At Island Grown Schools, we bring garden-based learning, healthy, locally grown food, and hands-on farm experiences to almost every school-aged child in our community. We work with all seven K-12 schools on the island and with nine preschools, more than 2,300 students from 2-18 years old. We have installed and help maintain 15 school gardens, and lead more than 1,000 classroom lessons and 80 farm field trips each year.

How We Began

IGS was launched as a program of Island Grown Initiative, a community non-profit dedicated to creating a resilient food system on Martha's Vineyard, in December of 2007. We knew that long-term food system change work needed to begin with children, but weren’t sure of the best way to create a farm to school program that would best suit our community. So we held a series of monthly community meetings that continued for over a year, bringing as many people from the island as possible together to share ideas about how to build this program.

Our meetings soon divided up into working groups, one for each of the seven public schools. In the years since then, each school’s program has evolved individually and organically. As an organization, IGS moved from being an all-volunteer force to now having our own staff of paid educators teaching in the schools throughout the school year. We developed an integrated curriculum of core units for every grade level from preschool through high school. And we have a broad base of community members and island businesses who contribute to the program with their time, skills, and finances to ensure that this work can continue over time.

Sharing Our Model

As we focus our efforts on our local schools, we are continually developing resources, learning lessons, and building an integrated farm to school model that we are eager to share with others as they develop this kind of program for their own communities.

We provide individual support for communities that contact us from across the country, serve as the regional lead of the Cape and Islands Farm to School Network, and collaborate with the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, helping spread this important work beyond our shores.


Our program has four main components:

CAFETERIAS

We work with cafeteria directors and their staff at all K-12 schools to increase the amount of locally grown foods used in school meals, and to strengthen the ties between farms and schools. By sourcing produce, meat and fish locally in school cafeterias, schools can help maintain the vibrant agricultural and fishing heritage of Martha’s Vineyard while paving the way for life-long healthy eating habits for our students.

Classrooms

We work at every grade level to integrate food, farm, and nutrition-based learning into classrooms. We collaborate with teachers to identify curriculum connections, and have found that every subject can be taught through the lens of food and agriculture. We also see that students with different learning styles, who do not necessarily thrive in a traditional classroom environment, often shine in hands-on lessons in the school gardens. Our core curricular lessons are available to download for free here.

Gardens

We have established gardens at all of seven K-12 schools and at nine preschools, and work with our students, teachers, school staff, parents, and community volunteers to maintain them. We see our gardens as outdoor classrooms, where students not only have the opportunity to learn their school subjects, but where they are also able to deepen their connection to nature, and understand the roots of their food system.

FARM CONNECTIONS

Each year we bring students of all ages to our working island farms. This gives our farmers an opportunity to pass some of their wisdom on to the next generation, and helps our children have a deeper understanding of where their food comes from. Through experiential, hands-on projects, gleaning, and farm tours, these visits also help students appreciate farming as a demanding, admirable, rewarding profession that they can aspire to when they grow up.


Download the IGS Annual Report

We are proud to share our Annual Report, which showcases the programs offered at each of our schools and the progress of our organization since its inception in 2007.


The History of Island Grown Schools

IGS is a dynamic program made up of many hundreds of students, teachers, parents, school administrators, farmers, local chefs and more, and we continue to shape and mold this program together as time goes on. Below is a timeline of some of our major milestones over the years. Follow our blog or sign up for our newsletter for the latest developments!


2007

First Community meeting

2008

West Tisbury School garden installation

Woodside Village elderly housing/MVRHS collaborative garden installation

Oak Bluffs School garden installation

First three-day IGS teacher training intensive

Charter School garden installation

Chilmark School garden installation

2009

Tisbury School garden installation

Edgartown School garden installation

Second teacher training intensive

Gleaning program begins

2010

West Tisbury gets own salad bar, uses local food for the first time

Oak Bluffs School revamps greenhouse

Edgartown School installs greenhouse

Chilmark School begins Community Lunch program

Charter School revamps greenhouse

2011

MVRHS serves local food in school meals for the first time

IGS and the FARM Institute launch summer teen program, the Farm Project

MVRHS academic year work study program begins

2012

Island Grown Preschools begins

Community Services Preschool garden installation

Grace Preschool garden installation

Vineyard Montessori and First Light preschools join IGS program

MVRHS courtyard garden installed

Chilmark Preschool garden revamped

Edgartown School installs new orchard and grape arbor

West Tisbury and Chilmark Schools break away from corporate food contract

Second year of Farm Project summer teen program

IGS supports construction of new kitchen at West Tisbury School, launch of new meals program for West Tisbury and Chilmark Schools

