There’s no such thing as business as usual when it comes to the food economy on Martha’s Vineyard. And by the food economy I mean the food we grow, harvest and preserve; the food we prep, cook, and sell; the food we buy, the food we eat. And all the people who grow, harvest, preserve, prep, cook, sell and eat that food. Which of course is pretty much all of us.

There’s a collective energy that courses from fisherman to cook, from farmer to restaurant, from school garden to cafeteria, from one kitchen to another and round and round the Island. We love to cook; we fish, we hunt, we gather, we grill; we make pickles and kimchi and kombucha; we grow 12 different kinds of tomatoes; we buy 12 different kinds of kale. We rate and compare ice cream and French fries and lobster rolls and egg sandwiches and chowder and fruit pies and coffee as if our lives depended on it (which they kind of do).

And while the energy bounces from the oldest (Farmer Bob Daniels is 93 and still hawking his potatoes) to the youngest (nine-year-old Derby demons and four-year-old preschool gardeners), these days the biggest source of fuel for the fire comes from a growing number of young Islanders, the 20 and 30 and 40-somethings who are pushing and pulling the food economy to make it more flexible, more spontaneous, more diverse and more sustainable. Oh, and more delicious too.

When asked to look back at the year in food, I immediately thought of these young artisans, cooks, and entrepreneurs — as well as their products, events, and organizations. To me, they’re the food story of 2017. While there isn’t room to mention them all, here are a few highlights of their work this year.

Jeanna Shepard

The hottest local ingredient on restaurant menus this year was most definitely MV Mycological’s Island-grown shiitakes. In their third year of business, Tucker Pforzheimer and Truman French have proven to be not only excellent at their craft — growing meaty mushrooms on Vineyard oak logs — but also proficient in getting their product into the hands of chefs and cooks, as well as into local markets. Favorite dish: Shiitacos at Behind the Bookstore.

The Larder gets my vote for most innovative culinary space. The brainchild of Island farmer Jefferson Munroe and business partner Daniele Barrick (Scottish Bakehouse), the Larder opened on State Road in Vineyard Haven as part commercial kitchen for rent, part specialty butcher, part gourmet retailer, and 100 per cent supportive of local food entrepreneurs.

Bread baker, sandwich designer and pastry maven Olivia Pattison stepped up her game with a booth at both the Wednesday and Saturday farmers’ markets. Making great use of the Larder kitchen space and Instagram, Olivia won a lot of new fans with her honey pies, her breads made with Island-grown grain, and her popular sandwiches.

Jeanna Shepard

The most progressive addition to the Island food economy this year came in on four wheels. Island Grown Initiative rolled out its Mobile Market pilot program, bringing fresh produce at just a notch above wholesale prices to neighborhoods with low-income, elderly, and/or disabled residents, and to those with limited access to fresh, Island-grown food.

Two more pilot programs from Island Grown Initiative were home runs this year: The Summer Food Service Program provided 1,500 meals to 275 kids, and the Island Grown Food Rescue Program, spearheaded by Sophie Abrams, collected 70 tons of food from Island restaurants to be composted at local farms.

Also on four wheels (or eight, since there are two trucks), Josh and Angela Aronie’s Food Truck gained traction this year with a new location at the airport business park as well as the old location in Menemsha, and a regular gig at the Winter Farmers’ Market. Most loved: Rosemary sea salt French fries, burgers, falafel wrap, Brazilian plate.

Here tonight, gone tomorrow: Pop-up dining experiences have been gaining in popularity on the Island for years, but this year pop-ups became, perhaps ironically, a regular or semi-regular repeating feature at the Larder, at the Beach Plum Inn, and at other venues around the Island. The pop-ups are sometimes a collaboration between entrepreneurs. Spring Sheldon’s El Gato Mexican taco nights, held at the Larder — sometimes in tandem with smoke-master Tim Laursen and/or caterer Jacqueline Foster — were incredibly tasty and popular.

The Island turned a spotlight on Jamaican food this summer, with a special evening of Jamaican food, sponsored by WYOB, at both Atria and the Edgartown Diner in honor of Jamaican Independence Day. The Edgartown Sharky’s also added some Jamaican entrees to its menu. While the Ackee Tree grocer has been in Vineyard Haven for years, and well-known Island chef Deon Thomas offers Caribbean-inspired dishes at the VFW, we now also have the Vineyard Caribbean restaurant, which opened late in the summer at Five Corners.

Jeanna Shepard

Oak Bluffs scored points in the town vs. town culinary competition (okay, that’s unofficial) when husband and wife Hal and Erin Ryerson bought the Sweet Life in Oak Bluffs, adding the lure of perfectly cooked fish, fresh farm vegetables and handmade pasta (not to mention youthful energy) to the growing list of the town’s tastiest attractions. Hal Ryerson was chef de cuisine for Kevin Crowell at Détente for many years, and also worked at the Outermost Inn with the talented Dan Sauer. As it happens Sauer, known for his 7afoods in West Tisbury, grabbed the brass ring this summer and decided to open a new barbecue joint, Sea Smoke, in the space that used to be Smoke ’N Bones in Oak Bluffs. And back over on Circuit avenue at the Red Cat, Ben DeForest cooked for the Obamas not once, but twice during their summer visit. No doubt they’ll be back for a steak at DeForest’s newest venture that will open in 2018 across the street.

In the can: A late season and an early hurricane (Jose) made for a short harvest window for Morning Glory Farm’s fall crop of tomatoes. No matter; second generation farmer Simon Athearn, now CEO of the farm business, stayed ahead of the problem by contracting with a Boston-based community food incubator, Commonwealth Kitchen, to can the farm’s tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Over at the Harbor View Hotel, Richard Doucette, a young chef who is known to travel with his fishing rod, was promoted to executive chef late in 2016. He took charge of overseeing the Lighthouse Grill, Henry’s Bar, and a roster of special events that included back-to-back wine dinners for the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival this fall.

And lastly, young farmers Lily Walter and Collins Heavener volunteered to take on the leadership of the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market this year. Never an easy job, this was a particularly challenging year as the two inherited the long-brewing discussion of banning dogs from the market (motion approved) and moving the location of the market (off the table for now). They added new vendors for the summer market and new attractions (including visiting alpacas and sheep) to the winter market to make it feel more robust.

More from 2017 on the Vineyard:

The Year in Review

The Year in Nature and Science

Most Read Stories of the Year

Most Popular Photos of the Year

The Year in Photos

Farewell to Beloved Islanders

The Year in Arts

Photos from the Year in Nature and Science