The West Tisbury Farmers’ Market has been housed on the grounds of the Grange Hall since it began in 1974. It is a summer institution and a traditional stop for many on Wednesdays and Saturdays. But growing traffic concerns in town on Saturday mornings, and the increase in small farms and craftsmen vying for space at the market, has led to discussions about moving the market to the Agricultural Hall, which already hosts the winter farmers’ market.

Last week, vendors took a vote on the issue, but discussions were too heated to make a final decision.

Jefferson Munroe of the Good Farm heads up a committee to explore idea of moving the market. — Alison L. Mead

Farmers’ market managers Wendy Oliver and Rusty Gordon said the ongoing debate about moving locations is not a new one. The idea first surfaced when the new Agricultural Hall was erected in 1994. Over the years the intensity of the debate has waxed and waned.

“Some years get more heated than others, this is one of those years,” said Mr. Gordon. He explained that a committee was formed to explore the option of moving the market, but it has not presented enough research to make an educated decision yet.

Jefferson Munroe of the Good Farm heads the committee.

“I feel the location at the Grange has served the market well over the years, but because the parking is somewhat limited and congested, we’re missing out on customers,” Mr. Munroe said. “I know of people who don’t come anymore in the summer, or people who will only come if they can get a ride before 9:30.”

He is not alone in thinking more space would mean more customers. Emily Fischer sells goat milk soap at the market and said she is glad the vendors are exploring their options. “My feeling is, if there’s more space, more people would come,” she said.

Debbie Farber of Blackwater Farm prefers staying at the Grange location. — Alison L. Mead

Currently there are 39 vendors at the summer market, but more space could also mean the possibility of including more vendors. Olivia Pattison is selling her bread for the first time at this year’s winter market. She has been trying to get into the summer market for a long time, she said, but because of the balance between farm vendors and non-farm vendors, and the presence of another bread maker, she hasn’t been able to.

“I didn’t apply for the last few years because I was told no way I’d get in,” she said.

Town selectmen informally touched on the issue last week and many felt that moving the market might relieve congestion in town on Saturday mornings during the summer.

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell said she thought the move was a great idea. “With the local farm resurgence and growth in that area, it’s just too small here,” she said.

Selectman Richard Knabel cited the growing traffic issues on Saturday mornings in town.

“Literally it was bumper to bumper all the way out to the firehouse and beyond, all the way out to the youth hostel a couple of times,” he said.

Winter farmers' market is held inside the Agricultural Hall. — Alison L. Mead

Police chief Daniel Rossi countered that the traffic was bad this year, but no worse than other years.

“It’s a big event and has gotten bigger,” he said. “It makes for a busy Saturday in the summer, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.”

The potential summer site at the Agricultural Hall would be located at the back of the property, close to the horse barns, which has some vendors feeling apprehensive.

Market co-manager Wendy Oliver said this location would be detrimental to doing business, especially at the Wednesday markets.

“The Wednesday market is so small, you wouldn’t see us down there,” she said.

Ms. Oliver has worked at the market for over 15 years, and said she has heard this debate over and over again.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” she said. “We’ve talked about it at the spring meeting and fall meeting and spring meeting and fall meeting. I’m just tired of hearing it.”

Mr. Gordon agreed that he doesn’t see a resolution coming any time soon.

“I can see us talking about this issue for the next five years,” he said.

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