What a treat it was to discover the good works of Island Grown Initiative (www.islandgrown.org) on Martha’s Vineyard, and to discover that the Vineyard’s interior remains dotted with farms rather than housing developments.
Island Grown is the name for a various aligned food-centered groups operating on the Island. Here are some examples of their work. The poultry group has constructed a mobile poultry processing unit for under $10,000. They’ve had it licensed and trained a crew to operate it. Projecting to process 10,000 Island chickens this year, the group believes the unit has added $70,000 worth of agricultural income to Island farmers.
The poultry and meat groups have commissioned a feasibility study about the construction of a slaughterhouse on the island.
The bee group coordinates installation of new colonies of honeybees so that their numbers don’t eliminate native pollinators.
The education group, headed by Noli Taylor, oversees the farm to school program in delivering locally grown food to the Island’s schools. That’s not all, though. They have installed gardens at many of the schools and also put together a full curriculum of garden and cooking lessons tied to the MA state standards, and they freely share their work. We had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful Edgartown School vegetable garden and seeing the warm partnership at work between Melinda DeFeo of Island Grown and the school’s food service director, Gina. Though it was the last day of July, these two and a group of volunteers were hard at work for the benefit of Edgartown’s students. Besides supporting the state curriculum objectives and adding to students’ share of healthy, locally grown food, here’s their statement of objectives:
We hope to teach our students to:
- Appreciate the farming profession
- Recognize the difference between the industrial and local food systems
- Understand the connection between healthy soil, healthy plants, and healthy people
- Know that everyone can grow food
- Feel confident in making healthy food choices
Gleaning program coordinator Jamie O’Gorman noted that 96 billion pounds of edible produce is wasted each year on US farms. Thanks to IG, the Vineyard has begun to reverse this trend. Last year IG oversaw the delivery of 22,000 pounds of produce to schools, senior centers and food pantries at less than $1/pound for program expenses. (Are we in the Berkshires ready for a gleaning program?) Nearly 20 other volunteers arrived to join us at Morning Glory Farm — check out their gorgeous photo and recipe book– to glean nearly-perfect summer squash, with the hope that these rows of produce could be gleaned once more before the fall frost. We gleaners were rewarded by this discovery among the squash blossoms: