Food for thought: Giving thanks for IGI’s Community Lunch Program

Summer memories are typically made at the beach, on vacation with friends, at barbeques, or out on the water. This summer, one of my lasting memories will be from my visit to the Boys & Girls Club of Martha’s Vineyard. Last week I had the opportunity to stop by the Club during lunchtime.

There, I witnessed over seventy five campers happily feasting on a locally sourced meal of Morning Glory Farm kale, corn and bbq pulled pork, beans, rice, and ‘power balls’! It was not a special occasion or an end of summer celebration. It was just another day at camp, and just another lunch, but it was special.

Their plentiful plates were provided by Island Grown School’s Community Lunch program, which has been serving the Boys & Girls Club campers all summer–in addition to serving regular lunches at the Oak Bluffs Library, the West Tisbury Library, the Family Center, and the Public Schools English Language Learner Summer Program. That’s a lot of lunches, and a lot of work.

As Board President of Island Grown Initiative I care a lot about food equity within my community, and to see this program in action was incredibly inspiring. Originally the program was designed to help children that receive subsidized school lunches during the year be ensured food throughout the summer.

The program has expanded to help guarantee that the greater community could experience healthy, seasonal, whole-foods based meals, while supporting our local and regional farmers, of which we’re fortunate to have so many! The program has successfully filled the void while school’s out of session this summer, and hundreds of additional mouths have been fed because of it.

From July 7 to August 17 a dedicated team of staff and volunteers has been pumping out locally sourced meals to the Island’s children, elderly, and anyone else who’s wanted to enjoy good, free food. It’s the second year IGI has been able to provide these healthy, delicious lunches during the summer, free, and for all ages. That’s good, clean, free food, available to anyone that needs it five days a week–that’s powerful stuff.

This year the program served even more kids, to accommodate the increasing number of schoolchildren on free or reduced priced meal plans. According to Noli Taylor, community food education director for IGI, more than 40 percent of the student population on Martha’s Vineyard are provided with subsidized lunch, a number that has increased steadily over the years. Despite the affluence of many visitors and residents on Martha’s Vineyard, there are also many families here struggling to provide adequate meals for their children.

With the Community Lunch Program parents could be assured their kids had access to a good meal all week, while elders had an opportunity to get out, get fed, and socialize. Through IGI’s work with the Food Equity Network they realized it wasn’t just the little ones who could benefit from a meal with friends–after all, isn’t it something we all look forward to? Lunches included fresh produce from the Island Grown gleaning program, a la carte offerings, and food that was culturally appropriate, like traditional Brazilian cuisine.

Jean Zdankowski, chef from the Oak Bluffs School, busily prepared the lunches day in and day out this summer, utilizing the culinary arts kitchen at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Thanks to an incredible crew of dedicated volunteers, which numbered over 100 throughout the season, the program was a major feat of coordination and a relentless commitment. The volunteers I met were beaming with pride and happy to be be a part of the program, not to mention thrilled to be sharing a lot of laughs with the kids.

While summer winds down so will the program, and back to school the children will go. There they’ll be treated to even more meals provided in part by the work of IGI and Island Grown Schools (IGS). The food service directors in each of the Island’s schools work hard to produce school lunches throughout the year, in partnership with IGS and local farms, to offer delicious, nutritious, healthy meals. These programs serve as a constant reminder of the commitment of our community to ensure we have healthy kids eating healthy food–paving the way for a healthier future for Martha’s Vineyard.

 

 

 

It’s all in the details: Special considerations for planning a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard

We once heard that Martha’s Vineyard is only second to Las Vegas as the most popular wedding destination. It’s hard to believe that a seasonal island that is only 100 square miles could support such a booming industry–we are small but mighty! We’re honored to be one of a select number of wedding vendors that are able to successfully tackle and execute some pretty incredible events here.

Given the unique nature of Martha’s Vineyard (we’re surrounded by water after all and the Island gets pretty sleepy for at least 4 months out of the year) there are some extra things that must be taken into consideration to ensure getting hitched goes off without a hitch.

First of all you’ll need to get your guests here and thoroughly communicate the logistics involved, and be specific. Make sure to have a detailed wedding website or information card in your invitation that explains some of the nuances of getting to and around the Island. There is no bridge, no tunnel. It will require a boat or a plane and the various options available depend on the season, not to mention service can be complicated by the weather. Cape Air offers year round air travel from Boston to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Delta, JetBlue, and American Airlines offer seasonal service from various locations including New York and Washington D.C. For additional details visit the Martha’s Vineyard airport website here

The airport itself is pretty small and pretty adorable. No long security lines so no need to allot a bunch of extra time when departing, and when arriving your luggage will follow you off the plane shortly thereafter. (Fun fact: the show Wings was set in a fictional Nantucket airport but is similar in size and scope to our own Martha’s Vineyard Airport). Visit our local Chamber of Commerce website for additional information on getting here that could be helpful to your guests.

If your guests are opting for the maritime route they have a number of different ferry liners to choose from, which again is dependent on the season. There are several seasonal ferries available including the Island Queen from Falmouth, Hyline Cruises from Hyannis, Seastreak from New York and New Bedford and the Rhode Island Fast Ferry from North Kingston.

The Steamship Authority bills itself as the ‘lifeline to the Islands’ and is the only ferry that operates year round and transports cars to the Island. It leaves from Woods Hole on Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard several times a day. It’s important to note that if you plan on bringing your car over you must make an advance reservation (via phone or online) with the Steamship Authority, and plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early. Reservations for the summer season often book up months in advance so be sure to make your reservation as soon as possible. If you are a walk on passenger you must allot extra time to park in the designated lots and take a 15-20 minute shuttle ride down to the boat, where you can purchase passenger tickets at the terminal. Car rentals are available on Martha’s Vineyard but note that they can be significantly more expensive than off-Island prices–we have to import a lot of things here including the cars!

Once your guests have successfully arrived to the Island it’s time to help them get to their hotel or rental property. If you’re looking to host a big group and reserve a block of hotel rooms you will want to contact Summercamp in Oak Bluffs, or the Harbor View Hotel, Clarion Inn, the Kelley House, and the Winnetu Oceanside Resort all located in Edgartown. These are some of the Island’s largest hotels that can accommodate your special event, and provide appropriate amenities for a big group. Another popular option for housing big groups is to rent a private home. AirBnb, VRBO and homeaway.com all offer several listings on the Island, as well as local real estate companies like Point B Realty, Sandpiper Realty and Tea Lane Associates.

Be mindful of the accommodations you choose based on where your ceremony and reception are taking place, the Island is actually bigger than many people think. For example the Winnetu is located in Katama in Edgartown. If you have guests stay there and your wedding is taking place at the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark (a gorgeous venue offering breathtaking views of Menemsha sunsets) your guests will be traveling 20 miles, essentially from one end of the Island to the other. This isn’t a problem but it’s good to understand the geography of the Island as you plan around it. There are various transportation companies that offer private charter service and specialize in weddings and large group transportation including Martha’s Vineyard Sightseeing and Resort Man. There are also several cab companies available including women (and sister!) owned Lighthouse Taxi as well as Uber and Lyft service.

Another important thing to note is that most of your vendors will be small businesses, and given the demand for weddings and limited vendors they may book up far in advance. We recently rounded up our favorite venues, caterers, musicians, florists, bakers, locally inspired favors and trusted beauty professionals that you can read about here.

As for choosing a wedding photographer on Martha’s Vineyard we have decades of experience capturing dream Island weddings and would of course love to assist you with any photography services for your affair. We also recommend working with one of our local wedding planners including With Grace and KG Events to help you best navigate the Island’s resources and make it the momentous affair you’ve always dreamed of.

For additional wedding planning tips check out our wedding related blog posts and visit Martha’s Vineyard Island Weddings for a complete list of vendors, stories and inspiration.

