Despite strong gusts of wind, and ominous clouds looming overhead, the West Tisbury Farmers' Market opened its season Saturday morning to an increasingly robust crowd.
It was the first day of the market, which started 39 years ago. Eighty-eight-year-old Robert Daniels of Old Town Garden in Edgartown was one of the few vendors back then.
"Originally we only had a few, but it built up over time," he said Saturday morning while taking shelter on the porch of the Grange Hall with his abundant display of organic leeks, lupine, lilacs and potatoes in rusted tin cans and wooden boxes.
Over the years, he's sold his crops "here, there and everywhere" on-Island, including at the West Tisbury Farmers' Market each Wednesday and Saturday. "This used to be the biggest farmers' market in the state," in the 1970s, he said.
Next door, Heidi Feldman set up shop for her first season at the market. She's been selling micro-farmed herbs and edible flowers to local restaurants for seven years, but her local sea salt is new this year.
"It's our first market here, and we feel like it's a huge achievement," to have been admitted as a vendor, she said.
Chilmark resident Woody Ward passed her stand with a chicken under his arm. "Yay! Jefferson's chickens are the best chickens," Ms. Feldman crooned, before engaging him in a discussion of herb chicken stuffing. She sold him a bunch of lemon balm, an herb in the mint family.
"I was surprised at the turnout, at the stalwarts," Ms. Feldman said. "It was just so chilly and rainy and windy this morning."
She said she's impressed that both locals and visitors showed up, including many wedding guests.
Vendors and patrons said they missed market veteran Ethel Sherman, who has been ill. She hopes to be back in the coming months. For now, husband Ralph mans the stand.
Linda Alley, who owns New Lane Sundries, displayed her wares on the porch of the Grange Hall due to the wind. The jars that make up her collection of jams and jellies are topped with circular fabric bonnets, cut with a rotary cutter and tied with black string. Her biggest sellers are zinfandel chile and rose petal jams.
Nearby, Susan Phelps of West Tisbury toted a bag of greens from Ghost Island Farm. She tries to make it to the market every week to stock up on fresh produce.
"I like to get locally-grown, organic food," she said. "I'm so glad that we have something like this."
She acknowledged that the first day was a bit slow, but said it will pick up in the next few weeks.
"It's early in the season so there are not as many choices as we would dream of," she said.
Though many vendor lots were empty, the market drew a steady crowd. The Cattle Drivers, the market's regular band, inspired applause, toe-tapping and head-bobbing.
Shoppers returned to their cars holding a cup of coffee from the The Chilmark Coffee Company, new to the market last year, or a potted orchid from the Frosty Hollow stand.
"It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright, sunshine-y day," sang the lead singer of the Cattle Drivers, and he was right. At 11:30 a.m., the sun broke through the clouds, just in time to greet the last wave of shoppers.
For more photos, see the gallery First Day at the Farmers' Market. The West Tisbury Farmers’ Market is held at the Grange Hall in the center of West Tisbury on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Wednesday markets will begin on June 19. Wednesday markets run through August 28th, and Saturday markets run through October 5th.