Harvest of the Month program launched

Local meat pilot program begins with Up Island Regional School District

First Fish to School program

Healthy Family Cooking cookbook released with Vineyard Nutrition

2013

MVRHS serves local meat for the first time

IGS founds Cape and Islands Farm to School Network

IGS, Mass Farm to School Project and Sustainable Cape organize regional farm to school training for cafeteria staff and farmers

Island Children’s School expands garden

Third year of the Farm Project, our summer Teen Apprentice program

Harvest of the Month is back for a second school year with all new crops

School gardens plant heirloom grains including Oats and Turkey Red Winter Wheat

2014

Tisbury School installs kitchen garden to grow more food for Cafeteria

Preschool program begins work with Plum Hill School

Island Grown Schools staff present about Harvest of the Month at National Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Host Seed Summit to convene farmers, home gardeners and eaters in the education and implementation of a local and sustainable seed system for the island

School gardens plant additional heirloom grains: Duborskian South River Strain Rice, Narragansett White Flint Corn and King Phillip Corn

First Light Preschool adopts Community Garden plot at Thimble Farm

Grace Preschool creates a community based, inter-generational garden with IGS support

Fourth year of the Farm Project

Helped organize an all-local lunch at Tisbury School’s first Wellness Day

Started an academic year portion to the Farm Project

Launched Seed Library and featured a seed saving workshop with Ken Greene of Hudson Valley Seed Library at the Living Local Harvest Festival

Harvested first rice crop

Developed whaling curriculum at Chilmark School

First Chilmark all-school seed saving project

2015

Worked with high school students at the Charter School on state level farm to school policy to draft a piece of legislation that was introduced as HB 163

Traveled to the state Farm to School conference as presenters on Farm to School 101, state level policy, and lead in regional networking meeting

Food & Mood curriculum introduced at West Tisbury School

High school nutrition program expands at MVRHS, with sports teams, freshmen skills, and 10th grade health class

Added two new preschools to our program: Rainbow Place and Project Headway

Rebuilt gardens at the Oak Bluffs School, Chilmark School, Tisbury School, Vineyard Montessori School, MV Community Services preschool, and West Tisbury School

Launched the first after school Garden Clubs at the West Tisbury School, Charter School, and the Regional High School

Held first Harvest of the Month taste test activity at the West Tisbury Farmer's Market, with teens from our Farm Project summer program

Organized first April school vacation camp with our partners from the Environmental Educators Alliance

Supported planning and installation of a new greenhouse for the Charter School

Served over 22,000 Harvest of the Month taste test samples

Launched our preschool through 12th grade curriculum toolkit on our website

Taught Wampanoag Language in the Garden programs at the Charter School, Oak Bluffs School, Tisbury School and Vineyard Montessori

Organized the first Farm to School Day at the State House in Boston with Farm to School advocates from across Massachusetts—Charter School students spoke before legislators and their staff

Held our first gardening and healthy eating trainings for Preschool Teachers & Home Child Care Providers 

Harvested first pea shoots for the cafeteria from the Oak Bluffs school greenhouse

Farm Project won the island's competitive foraged food cooking competition, the Wild Food Challenge

Designed a plan for a new middle school garden with middle schoolers at the West Tisbury School 

Expanded our programming into middle school grades at the Oak Bluffs School, with weekly greenhouse classes for middle schoolers 

Held Spring and fall family gardening classes with toddlers and their caregivers at MV Community Services' Family Center

Expanded offerings at the Tisbury School, including a new program for English Language Learners, weekly lessons with the 1st grade and bi-weekly kindergarten lessons

Offered weekly lessons at Plum Hill Preschool for the first time

Piloted our first summer program, based at the Chilmark School

Program Leader Noli Taylor re-appointed to State Board of Agriculture, appointed to the Massachusetts Farm to School Advisory Board, and named a Hearts on Fire Visionary

Processed more gleaned produce than ever before for school cafeterias with our Farm Project students

Built and installed a new on-site food scrap compost system at MVRHS

Raised more than $600 in school garden seed sale at Chilmark School

Tisbury School 8th graders gleaned 850 pounds of potatoes for Serving Hands food distribution program

Organized and hosted first Massachusetts Farm to School Policy Network meeting