Tags Posts tagged with "schools"


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The Island Grown Initiative invited curious Island residents and visitors alike to visit the Farm Hub at Thimble Farm and learn more about each of it's four programs. — Photo by Bella Bennett

From sweet and tart strawberries to rich purple and green basil plants, the 31,000-square-foot glass greenhouse at Island Grown Initiative’s (IGI) Farm Hub at Thimble Farm in Vineyard Haven is filled from floor to ceiling with vibrant produce. Rows of vertical and horizontal pipes akin to home plumbing systems snake throughout the multiple rooms of the greenhouse. Each pipe features a multitude of holes on the top side, into which basil, chives, lettuce, arugula, and many other plants have been placed. These plants are being cultivated through hydroponic methods. Their roots dangle through the holes in the pipe, below which a steady stream of nutrient-rich water flows. This may seem like a more resource-intensive method than traditional farming, but the nutrients are organically sourced. Just across the room, five or six large tanks support about 1,100 rainbow trout. Instead of cleaning their tanks and watering the plants separately, the farm filters the water and diverts it out into all of the complex pipe systems throughout the greenhouse. The plants mature at a much faster pace than traditionally farmed plants, and there is far more space available when you can grow plants vertically, horizontally, diagonally, and suspended, as the tomatoes and peppers within the greenhouse are trained to grow.

The greenhouse at IGI's Farm Hub at Thimble Farm houses an array of successful hydroponic configurations. — Photo by Bella Bennett
The greenhouse at IGI’s Farm Hub at Thimble Farm houses an array of successful hydroponic configurations. — Photo by Bella Bennett

On Monday, Island Grown Initiative hosted an open farm of sorts, to share the initiative’s four main programs with curious Islanders and visitors. Attendees were escorted throughout the greenhouse by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, and then led outside to learn about the Island Grown Schools program in the gardens. The tour culminated with a lesson on the inner workings of the Island Grown Poultry program by leader Matthew Dix.

The poultry program has contributed to the rise in local poultry available on the Island, thanks to the introduction of the Mobile Poultry Processing Unit. This saves local farmers time and money that would otherwise be spent off-Island on travel, and ensures the use of safe and humane methods.

The Island Grown Initiative was founded in 2007, and has since proven its commitment to creating accessible local food systems through four main programs including: Island Grown Schools, Island Grown Poultry, Island Grown Gleaning, and Island Grown Farm Hub. As the organization states, “Each program works collaboratively to provide food and agricultural education, develop infrastructure that supports food production, and increases the supply and demand of locally grown food.” These programs target specific areas within the Vineyard community that would otherwise lack access to fresh food or food education, and provides these services in order to improve the local food system overall.

Island Grown Schools is a farm-to-school program that works with students from ages 2 through 18 at nine local preschools, all seven elementary schools, and the regional high school. This program is divided into four sections; cafeterias, classrooms, gardens, and farm connections. Combined, these touchpoints provide students with hands-on gardening experience at each involved school; enable local food to be served in school cafeterias, including farm-fresh vegetables, meat and fish; and facilitate food-based classroom discussions that culminate in field trips throughout the year. Beyond introducing children to the essentials and importance of local food systems, the program invites children to partake in the creation of their own food, from seed collecting to watering to harvesting. This program has also helped children to give back to the community through the Island Grown Gleaning program. Gleaning refers to the process of harvesting produce that would otherwise be left in the field after the main growing and selling season ends. As IGI framed it, “We work with farmers to reduce crop waste and give their ‘seconds’ a second chance!​” Last season alone, 26,000 pounds of excess or unwanted produce was gleaned from Island farms, including but not limited to Morning Glory Farm, Slip Away Farm, Whippoorwill Farm, and North Tabor Farm, then distributed to school cafeterias, seniors, and Islanders in need.

The Island Grown Initiative has made quite an impact on the community since its creation eight years ago, and it plans to continue to grow and work toward an even better Island food system. As Emily Armstrong, the preschool coordinator for Island Grown Schools, put it, “our hope is really to develop this space for the community. Through all of our programs, we’re trying to work together to accomplish this mission.”


For more information about these programs, check out IGI online at islandgrown.org. For a map of Island farms and their offerings, visit the MVTimes’ online farm map at MV Farm Map.



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— Janet Hefler

After many discussions and a delay of several weeks, the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) school committee voted Monday night to approve a tentative total operating budget of $9,959,806 for fiscal year 2015 (FY15). The three member towns — Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury — would be assessed an estimated total of $9,831,089, which is an increase of 7.47 percent over the FY14 budget.

Committee chairman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter of West Tisbury cast a yes vote to make it unanimous after committee members Roxanne Ackerman of Aquinnah, Michael Marcus of West Tisbury, and Robert Lionette of Chilmark voted in favor of the budget.

The committee’s vote to approve the budget followed a lengthy deliberation that led them to come up with a strategy to reduce the budget by about $86,000, based on suggestions from Mr. Lionette and school business administrator Amy Tierney.

The $86,000 will come from a one percent reduction in district expenses, and one percent reductions in the two site operating budgets for Chilmark School and West Tisbury School. The school committee instructed Chilmark head of school Susan Stevens and West Tisbury School principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt to go back over their budgets to determine lines where cuts could be made, and to present those for review and deliberation at the committee’s next meeting on February 10.

The revised budget total does not include a $50,000 reduction recommended by Ms. Tierney, and approved by the school committee Monday night, from the residential placement line, to reflect state Circuit Breaker funds already received and additional funds expected at the end of the school year. Residential placements are made in educational facilities off-Island for some special education students who require services and programs unavailable on Martha’s Vineyard. Those costs are included in the budget of the school district in which a student lives, not in the superintendent’s shared services budget.

In a conversation with The Times shortly after the meeting ended, Ms. Tierney said she realized that she did not calculate the $50,000 reduction in the budget total that she gave the committee before its vote. The number will be revised when the committee votes to certify the budget next month, Ms. Tierney told The Times in a phone call Tuesday.

The UIRSD’s bylaws state that the district should certify its budget by the end of December. However, the budget process hit a roadblock when school committee members rejected the fourth draft version of the FY15 budget, with a bottom line of $10,056,088, at a meeting on December 16. Although the vote was 3 to 2 in favor of the budget, it failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority, or four votes in favor. Mr. Manter and Ms. Ackerman voted against it, and Mr. Marcus, Mr. Lionette, and Dan Cabot voted in favor of it.

The committee set another budget meeting on January 6, hoping to resolve the budget before a few members left on planned vacations. However, their decision-making was delayed yet again due to the absence of Ms. Ackerman, who said she had to work that morning and was out scalloping. The members agreed to postpone any action until this week’s meeting.

Escalating costs for special education are the driving factor in the district’s budget increases, both at the district level and for its portion of the superintendent’s office and shared services budget, which primarily supports special education, as well as other programs provided to students Island-wide in five school districts.