If you ate a raw oyster last summer on the Vineyard, chances are it came from either Canada or Long Island. But for oyster lovers, the summer ahead offers another treat: the Vineyard oyster.

A group of energetic Edgartown shellfishermen is realizing a two-year dream; they plan to bring cultured oysters to market starting in the spring and to continue selling them into the summer. It is an exciting first for the Vineyard seafood industry. Aquaculture and farming from the sea is a new industry on the Island, and after years of extensive work, federally funded programs and the energy of Island commercial fishermen, the harvest is finally in sight.

Kane C. Bennett, 24, has raised thousands of oysters that will be ready for market later this year. He is among the first Island oyster fishermen to use the new technology.

He started shellfish farming three years ago after trying to fish as a commercial fisherman aboard the Island’s last draggers. He fished on Georges Bank with Capt. Roy Scheffer on the Menemsha fishing dragger Mary Elizabeth. But over the last two decades, the fish stocks on the bank collapsed. Federal authorities imposed strict restrictions on when and where the fishermen could fish. Many fishermen lost their livelihoods.

When Mr. Bennett was graduated from the regional high school, he wanted to be a commercial fisherman, and for many years he did well. He was one of the fishermen who had to find another line of work. As a fall-back position he chose carpentry, but carpentry isn’t where he wants to be. “I grew up on the water,” he said. “I am a carpenter by trade but I really do the fish farming as a passion on the side.”

Three years ago, Mr. Bennett joined an aquaculture training program offered by the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group. The program was financed by a federal grant from the National Marine Fisheries Service, a program to retrain New England fishermen displaced by the closed fishing grounds. Mr. Bennett and other Island commercial fishermen learned how to raise shellfish.

For more than 20 years, the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group has provided baby shellfish to the Island coastal ponds. The training program was created as a way to move the skill and technology of raising shellfish from the group into the private sector.

All the participants in the program are former offshore fishermen. The fishermen obtained leases in the waterways of Edgartown, mostly in Katama Bay and some areas north of Eel Pond, in Nantucket Sound. Last year Mr. Bennett sold quahaug seed to the town of Edgartown for its shellfish programs. His first check for raising shellfish was $2,500 for 90,000 baby quahaugs that had grown to two millimeters in size. “I gave them a good deal on the price. For me it was a beginning. It wasn’t profitable,” Mr. Bennett said, but he is hopeful about the future.

“There is a better price for raising oysters,” said Mr. Bennett, considerably more than what he can get for selling quahaugs. A raw oyster is a prime seafood, sold on the half shell. With oysters the profit margin is considerably better. Under normal conditions it takes oysters three to four years for an oyster to reach the three-inch harvest size. Mr. Bennett’s oysters are just two years old, but he has approximately 50,000 oysters almost ready for market. Anyone who has seen his oysters describes them as even better than what Mother Nature is producing on the bottom of the Island great ponds. These oysters are growing in bags hanging from floats in Katama Bay. There is plenty of food in that part of the water column, and that makes these animals hearty and good tasting.

“I’d like to get 55 cents per oyster, especially if you are talking about shipping off-Island. The guys I have talked to people in Boston and New York. The big restaurants are paying 45 cents an oyster. I have a superior product that is as good if not better than what they are getting,” Mr. Bennett said.

“In my opinion, they are as good as anything I have seen on the half-shell market,” said Rick Karney, director of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group. The shellfish group has a hatchery on the Tisbury side of Lagoon Pond. “We need to encourage the fishing industry here. In the summer, the tourists are here and that is when the demand for raw bar oysters is highest. People want Island seafood. We’ve never had this product to offer them.”

The first cultured oysters were featured last November at a shellfish group fund-raiser held at the Edgartown restaurant Lattanzi’s. Mr. Karney said the tasty oyster premiere stole the show.

And there is no health issue when it comes to cultured oysters, even in the summer. Wild oysters, harvested from coastal ponds, are available only in the winter. Health officials usually discourage the public from consuming oysters at any other time of the year because levels of bacteria rise in coastal ponds during the summer. But cultured oysters are raised in open water and are not subject to either the potential for diseases or to seasonal harvest closures.

Island seafood restaurants have already expressed interest in the product, and the fishermen are looking at markets on the mainland. Other shellfishermen involved in raising oysters include Roy Scheffer, Jack Blake, Paul Willoughby and Scott Castro. “The fact these guys are actually going to make money after two years of growing is pretty exciting,” said Mr. Karney. “It is better than expected. Oysters are a surprise. We expected that they would do well with quahaugs, but oysters have such a high market value.”

Another reason oysters are a better product has to do with the effort. “Oysters lend themselves to hanging from floating rafts. With quahaugs you have to raise them on the bottom.”

“By suspending them in bags we can keep the predators out. I have been fortunate,” Mr. Bennett said. There is plenty of maintenance work involved. Mr. Bennett said he cleans and changes the bags often. “But I have yet to encounter a problem.”

Donald F. Poole at Poole’s Fish in Menemsha is shipping many more wild oysters to the mainland than are being consumed here on the Island. Vineyard wholesalers ships thousands of pounds of oysters from Tisbury Great Pond almost weekly. This is big business, but nothing like it was years ago. There is far more demand off-Island than here, but the price offered doesn’t always match the effort.

Mr. Poole said he looks forward to seeing a Vineyard oyster in the summer, for there will likely be plenty of demand.  He said many of the oysters he sold last summer came from as far away as Prince Edward Island.

“With so many more people here on the Island in the summer, people would love them,” he said. “To have anything local is always better.”

Of course is good sense to be cautious on the waterfront. “I am still a little dubious whether it is going to be a successful enterprise,” Mr. Bennett said. “Still, I have high hopes.”