Dressing for success when it comes to Family Portraits

We capture a lot of Family Portraits on Martha’s Vineyard this time of year. One of the first and most obvious questions we hear from parents is “what should we all wear?” It’s understandable, we all want to look our best, and Family Photos are a special occasion to get everyone together. Plus, like any professional photograph, you want to love the results! Fear not, with a few simple strategies–how to properly coordinate colors and patterns, keep it comfy and true to your individual style–you’ll have your brood outfitted appropriately in no time.

Here’s our tips for choosing your Family Portrait wardrobe wisely. Keep in mind these considerations are just as effective when organizing a DIY family photo shoot too. And if you’re still looking for some professional shots this season get in touch, we’d love to help you work our magic with your family!

Dress for the location. First and foremost you want your family dressed comfortably and appropriately for the place you’ll be taking your photos. Consider the ground you’ll be walking on. If you’re planning a beach shoot your family should be in shoes that can get sandy and can easily be taken off for some shoreline fun. And heels don’t make any sense here. Select shoes that your family can easily walk in and are tried and true. New shoes, especially on kids, can be a gamble and may result in cranky children, something we want to avoid, avoid, avoid on Family Portrait Day!

Dress for the weather. This might sound obvious but really think about the temperature and time of day you’re taking the photo. The Vineyard cools down very quickly in the evening and locations near the water can come with a chilly breeze. If you’re taking photos later in the day be sure to plan for sweaters or jackets as part of your family’s outfit and bring them along to the shoot. Our three favorite words when it comes to wardrobe selection are layers, layers, and layers.

Choose props and accessories wisely. Hats can look great on kids and can make for some extra cute shots, big bows and headbands too! Be mindful that it could be windy by the water so you’ll want something to tie back long hair if necessary (we always carry extra ties too). Don’t try to force your child into clothing or accessories they’re weary of or uncomfortable in. That goes for you as well. Everyone photographs best when they feel like themselves! If you have a favorite top or go–to outfit that you consider a second skin don’t be afraid to wear it.  

Select lightweight, breathable fabrics. When you’re posing you want to be able to move freely and comfortably cycle through both standing and sitting. This is hard to do when clothes are too tight and provide limited mobility. Plus its summer on Martha’s Vineyard so casual comfort and casual is what it’s all about!

Coordinate, but don’t try too hard to match. There’s an important line to maintain between properly coordinating your family’s clothes and being ‘matchy matchy.’ You want to complement each other’s outfits by choosing colors that work well together, but not dressing identically so everyone blends in as one. We like to provide our family portrait clients with some sample color palettes as a guide if they’re looking for inspiration.

A classic, nautical palette that compliments the natural backdrop of the Island is a combination of blues and whites. Don your family in different shades of blue–think navy, sky and royal, along with white and khaki or denim. If you’re looking for something bolder and brighter a la Lily Pulitzer, work off of a palette of coral, and bright blue or teal, and pink. And of course Nantucket red, it’s Martha’s Vineyard after all! You can pair that with whites and denims and light pastels like muted yellows and mint green, for a more understated look with color.

Don’t be afraid to dress your family in prints, as long as they complement one another, and avoid styles that are too bold or flashy. Choose smaller patterns that won’t distract from the subject matter. Also avoid wearing branded clothing with words or logos, as again these styles can draw attention away from the subject.

If you’re on Martha’s Vineyard and need some last minute staples check out Basics in downtown Oak Bluffs for simple, stylish pieces for the whole family–and yes, we have Vineyard Vines too. If you’re still undecided about what to wear, pack a second outfit to bring to the session, and do the same for any small children that might get messy.

For even more tips on preparing for the perfect Family Portrait click here. Just remember the point of family portraits is to document authentic family connections that will provide lasting memories, while having fun in the meantime! Remember to be yourself and good photos will follow.

What’s hot this summer: Can’t miss happenings on Martha’s Vineyard

It’s finally here! The season we’ve all been waiting for, well most of us anyway. Some Islanders actually get discouraged this time of year but I absolutely love it. I wait all year for summer and thrive off of the faster tempo of the Island. There’s an energy in the air that you can’t find anywhere else. On top of that loving feeling, I get to reconnect with summer friends and get outside in the beautiful weather and take advantage of this dynamic place. There’s nothing more electric than a Vineyard summer.

