Fishing and farming, once central to the Vineyard’s economy and lifestyle, have seriously declined.
In the 19th century, most of the Island was farmland. There are now about two dozen food-producing farms and almost three dozen other farms of five acres or more on the Island, to say nothing of a large number of smaller, backyard farms. In 2009, there was a total of 1,687 acres is classified as farmland, with 935 acres in production of food directly for human consumption, 493 acres in hay and pasture, and 259 acres of horse farms. Of the 1,428 acres of land in food-related production, only 300 acres are permanently protected. Similarly, fishing has substantially declined. Menemsha is the last vestige of a fishing industry once central to the Vineyard’s economy and community.
In recent years, there has been a great effort to preserve and revive fishing and farming on the Island, in order to provide jobs, improve the availability of local foods, and to maintain the rural character of the Island represented, in part, by the presence of farms along roadsides, the Farmers’ Market, and the Ag Fair.
- Agricultural Self-Sufficiency on Martha’s Vineyard: This 2010 MVC study estimates what percentage of the food eaten by Vineyarders is locally produced, and what percentages might be attained with various strategies to increase farming and food production.
- The Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society: runs the annual Fair and other events throughout the year, hosts a variety of agricultural competitions, and has an agricultural grant program.
- The Island Grown Initiative: works to support the local agricultural community by raising consumer awareness about the importance of buying locally grown food; it is actively pursuing ways to increase local meat and poultry production on Island.
- The Farm Institute: is a non-profit institution that is responsible for implementing education and outreach programs to Island students, residents, and visitors of the Island.
- The Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group: produces and distributes millions of quahog, scallop, and soft shell clam seedlings to the towns, and is responsible for educational and outreach programs promoting the well-being of Island shellfish and water quality in coastal ponds.
- The Martha's Vineyard Conservation Partnership: includes several non-profit organizations that have worked to promote conservation of farmland.
- US Department of Agriculture
- Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
- Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership