The unique challenges and opportunities of farming on an island just 20 miles long and 9 miles wide prompted growers on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to establish their own county Farm Bureau – believed to be the first newly created Farm Bureau in the country in at least 10 years.
“Farm Bureau continues to grow, and we proudly welcome the Martha’s Vineyard Farm Bureau to the Federation family,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “This newly formed county Farm Bureau represents the values that make our organization so strong; individual farm families expressing viewpoints and challenges to find common solutions and create a unified voice for agriculture.”
Duvall continued, “Martha’s Vineyard enjoys diverse agricultural operations, yet we all share the common goal of sustainably stocking America’s pantry. We at AFBF look forward to the contributions of Martha's Vineyard Farm Bureau as we work together with our network of 2,800 county Farm Bureaus to ensure family farms continue to thrive.”
Previously, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation members on the Vineyard and in Dukes County, of which Martha’s Vineyard is a part, were members of the Cape and Islands Farm Bureau, but getting to the mainland for meetings and other Farm Bureau business wasn’t easy. That’s partly what prompted Dan Martino, co-owner of Cottage City Oysters, to suggest creating MVFB.
Martino’s positive impression of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau, which he had encountered while working with the Massachusetts Aquaculture Association, was a big factor as well. MFBF assists MAA with policy development and advocacy.
“It is tough to have farmers take the ferry for meetings on the mainland,” said Martino, who was also elected president of the MVFB. “But that is not the only reason for forming a new county Farm Bureau. Farmers on Martha’s Vineyard and the other islands that make up Dukes County face diverse and unique challenges and opportunities. Examples include the variety of agricultural practices, geographic isolation, elevated real estate values, finite agricultural lands, the seasonal population influx from tourism and the community desire for agricultural self-sufficiency. For these reasons, the time was right to begin a new chapter, leveraging our strong agricultural community, with focused plans and defined solutions.”
At Martino’s invitation, MFBF staff visited the Vineyard last fall and talked to a group of farmers about what Farm Bureau does, how it operates and what was required to create a new county Farm Bureau. With the 25 (or more) members they needed to form MVFB, the group was established and members voted in a set of bylaws and officers.
“We are excited to be one of the first state Farm Bureaus to add a county Farm Bureau in a decade,” said MFBF President Mark Amato. “When MFBF staff began discussing this opportunity, I found myself thinking about the possibilities that this new county holds. As Dukes County looks towards being self-sustaining and producing more of its own food, we should see an influx in the farming community and interest in agriculture, which could generate many new members.”
Martha’s Vineyard Farm Bureau held its first annual meeting, via Zoom, on Sept. 24.