Island Grown Initiative

May Island Grown Schools Report

The month of May is a wonderful time for Island Grown Schools. Students and teachers join us outside in the garden almost every day, the gardens are growing and thriving, farm field trips abound, and local food, from school gardens and from island farms, starts streaming into the cafeterias.

So much has happened in this last month, and below are only a few of the great things we have to share. To learn more or to get involved, please email Noli Taylor, IGS Coordinator, at

First, please join us for these up-coming events:

Today, Friday June 3rd, please come to the Oak Bluffs School plant sale. Middle school students, under the direction of teachers Leah Dorr and Doug Brush, have grown more than 650 vegetable, herb and flower seedlings, which they will have for sale today from 3-4pm in the school greenhouse. The money they raise will go to support next year’s garden, and to build a student-designed chicken coop which will stay on the school campus with its own small flock producing eggs for the school cafeteria.

Sunday, June 5th, please come to the Spring Feast for Island Grown Schools at State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury at 6pm. Tickets are $100 and are available in advance by stopping by State Road or calling 508-693-8582. The amazing chefs at State Road are creating a local food-based meal, which they will serve family style, with all proceeds going to IGS, and some of our students will be there to talk about how this program impacts their lives and their schools.

A few highlights from May:

Local food is now allowed in the cafeterias at Chilmark, West Tisbury, and the Regional High School for the first time in the 22 years that Chartwells has been making their school meals! This is a very exciting victory, with thanks going to cafeteria director Leslie Floyd, West Tisbury lunch server Jenny Devivo, and all the students, parents, teachers, and school staff who have been encouraging this shift.

The West Tisbury School teachers and students have embraced the ability to put their garden-grown produce in their school lunches. They have devoted much of their garden space to growing greens for the cafeteria, and throughout the month of May, salad greens, pea shoots, radishes, and asparagus fresh from the garden have graced the salad bar. The students are very proud of what they have been able to contribute to their school, and love eating the food they have grown.

Chefs across the Vineyard have been pairing up with our school cafeteria directors to bring more fresh, healthy, local foods to school meals. Thanks to Jamie Hamlin, Jan Buhrman, Robert Lionette, Pat Toomey, Dan Sauer, and Berni Cormie for their contributions. Cathy Walthers, chef and cookbook author extraordinaire, has been leading a series of taste tests each week throughout the month of May at West Tisbury School. One week they tried kale three ways (crispy kale, kale tortillas, and kale with raisins and pine nuts); the next they did three kinds of quinoa and learned about different grains from around the world; and the next week they tasted different kinds of greens growing in the school garden and experimented with the chemistry of making salad dressings (asian-inspired, fruit, lemon pepper, and more). The students filled out surveys about what they thought of the food, and ate everything. Cathy has been an amazing and dedicated educator, and the students have been brave and fearless taste testers, who have amazed us all with their willingness and enthusiasm to try new foods.

The Leadership Class at MVRHS has paired up with Kindergarten and 2nd grade Science Buddies at the Oak Bluffs School to do garden-based learning together, including an alphabet scavenger hunt in the OB School garden this week.

Students in Corrine Kurz’s Global History class at the Regional High School are studying issues of local sustainability, and in one of their classes with IGS coordinator Kaila Binney, they foraged for wild Vineyard foods and harvested a whole lot of watercress. The watercress was delivered to the cafeteria director at the high school, who used some and sent some on to the West Tisbury School salad bar, where the students ate it with gusto.

beesScience teachers and their classes at both island high schools (the Charter School and MVRHS) have been tending their own beehives with their students, learning about pollination, bees, and more with the help and support of the Island Grown Bees program and IGB coordinator Randi Baird. We are thrilled that this is part of the school curriculum and that students are getting to experience this hands-on learning about such an important topic. For more about IGB, please contact Randi at

Morning Glory Farm donated a dump truck worth of compost to each of our island school gardens. A number of parents volunteered to deliver the compost around the island, including Brian Packish, a parent at Oak Bluffs School, who brought truckloads to OB, Tisbury, and West Tisbury schools. Thank you, Morning Glory!

And huge thanks to Pat and Sandy Burt of Automatic Lawn Sprinklers of Martha’s Vineyard for installing an amazing irrigation system for the OB School garden. This will help the garden grow and thrive for many years to come. Thank you, Pat and Sandy!

And some more school-specific reports:


Chilmark School’s garden is growing beautifully. In May, they used the pop-up cold frames they purchased through a grant to nurture their tomato seedlings, they planted a butterfly garden, planted a pizza bed with basil, tomatoes, and more, planted their Three Sisters garden (a traditional Native American planting scheme that grows corn, beans, and squash together), and moved yards of compost into the garden. They planted their beans, trellised their peas, sowed sunflowers, did garden observations, and more. The school also finished their Hiking Trails Challenge, in which families hiked Land Bank trails for pledges, with all proceeds going to support next year’s garden. Congratulations, Chilmark School!


Teacher Elaine Weintraub and the Brazilian History class have been maintaining the Brazilian garden at MVRHS since the fall. During One World Day, students used produce grown in the school gardens to cook traditional Brazilian food for the school community.

The Irish History class was busy planting potatoes in the school garden, and at Woodside Village.

