Lobster, chowder, swordfish and steak. Baked potato or fries, salad with blue cheese dressing. Maybe a catch of the day. These have long been the staple foods of eating out, summer resort style in New England, including on the Vineyard where many restaurant owners adopted these culinary mores and stuck with them for decades.

Lately, that’s been changing, and the Island is gradually acquiring an unfamiliar new reputation — as a sophisticated dining destination.

It’s fun and interesting to see the latest crop of farm-to-table restaurants opening up from one end of the Island to the other.

A growing number of inventive chefs are expanding their culinary repertoires, happily aided by the small farming and fishing renaissance that has taken root on the Island. From Chilmark to Edgartown these days Grey Barn cheese, Good Farm chicken, Morning Glory strawberries, Norton Farm peas, Beetlebung Farm romaine, Farm Hub sorrel, Vineyard Sound-caught fluke and farmed Katama oysters are appearing on menus.

It may seem odd that the locavore movement has taken so long to catch on here, given how well suited the Vineyard is to take advantage of it. Viewed in another light, perhaps the seeds have been germinating for some time. At the regional high school, for example, a full-curriculum vocational program has been in place for years that helps train students in all aspects of the culinary trades. These students are the Island’s chefs and sous chefs of the future.

More recently, at the Island Grown Initiative’s Farm Hub at Thimble Farm, aquaponic growing experiments are under way to provide chefs with produce year-round from the greenhouses at the farm. Early results from those experiments are encouraging, with nine independent chefs this year taking advantage of the program. The Farm Hub is also aiding the small farm movement by acting as an educational resource for home and commercial growers, in effect reviving the work of the defunct cooperative extension service once operated by the county.

Meanwhile, Island Grown Schools (an IGI program) has helped facilitate monthly community lunches hosted by the Chilmark School during the school year. The zero-waste family-style lunches feature locally-sourced food, prepared with the help of the children and served on beautifully-set tables at the town community center. School children who attend these lunches learn not only about home-grown meal preparation, but also about the social aspects of eating out, meeting new people and the subtle art of conversation.

If not the next generation of restaurateurs, this group will surely become discriminating restaurant patrons in the future.

The supply-and-demand economics of a resort community still limit the bulk of the restaurant business to the summer months, but if the Vineyard were really to become known for its dining options, it might fuel other efforts to expand the Island’s tourism economy into the shoulder season and beyond. This is the idea behind Arts Martha’s Vineyard’s Fall for the Arts festival and the Edgartown Board of Trade’s annual Food & Wine Festival, among others.

There has long been discussion on the Vineyard about the need to diversify the economy and that need is more true than ever today. Too many jobs are tied up in real estate and construction, a worrisome trend given the traditional boom-and-bust cycles of those industries.

Restaurants, of course, will always be a small piece of a larger solution, but they are creative, low-impact businesses that employ large numbers of workers, provide an outlet for the products of the Island’s new breed of farmers and fishermen and bring vibrancy to the Island’s town centers. They deserve the support and encouragement of the Vineyard’s elected leaders and planners, as well as those residents and visitors who can afford to eat out.

People who love the Vineyard during this glorious season sometimes need to be reminded that it takes a year-round population to sustain it. While not forgetting to donate to the Island’s many worthy charities, why not treat yourself to a night out at one of the Vineyard’s now numerous dining establishments. Along with a good meal comes the knowledge that you are helping to nurture an evolving industry here on the Island.