Updated 4:20 pm
Island Grown Initiative is looking to expand its facilities to consolidate the farm’s operations, expand its educational programs, and provide housing for IGI workers at its Thimble Farm headquarters.
IGI revealed its plans at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on Jan. 13. The nonprofit proposes a new, one-story, 3,200-square-foot education and innovation center for offices and educational spaces, three seasonal yurts 16 feet in diameter each, and two new employee housing buildings at the farm’s property in Tisbury. All new buildings will be all-electric and include rooftop solar panels. One structure will potentially have a negative energy footprint. Electrical vehicle charging stations are proposed at several locations on the property as well.
IGI is working with South Mountain Co. to design and build the project.
The project’s master plan is currently focused on phase 1, but future phases are expected to include a 1,625-square-foot pole barn, and two new agricultural buildings that total a combined 1,760 square feet.
The proposed workforce housing would be year-round for IGI staff and farmworkers, including families. Some housing would be for interns and seasonal staff, if available. The farm offered to make the housing units restricted to up to 150 percent of median family income.
In total, the two buildings will provide housing for 10 tenants separated into four units: Unit A will be two bedrooms, up to three tenants; Unit B is two bedrooms, up to three tenants; Unit C is one bedroom with up to two tenants; Unit D is one bedroom, with up to two tenants.
A Public Archaeology Lab cultural resources due diligence assessment on a 1.3-acre portion of the property in March 2020 concluded that a pre-contact archeological site known as “Site C” was recorded by the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society in 1978 within or adjacent to the project area. PAL also recommended the project avoid ground disturbance as much as possible.
In December, an intensive archeological survey done by PAL revealed “pre-contact (Ancient Native American)” and “post-contact (18th through 20th century)” cultural materials, according to the PAL summary.
PAL recommended a machine excavation be conducted in the housing unit area. The Massachusetts Historical Commission is expected to issue a final response after the machine excavation is completed the week of Jan. 17.
IGI also proposed a nitrogen mitigation at the farm by installing two residential advanced treatment septic systems located within the Lagoon Pond Watershed District. This mitigation would cover the 19.6 kilograms of nitrogen generated every year, which is 62 percent above the allowable load for the property.
Andrew Woodruff, who formerly leased the property and ran a program there, said he supported the project, but was concerned about nitrogen loading on the property. He suggested the nitrogen mitigation systems be installed at properties that drain into sensitive water bodies.
“I’m worried about nitrogen getting into Duarte’s Pond and also the headwaters into the Lagoon,” he said.
Richard Toole, a former commissioner, stressed the importance of this project. “I can’t say enough what a great project this is,” Toole said. “Showing how agriculture can be done to provide fresh, local stuff for the community. Working with South Mountain, that’s just another great addition to this project.”
IGI president Lynne Whiting touched on the project’s social wellness aspects, and how IGI works to provide education and food to the Island, especially its youth. “The time has come, the opportunities are here,” Whiting said.
The commission continued the hearing to Feb. 3, and left the written record open. Commissioner Douglas Sederholm said the commission will hear back from PAL, and await more info on the project’s composting situation from the applicants.
In other business, the commission granted an extension request to Carlos Pena of CLE Engineering to stabilize 2,400 linear feet of bank along East Chop Drive in Oak Bluffs. The extension gives the applicant until Jan. 13, 2026, to complete the project. The project was delayed due to its funding process and delayed construction.
The project will expand the revetment by 30,360 square feet, for a total area of 77,650 square feet.
The commission also gave a final written approval to the Shearer Cottage project.
Updated to correct Andrew Woodruff leased the property.