The Leadership classes have also been helping out at Woodside, building fences and compost bins, weeding, and planting onions and potatoes. They came to the FARM Institute to help Hannah, the garden manager, plant potatoes, transplant tomatoes, get the fields ready for planting and save seeds. They have also started a collaboration with the Oak Bluffs School and led the Kindergarten and 2nd grade “Science Buddies” on an alphabet scavenger hunt around the O.B. school garden!

Corinne Kurtz’s Global History class is working on their semester projects, studying local issues of sustainability. From wastewater treatment to transportation, from affordable housing to preservation of open spaces, from local economy to local food, the students have been consulting community members and the MVC in their research on how the island can be a sustainable community. They have created PowerPoint presentations and are currently working on public service announcements (PSAs) that will present their argument on what we can do as a community to address these looming issues. In conjunction with the project, they have visited the FARM Institute and foraged for local wild foods. They will be presenting their projects in a few weeks, and are looking for a panel to view their final PSAs.

Horticulture teacher John Wojtkielo and his students are the high school’s first beekeepers! Congratulations on the success of the first school beehive!

Leslie Floyd is working wonders in the school cafeteria, using lettuce from the horticulture greenhouse and local watercress in the school lunches. Thank you Leslie for your incredible effort in getting local food into the cafeteria! Jan Buhrman and Robert Lionette are working their magic as part of Michelle Obama’s Chefs-to-School program, bringing delicious food to students every day, and implementing Meatless Mondays, which creates awareness around sustainable meat production and the need to reduce our dependence on factory farmed animals. Thank you Jan and Robert!

Charter School:

Students and teachers at the Charter School have been working outside with IGS Coordinator Rachael Curtin, getting their garden growing and blooming for the season. They have planted their Three Sisters garden, grown lots of tomato seedlings, mulched, moved compost, and much more. High School science teacher Louis Hall has been working with students to tend their own beehives, housed at a neighbor’s house near the school, and integrating a lot of exciting science curriculum into their work. Cafeteria Director Christina Napolitan continues to use local foods regularly in her delicious school meals (when I stopped in the other day it was the delicious yogurt from Mermaid Farm) – way to go, Christina.

Oak Bluffs

Kindergarten and 2nd grade teachers Anne Davey and Ellen Berube are pioneering vermiculture at the O.B. school. This week, at the O.B. plant sale, there will be vermicompost (worm castings), aka “Black Gold”, for sale – produced, packaged and sold by the students. The K-2 “Science Buddies” also hosted the high school Leadership Class – they played games, showed them around the garden and enjoyed an alphabet scavenger hunt together.

The greenhouse is bursting with over 650 plants started by middle school students, led by Leah Dorr and Doug Brush. Tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, peppers, parsley, cilantro…and the list goes on!
Field trips to the FARM Institute are in full effect – 2nd graders are learning about the life cycles of plants, animals and soil!

The O.B. cafeteria, under the direction of Leah Miranda, has been busy planting in their raised beds, and now have greens bursting in the school gardens, ready to go into the lunches.


Everyone at Edgartown School has been has been getting out into the blossoming garden for Gardentime. They are preparing for their annual Garden Celebration on June 10th, where they will be selling ceramic pots, leaf plates and garden markers that students made as part of their Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council project, Art for Gardens’ Sake. The peas are climbing, the potatoes are sprouting and the popcorn is about a foot tall. Their new student-built Cadillac compost bin has been completed and installed. And students are learning a lot about the importance of soil as they screen the old piles and use it to grow plants.


The Tisbury School garden is thriving through the efforts of teachers, students, and IGS Coordinators Berni Cormie and Julie Brand. They expanded the garden this month with a big new bed that extends along the fence beside the garden, right next to the road that passes around the school for all to see. The students planted sunflowers, lilies, and more in their new bed. During after school Garden Club with Julie, students planted beans, peas, watermelons, cucumbers, tomatoes, Swiss chard, arugula, mustard greens, pumpkins, and many, many flowers for the cutting garden. They have also been learning about soil, the foundation of all our gardens and much of what we teach at IGS. They have discussed the benefits of worms, composting items from home, the need to create soil, and nitrogen and carbon sources.

Berni has been cooking up a storm with her after school cooking club. One week this month they made a wheat berry salad with water cress that was out of this world. They also made two kinds of egg dishes using local eggs, local herbs, and Mermaid Farm feta which they did samplings and taste tests of with students in the cafeteria. They were a big hit!

West Tisbury:

green peppersThe entire month of May the WT salad bar has used the school’s garden greens, radishes, asparagus & pea shoots in the salad bar. Using taste test grant money from IGS, Julie Sierpetowski of Produce Connection has been delivering Mermaid Farm Feta & yogurt to the school kitchen, which also went into our salad bar the week of May23rd. They also used the watercress from the high school students in the salad bar.

Cathy Walthers and IGS Coordinator Nicole Cabot have been leading successful taste tests in most of the lower grades at the school.

Many classes have been heading to local farms for field trips this month, including Maggie Chianese’s class who have spent their whole year learning about farms and farming. They went to the FARM Institute for a field trip that focused on the different roles a farmer plays, from veterinarian to weather forecaster to chemist (working with soils) to business manager. The students, who are in 1st and 2nd grades, asked very insightful questions, including asking the FARM Business Manager if her buildings budget had to be very big to keep up with the maintenance of the farm structures. Wow!



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