Each year I’m bombarded with news of the latest parties, events and activities. I want to do it all but time is precious, so I’ve drilled down my summer bucket list of the absolute can’t-miss things to do on Martha’s Vineyard this summer. Prepare yourself for fresh food, unique Island experiences and a whole lot of time outdoors–fingers crossed for a season of perfect days.

Maker’s Table series from Farm. Field. Sea. Take your pick from a variety of “dynamic dining adventures” that highlight the Island’s best resources and the talents of local chefs, farmers, shellfish cultivators, fishers, educators, authors, musicians, and visual artists during this summer’s Maker’s Table series, a new initiative from Farm. Field. Sea. Known for offering the summer’s most unique and authentic Island experiences Farm. Field. Sea. has organized several pop-up events that are thoughtfully curated around delicious food and inspiring activities at secret locations around the Island.


Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board adventures. I love all things water and try to get my exercise outdoors whenever I can, after all I’ve waited all year for this weather! A great outlet is Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, where they offer self guided kayak and stand up paddleboard quest by day or moonrise kayak tours by night on Sengekontacket Pond. See nesting shorebirds feed and frolic, explore the salt marsh and search for pond wildlife, or witness the sun set, the stars twinkle, and the moon rise from the water. Check out their full line up of summer events.

Load up on local goodies and eat your veggies at the Farmer’s Market. Nothing beats a trip to the West Tisbury Farmer’s Market where you can pick up a variety of local produce and food products all in one place. Every Wednesday and Saturday from 9am–12pm our local farmers and food purveyors set up shop at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury to deliver you a true taste of the Vineyard, plus live music too! Be sure to bring reusable bags and try a little bit of everything.

Explore Polly Hill Arboretum. Polly Hill in West Tisbury is one of my favorite places because of its diverse landscape and gorgeous gardens– I often want to go there just to relax. I always learn about a new plant or species every time I go, it’s a living breathing museum. You’ll find rare trees and shrubs from around the world set among stone walls, meadows, and fields, including Polly’s famous North Tisbury azaleas, the national stewartia collection, camellias, hollies, rhododendrons, crabapples, conifers, magnolias, and many more. Pack a picnic and a good book and escape to a place of absolute serenity for the afternoon.

Oyster tours in Vineyard Sound. Experience the magic of our local briny bivalves first hand from the guys of Cottage City Oysters. Purveyors Dan and Greg Martino will introduce you to their nursery and you’ll see the harvest process in action. Complete with a tasting of the Island’s best oysters and a shucking demonstration so you can go home and impress your friends.

Dine overlooking the Aquinnah Cliffs. Even if you’ve ventured up to the Cliffs before there’s nothing quite like dining at the Aquinnah Shop restaurant, and taking in the view over a relaxing meal. Located at the Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah, it’s one of the oldest restaurants on the Vineyard with some of the best outdoor dining on-Island. They serve dinner Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and offer lunch and breakfast too.

Be mesmerized by Built on Stilts. Now in it’s 22nd year, the Built on Stilts festival is an annual showcase of some of the most talented dancers on-Island, and guest performers from all over. Each year the festival takes over the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs and amazes spectators of all ages. And the best part–there’s no tickets or reservations required, all shows are free to the public and audiences may come and go as they please, so there’s no reason to not check it out. Look for it this summer, happening August 9–11 and 18–21.

Pop Up Dinners at the Beach Plum. Another magical place to enjoy dinner is the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark. Their picturesque patio looks out over Menemsha harbor and is home to some of the most spectacular sunsets you’ll ever see. This summer chef John Thurgood is hosting a series of pop up dinners celebrating the bounty of the Island with local guest chefs throughout the season. Be sure to mark your calendars and prepare for the finest food around.

Go take a hike. I recently partnered with Sheriff’s Meadow to help them launch their TrailsMV app, an iOS app that helps hikers and outdoor enthusiasts better navigate over 100 Martha’s Vineyard trails and conservation properties, it’s a great tool to help you from getting lost in the Island’s more out-of-the way locales. Be sure to download the app and discover some of the Island’s most scenic locations. Our favorites include Menemsha Hills Reservation and Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary. Is there anywhere more beautiful than this?

