The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair, the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby and the Olympics share some commonalities: battling the elements, grueling competition, long days and nights. They also share an organizer. Fair manager Amy Coffey worked on the Olympics for NBC Sports and organized the Derby for 20 years.

This is Ms. Coffey’s second year at the helm of the fair. A balance between human connection and a more efficient fair was the goal when she took over last year.

“The heart and soul of the fair is about 10 people, and everybody retired at the same time last year,” Ms. Coffey said. “I took over the position from these amazing women—Eleanor Neubert gave me a lot of great advice—and this big stack of yellow legal pads. That was all the records. Nothing was digitized.”

That has changed. For the first time in its 158-year history, registration for the Agricultural Fair opened early. Sort of. Online registration went live on July 15, but the wooden blue fair entry box nailed to the Agricultural Hall porch obeyed tradition. It appeared on August 1.

Here come the rides.

“I’m quite superstitious, we all are, so there was no way we’d put the box up early,” Ms. Coffey said.

By August 12, when sign-up closes, an estimated 7,000 entries will be filed. For Ms. Coffey and Agricultural Society administrator Kara O’Sullivan, what happens next is a bit daunting.

“From Monday to Friday everything has to be entered into the database, tags have to be written. It all has to come together” said Ms. O’Sullivan.

To which Ms. Coffey replied, “Maybe next week I’ll start carrying a flask in my purse.”

For help, she turned to Agricultural Society president Brian Athearn.

“Brian is one of these guys who will drive a tractor and then fix your computer,” she said. “He was on board.”

They also hired Kristy Rose for the position of data entry manager. In addition to her prowess with data entry, Ms. Rose is an accomplished baker. Her famed blueberry buckle will once again be a part of the fair.

In addition to making the online entry process smoother, Ms. Coffey said a greater commitment is being made to reduce the waste—to zero.

“The thing I’m most proud of, as an event organizer, is the fair’s zero waste approach,” she said. “We started it last year. And it is so in line with our values.”

Ms. Coffey is going even further this year with the help of Agricultural Society board member and executive director of Island Grown Initiative, Rebecca Haag.

“We contracted IGI to handle all the waste,” Ms. Coffey said. “Waste stations set up, separating out recyclables, separating out food waste to go to compost. As farmers, this use of food waste is really cool, and makes a lot of sense.”

Food waste is the focus, but the plates and utensils that go with it were not forgotten. This year all vendors are required to use only compostable materials.

“IGI is bringing their big composter, so we are asking all of our vendors, who are the people who rent booths, to use only cups and plates that can be composted in the composter,” Ms. Coffey said. “It’s a big deal, and to get 100 per cent buy-in is a big deal.”

Water-filling stations will be placed around the grounds and reusable cups sold. IGI has also enlisted about 30 students to work as Trash Kids, to help with the sorting and composting.

Although there have been some changes, the heart and soul of the fair remain the same. For example, Ms. O’Sullivan said she fielded calls from one fan of the fair who requested a signed fair poster be sent to his home. He has requested a signed poster every year for as long as anyone can remember, and he calls multiple times a week in the month leading up to the festival.

“You answer the phone and think, this has been happening for decades,” said Ms. O’Sullivan. “And that’s what makes it different. The human connection, everything is not just click a button online. We have to honor our people, because without these people we wouldn’t be here.”

The 158th annual Agricultural Fair opens on Thursday, August 15 and runs through Sunday, August 18. For a full list of events and activities, visit