The work is hard-physically demanding, requiring long hours spent outdoors no matter what the weather, with no guarantee of how much you’ll earn or if you will even make enough to cover your expenses. But you can imagine some contentment from consumers when the product you are harvesting is in kitchens or on a table, ready to eat.

A description of lobstering, perhaps? Well, it would seem apt. But it is also an accurate way to describe the farming done on Vinalhaven by the several growers raising food that they sell on the island.

At present, there are three farms on Vinalhaven, all small-scale, producing vegetables, herbs, eggs, and flowers. That fresh local produce is available from growers during the warm months of the year is both a treat and a feat. You might wonder who these tenacious farmers are on an island that has very little soil and a relatively short growing season. All three farms are run by women, and it is safe to say, they are women with pluck. As one puts it, it’s really a “test of faith.” For all that work, there are no guarantees.

That may be the hard lesson at one farm this summer. Carla Harris, at Peaceful Harbor Farm by Roberts Harbor, sold produce for the last seven years from the back of her truck at the flea market on Vinalhaven every Saturday. She is a knowledgeable grower who also designs, plants, and maintains gardens at island residences.

Last winter, Harris sent a letter to those interested in food from a CSA (community-supported agriculture). For a fee, customers would become members, entitled to a certain amount of fresh produce each week from Harris over the growing season. Members could divvy up a share if they chose; three single individuals might go in on one share together and split the produce amongst themselves. Harris got the response she needed; 24 members signed up this year. If you picture the growing season in thirds, with crops reflecting harvests early, mid-, and late, Harris had a good start early.

But mid-season suffered a bit with unexpected setbacks. The weather wreaked havoc, for example. During the dry spell of July, Harris irrigated to keep crops growing. She hoped that having thick black plastic cover helped too. But that wasn’t uniformly the case. When Harris couldn’t supply as many vegetables as she felt she’d promised to members, it was a blow to her. She grew optimistic again in August; the late season crops look beautiful, the harvest appears bountiful. She’s determined to see the mid-season slump as a bump in the road, part of the learning curve, and unfortunately, part of farming’s reality. You just can’t control all the variables.

On the Reach on Vinalhaven is where sisters Marthena Webster and Lydia Webster Brown have their farm, at their family’s homestead. Along its waterfront, the ferries ply by en route to nearby Carver’s Harbor. They have been growing produce for four years now.

Originally they sold it at the island flea market too, but now they run a farmstand every Friday during the summer in their barn. A sign is out on Granite Island Road at Norton’s Point when they are open, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Along with their other two sisters, they learned to garden alongside their parents as they grew up on the island. Webster Brown later worked on some farms elsewhere and her sister developed skills in animal husbandry. Webster currently raises Dominique chickens for eggs and Katahdin sheep for wool and meat.

They work a one-acre plot and sell directly to the public and to local restaurants; the Haven on Vinalhaven and Nebo Lodge on North Haven. Greens and herbs are their mainstays all season, but they offer a variety of crops, including bouquets. Webster Brown says every year they increase the amount they grow, but still are unable to meet the demand for fresh, local produce.

They grow theirs organically, as does Harris, although neither farm has sought the certification that can be referred to as “proof” of that. “People think Vinalhaven is all rock and wonder how you can grow anything there,” Webster Brown observed. But, she added, “you can be surprised.”

On North Haven Road, halfway between Carver’s Harbor and the Fox Island Thorofare, is the decades-old farm stand of Cheryl Adair. Her stand is stocked daily during the growing season with eggs from her hundred-plus poultry flock as well as flowers and vegetables. Adair can also be found at the Flea Market sporadically over the summer, selling produce and potted plants. She has, over time, also raised dairy cattle, goats, pigs, turkeys, and sheep.

Ask any of these women and they will tell you more should be grown here on the granite. They know the virtues of chemical-free, freshly harvested produce, and their efforts prove farming is possible on the island. The town plans a composting campaign that will get more residents turning garbage into “garden gold.” The Vinalhaven Land Trust sees a role they can play in encouraging more island backyard gardening.

In 2006, the Vinalhaven Historical Society mounted an exhibit and published a catalogue, Island Saltwater Farms: Farming on Vinalhaven 1820-1960, created and written by Jeannette Lasansky, who used records, photographs, and interviews in her extensive research. She concluded the catalogue with a both a solemn nod to the past (“Farming, as it had been practiced, will never return to Vinalhaven. Too much has changed.”) and a hopeful nod to the future, mentioning the farms described in this article.

Lasansky  writes: “There is some change afoot however for the small farm and that is where farmers can find a niche market…Organic farming, specialty crops, and areas where eating establishments and markets promote local produce are some of the ingredients for a possible turnaround for those who are interested in seeing small farms succeed.”