The Island Grown Initiative(IGI) on Martha’s Vineyard provides food equality. They have launched programs throughout the area that focus on regenerative farming, community education and food waste reduction. The goal is to ensure food accessibility for everyone.
Island Grown Farm – the Heart of Island Grown Initiative
The Island Grown Farm sits at the location of the former Thimble Farm in Vineyard Haven. The farm’s history goes back to the 15th century. Situated by the Lagoon Pond and Little Duarte’s Pond, the land is crisscrossed with many trails and pathways that have a long history as favorite hot spots for foraging, hunting, and fishing by the area’s Indigenous peoples, the Wampanoag.
A teaching center was created to promote regenerative and resilient agriculture practices. The revolutionary farming methods take place on a lush 40-acre farm located in the midst of Martha’s Vineyard Island. At the site is a 32,000-square-foot greenhouse that boasts a combination of soil bed and hydroponics. There is also a field of 10 acres being used for regenerative cultivation, a complete composting system, and a community garden. The farm is also home to a robust orchard.
The goal is to research and experiment with climate and eco-friendly methods that help increase food production. As they find new methods of innovative farming then they share the information with local farmers and hobbyist gardeners.
The Island Grown Initiative’s number one’s focus is on the soil. Without exceptional soil, crops simply cannot flourish. To ensure a robust crop, the farmers focus on the health of the soil with the following practices:
- Use of rich compost
- Cover crops
- Low or no-tillage of the soil
- Grazing animals
- No genetically modified crops (GMOs)
- No chemical or synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides
Through the use of the latest farming system, they focus on organic food production while using extraordinarily little tillage. The stellar farming practices provide the following benefits:
- Enriches the soil.
- Creates greater biodiversity.
- Assists watersheds.
- Provides nutrient-dense crops.
- Quality crops
- Ample harvest
- Improved climate resilience
Local Programs on Martha’s Vineyard
The Island Grown Initiative on Martha’s Vineyard creates local programs and services that help provide affordable and healthy foods to the area’s residents.
They offer the following:
The Mobile Market Truck
The Mobile Market Truck is stocked with affordable fresh produce and eggs. They make weekly deliveries in an effort to expand access to healthy foods to everyone on the island, especially participants of food assistance programs. Produce is purchased at wholesale prices from local growers and then sold only with a small markup (just enough to cover operating expenses. The entire endeavor is not about making a profit but instead focuses on expanding access to healthy foods.
Summer Lunch Program
During the summer months when there is no school, the IGI’s Summer Lunch Program gives children access to healthy meals. The program often focuses on children, but the lunches are available to anyone for free. The lunches contain a variety of sandwiches, pizzas, wraps and more. They all offer fresh fruit and vegetables. Individuals seeking a free lunch do not need to provide any proof of income or documentation.
Gleaning is an ancient process that involves gathering foods that cannot be sold for one reason or another. Local farms donate a wide array of crops because they simply do not meet the quality standard set forth by farmers. In some situations, the farms have simply grown more crops than they can sell before the produce goes bad. On occasion, a farmer cannot harvest the abundance of crops so the Island Grown Gleaning will step forward and volunteer to harvest the food. The volunteers will harvest the produce, remove old leaves, and inspect the produce and fruit for any problems. IGI offers gleaning field classes for students to learn about the gleaning process while lending a hand.
In 2021, Island Grown Initiative gleaned over 48,000 pounds of produce which works out to 342,123 services to meet the needs of people throughout the area. Around 25,000 pounds of the produce was grown on the Island Grown Initiative’s farm.
Deer Donation Program
The Deer Donation Program focuses on reducing the incidences of MV tick-borne illness in dear. The prevention program (MV Tick Program) also aligns with Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society’s aim which is to reduce the number of deer in the area through culling.
Many families on Martha’s Vineyard suffer from food insecurity. Under the Deer Donation Program, anyone can donate a deer to help feed the hungry in the area. Last season hunters donated 22 deer which provided over 600 pounds of meat. The meat is distributed to families in need across the island. Hunters with a zone 13 license receive a $100 dollar subsidy for their donation.
Island Food Pantry
The Island Grown Initiative also operates the Island Food Pantry which provides food to those in need. The pantry is open every Wednesday, Monday, and Saturday. Friday they are open to seniors only. Anyone on Mass Health, Fuel Assistance, Snap, or simply unable to financially afford groceries can obtain food from the Island Food Pantry. Shoppers at the Island Food Pantry will find nonperishables, fresh produce, and bread.
Volunteer to Help IGI
If you want to make a difference in the community and help your neighbors, then why not volunteer with IGI? IGI depends on volunteers. Last year volunteers provided 6,350 hours of service. When you volunteer with IGI you can help with gleaning, the Island Food Pantry and processing. Contact the Island Grown Initiative to learn more about volunteering.
If you wish to help without volunteering you can always donate to their programs or join one of their Dine to Donate Dinners. The next dinner is February 21st at Offshore Ale Company in Oaks Bluff.