Take a tour of Thimble Farm, with Island Grown Initiative. Since 2011 Island Grown Initiative has operated Thimble Farm as their Farm Hub, an education resources site for farmers and growers, offering demonstration aquaponic and hydroponic greenhouse production, workshops and trainings, a community garden, and an orchard. Tour the Vineyard Haven farm every Tuesday and Thursday and check out the impressive farm and learn more about the work of this incredible organization. And their farm stand is open everyday (but Wednesday) from 9am to 3pm.



 

Give peas a chance: June’s Harvest of the Month

Generally speaking peas still get a bad rep. Like Brussels Sprouts, some people never warmed up to them, or are burned by childhood memories of their parents trying to force feed them green vegetables. Not on Martha’s Vineyard. Here peas are celebrated and admired, especially among the youth of our community.

This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight peas as their Harvest of the Month (HOM). It’s the perfect crop to represent the essence of the HOM program and the value and importance of better connecting kids to their locally available produce. I like to consider peas a gateway vegetable. If you can get your kids to take part in the growing process, and feast on peas (especially easy with the sugar snap variety), you can get them hooked on vegetables all together.

I recently attended a grand tasting event (so to speak) at the West Tisbury School. 

Throughout the month IGS hosts several “taste tests” where they serve the Harvest of the Month as an ingredient in the local school cafeterias, to encourage students to taste it in a new or creative way and understand its flavor potential. 

The farm-to-school movement at the West Tisbury School is an especially impressive program, and Jenny DeVivo, West Tisbury School cafeteria director and rockstar head chef (she used to be a traveling recording artist so that title is two-fold) always makes it fun and interactive.

Morning Glory Farm offers another clever way to encourage participation in pea harvesting with their annual pea contest. Each year the Island’s largest operating farm hosts a “First Peas to the Table” contest inspired by Thomas Jefferson. In the 18th century Jefferson led a contest among his neighbors at Monticello garden every spring to see who could be the first to grow a cup of shelling peas, and the tradition continues on Martha’s Vineyard today.

Now in its fifth year at Morning Glory, the first person to bring a measured cup of mature shelled peas receives a Morning Glory Farm gift certificate, a voucher for a free trip to the salad bar and a delicious risotto prepared by chef Meg Athearn from the winning peas, plus bragging rights of course.

The winner is also crowned, sashed and photographed for Morning Glory’s archives–and posterity–and left to bask in the glory of their delicious achievement! This year Katie Ruppel took the prize.

What’s not to love about peas? Peas are my favorite vegetable to grow in my garden, and are one of the first things I plant once the ground thaws. They get me excited for spring, and the potential of the new season, plus they’re delicious and packed with vitamin K, A, C and fiber, folate, thiamine, protein and iron. They’re easy to throw in salad raw, or simply sautéed with garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Sugar snap peas provide a welcome crunch in rice or stir fry, and shelled peas make a good addition to pasta and risotto.

Tis the season for potlucks, BBQs, and beach picnics, so don’t forget about the powerful pea next time you’re preparing your menus. Try this easy Pea Pesto Salad recipe, prepared by Harvest of the Month chef Gabrielle Chronister, for a fresh, savory side to celebrate the season’s palatable peas.

Pea Pesto Potato Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup green peas (fresh and blanched for 1 minute or frozen and thawed)

1 cup fresh basil

2 ½ tbl nutritional yeast

1 tbl fresh lemon juice

1 medium garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbl extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ lbs baby or new potatoes (quartered or sliced in half if small)

Directions:

Place potatoes and ½ tsp of kosher salt in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer 10-15 minutes until fork tender. Drain potatoes and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, place remainder of ingredients except olive oil, in a food processor and pulse ingredients until everything is combined and evenly ground. With the machine running, slowly pour olive oil into the mixture and blend until smooth and creamy.

Combine the potatoes with the pesto in a serving dish, making sure all potatoes are coated in pesto. Salt if needed. Top with more nutritional yeast and fresh torn basil. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. Enjoy!