The sounding of the bell has been an important symbol in New England for the start and the close of concerted activity, be it the school bell, the noon siren, the church chimes, a trading floor horn or even a train whistle. For the first time in a long time there was no bell sounded to signal the start of the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market this past Saturday, June 7.
Ralph Sherman, who has recently been ringing that bell in place of his wife Ethel Sherman (who has had the honor of ringing that bell for many years now) wasn’t there to ring the bell because he also was receiving medical attention, as noted by Jane Slater in her Chilmark column in last Friday’s Gazette. Personally, Ethel has been very supportive to our family as she is to all — 20 to 25 years ago when my wife made the watermelon slush and cakes and tarts for the Farmers’ Market, and over the years, as when exchanging book reading suggestions (and personal reviews) with our daughter. And, of course, we love to eat Ethel’s wonderful jams and Ralph’s lovely vegetables! In her dedication to her 2003 book, West Tisbury Farmers’ Market: Behind The Scenes, Ethel wrote: “To all venders — past, present and future — I dedicate this, my humble offering. With hope, I trust that this will give a better understanding of the trials, tribulations and joys of the West Tisbury Farmers’ vendors.”
We hope the Agricultural Society finds an additional way to acknowledge and honor the steadfast presence of the Shermans at the Farmers’ Market over these many years. Perhaps the leadership could award a bell prize or perhaps a bell ringer prize for service to the agricultural and joyous food traditions of the Vineyard, and fittingly, the Shermans could be awarded the first prize. It could even be a bell inscribed to them, in thanks for the trial, tribulations and joys of these two West Tisbury Farmers’ vendors.