farming industry on Martha’s Vineyard is still nascent it is already a $2.5 million business with oysters being farmed in Katama Bay, Eel Pond, Edgartown Great Pond, Menemsha Pond, Great Tisbury Pond and off Eastville Beach between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs.
Top local farmers include Spearpoint, Honeysuckle, Cottage City, Sweet Neck, Signature, Sweet Oyster, Blue Moon and Split Rock and their oysters can be tasted at many local restaurants like Beach Road, Atria, Port Hunter, 19 Raw, Garde East and Lookout Tavern or purchased from the fish markets at Larsens in Menemsha or Net Result in Vineyard Haven. Like wines, oysters vary significantly in taste depending upon where they grew and the environmental conditions that they experienced over their 3 year growth as well as the algae that are filtered through the oysters. Bay oysters like Cottage City, Blue Moon, Sweet Oyster and Signature tend to be saltier that the oysters that are grown in the Great Ponds. Some of the Edgartown Pond oysters have almost no salt to the taste and are far sweeter. Bay oysters are less prone to summer viruses because the water stays colder and therefore the harvesting season is also longer. That said the taste of oysters from the winter and spring is always better as they tend to be plumper and sweeter.
For several years now local experience provider Farm.Field.Sea, along with Cottage City Oysters, have been running a seasonal, weekly Martha’s Vineyard oyster farm tour running out of Oak Bluffs harbor to the Cottage City farm located as you enter the waters of Vineyard Haven. This has proven to be a big success with locals and visitors to the island and, having taken the tour myself, I can happily attest that nothing beats the taste of a Cottage City oyster directly from the water – it’s like tasting the ocean! With the emergence of so many local farmers, the wide range and diversity in the taste of the local oysters and the increase in interest in experiential events, Farm.Field.Sea has now partnered with the MV Shellfish Group to launch an annual Martha’s Vineyard Oyster Festival. The inaugural event takes place on the 1st & 2nd October, 2021 at the MV Museum overlooking the harbor in Vineyard Haven. It will be a cultural event and provide an opportunity to meet with local farmers and chefs, learn about aquaculture and indulge in tasting some of the East Coasts finest oysters. The event will also include live local music and local beers and wine. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Martha’s Vineyard Shell Recovery Partnership which recycles shell waste to improve shellfish production. The event will be a Zero-Waste event. There is a limited availability of tickets so don’t leave it too long to book your trip.
This is very much a local event and to further support local businesses we encourage those staying overnight to stay local. Book a locally owned hotel or inn via the Martha’s Vineyard Lodging Association or with us at Nobnocket Boutique Inn.