Takemmy Farm sprawls like a giant cat along State Road in West Tisbury. In summertime, it’s a lush, green matrix of fenced-in paddocks, dotted with grazing geldings. At the property’s edge is a small wooden booth. It would be almost imperceptible along the endless line of fence if it weren’t for its eye-catching cargo: bouquets of fresh-picked flowers in shades of pink, violet, peach and blue.

For the past two summers, born-and-raised Vineyarder Catey Best has grown and arranged the flowers that fill Takemmy Farm’s flower stand. All day long, drivers, bikers and dog walkers stop on the road’s shoulder to buy bundles of blooms to take home.

“There’s a different range of openness of flowers customers are looking for,” Catey said. “Sometimes, the sun does my work for me by blowing the flowers open on a very hot day.”

Bunches of ranunculus at the farm stand. Jeanna Shepard

Through all seasons, Catey spends every day thinking about flowers — harvesting them, fertilizing them, propagating the rarest varieties. But her love affair with flora is not something she ever expected.

When Catey was 13, her mother bought Takemmy Farm and started selling home-grown flowers at the very same stand Catey uses today. Occasionally, Catey’s mom would enlist her to keep watch over the stand, ensuring passers-by didn’t swipe bouquets without paying. When it came to actual gardening, a teenage Catey wasn’t interested.

“I wasn’t really into farming in seventh grade. I was into, you know, hanging out with friends,” she laughed.

After high school, she left the Island for Florida, where she graduated from The University of Miami and Ave Maria School of Law. She set out to be an attorney, working pro-bono for human trafficking survivors and asylum seekers. She moved to Baltimore, where she mentored kids at the local chapter of the nonprofit Boys Hope Girls Hope.

“I wanted to help people and be a positive force in the world,” she said.

After an early harvest, Catey stocks up the stand for the day. Jeanna Shepard

But Catey didn’t settle into the path she had chosen. She flitted between the Vineyard and Baltimore, cherishing her time with family but remaining committed to her nonprofit work. Eventually, it hit her: she wanted to give up law, and she wanted to come home.

She moved back to Takemmy and started a small plot of her own in her mother’s garden, filled with zinnias, eucalyptus and amaranth. Farming, she realized, was how she was meant to share goodness with others.

“There’s just something that I connect with more about being in nature and being in tune with creating things and sharing joy, versus being in the trenches during people’s most stressful moments,” she said.

Catey sources many of her flowers from her mom Peggy Tudek’s garden. The product of over 30 years of careful planting and pruning, it’s impossibly bright, replete with peonies, gladiolus and towering purple lupines.

Next to it is a garden of Catey’s own. It’s a young garden, but Catey’s constant tending is evident. Flowers and vegetables of countless varieties sit in rows, waiting to bloom at the season’s height. About a quarter of the large plot is populated with dahlia plants. She spent all winter preserving last year’s tubers before planting them this spring. Now she has over 3,000 plants and 300 varieties.

As the season goes on, ranunculus will be replaced with zinnias, dahlias and more. Jeanna Shepard

“That’s my pride and joy,” she said, beaming at the field of dahlias. “Every year, I catch more of the dahlia fever.”

Each day, Catey wakes up at 5 a.m. (with much urging from her English bulldog, Bruiser) to plant, prune and pick. She ensures that her flower stand is full of fresh blooms before 9 a.m. She ventures back out in the cool hours of late afternoon to finish the day’s work.

Catey’s father, Doug Best, who owns D. Best Construction, helped her convert an old chicken coop into a flower cooler. She takes refuge in the cooler during the day’s hottest hours, sorting the day’s harvest into colorful bouquets.

“It’s like my hot and cold therapy: being out here, ready to pass out, and then going to the cooler, 39 degrees, with my parka,” she joked.

What's not to love about a big bunch of peonies? Jeanna Shepard

Catey loves to bring her work home with her. A vase on her mother’s porch holds a bouquet of Coral Charm peonies, unfolding in the sun like fluorescent pink tissue paper.

“They’re a very faint peach color as they open and age, and that’s beautiful too,” she said of the flowers. “They aren’t fragrant though.”

Catey is discerning about beauty, but she doesn’t discriminate. She has a love for everything that grows, from the dahlias she painstakingly raises from tubers to the invasive mustards that crop up all over her lawn. They might just show up in the same bouquet.

Eventually, Catey hopes to expand her business and arrange her flowers for weddings. For now, she’s focused on her flower stand and sending each visitor home with an armful of her hard, joyful work.

“Working for yourself, you end up working all the time, 365 days a year,” she said. “But it makes me happy. It’s my passion.”


Emma Kilbride is a summer news intern at the Vineyard Gazette.