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Island Grown Schools

By Noli Taylor, Island Grown Schools Coordinator

Last December, Island Grown Initiative launched a new farm-to-school program on the Vineyard, which we call Island Grown Schools. Island Grown Schools seeks to strengthen the connection between local family farms and the seven schools on the island by getting more locally-grown foods into school meals, snacks, and special events, by bringing classes onto working farms in curriculum-tied field trips, and by installing school gardens so students can have regular hands-on experiences with growing food themselves.

We have been amazed by how the community has worked together to accomplish as much as they have in the first year of the program. We have installed new school gardens at the West Tisbury School, Oak Bluffs School, and the Regional High School, and have worked with teachers at the Charter School to expand their school garden. Another new garden is in the works at Edgartown School, which we plan to install this spring.

We have worked with dozens of teachers at all the island schools to help them see ways to link their required curriculum to farm- and garden-based activities. Classes are now doing everything from composting food in their classrooms with the help of worm bins to studying soil and weather patterns in their own school gardens, to studying American agricultural history and comparative food traditions between the United States and Brazil. The Kindergarten class at the West Tisbury School just harvested 20 pounds of sweet potatoes from their school garden, which they prepared and shared with the first and second grade classes.

We have also worked with food service staff to bring more local food into our cafeterias. This not only brings more healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables to the students but also provides farmers with a year-round market that can help sustain them through the off-season. Morning Glory Farm is now working closely with Edgartown School and Bayes Norton Farm is working closely with Oak Bluffs School to provide their cafeterias with food they can use at a price they can afford. Oak Bluffs School also used produce out of their school garden daily in their cafeteria this fall. The Charter School and Tisbury School are also looking to source more island-grown produce for their school meals.

We also work with the Culinary Arts program at the Regional High School, and together have held two Local Food Dinners made with almost 100% island-grown ingredients. Both dinners were delicious four-course meals, which the students prepared with their instructor, Jack O’Malley, and with a local chef who prioritizes using local ingredients in their kitchens (Dan Sauer of the Outermost Inn helped with the first dinner, and Danielle Dominick of the Scottish Bake house helped with the second). These dinners not only raise funds for the Culinary Arts program, they also help instruct a new generation of chefs about the benefits and importance of buying local.

On Tuesday, December 2nd, Island Grown Initiative is celebrating the one year anniversary of our Island Grown Schools program. Please join us for our special anniversary community meeting from 7-8:30pm at the Island Co-Housing Common House in West Tisbury, off Chicama Vineyards/Stoney Hill Road, to learn more about our accomplishments and to help us continue developing plans and programs for the years ahead. Snacks will be provided, and all are welcome!

For more information or to get involved with Island Grown Schools, please contact Noli Taylor, Island Grown Schools Coordinator, at 508-645-9557 or noli@islandgrown.org.