On Monday evening Island Grown Initiative was honored twice, first with a legislative citation presented by Cape and Islands Rep. Dylan Fernandes and then with the 37th annual Creative Living Award from the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard.

Permanent Endowment executive director Emily Bramhall lauded IGI for its can-do spirit. — Albert O. Fischer 3rd

About 80 people turned out for the gathering in the hydroponic-aquaponic greenhouse at the former Thimble Farm in Vineyard Haven farm, now known as the Farm Hub for IGI.

Mr. Fernandes praised Island Grown’s advocacy for food equity, better school meals and less wasted food, not only on Martha’s Vineyard, but statewide.

“Island Grown Initiative is an incredible organization and they move the needle on the Island every day,” Mr. Fernandes said.

“They also bring their charm and their wit and their can-do attitude to the statehouse and come up and advocate there to get meaningful things done across the commonwealth,” he said.

That can-do attitude is what earned the nonprofit this year’s Creative Living Award, established in 1983 in memory of Ruth Bogan of Oak Bluffs.

“Ruth Bogan had an independent and lively spirit,” Permanent Endowment executive director Emily Bramhall told the audience, some seated on hay bales and in folding chairs while others stood between rows of hydroponic plants and tables of squash, sweet potatoes and onions set out to cure.

“She could fix anything and believed anyone could solve any problem if they put their mind to it,” Ms. Bramhall said of Ms. Bogan.

Cape and Islands Rep. Dylan Fernandes presented a special citation. — Albert O. Fischer 3rd

“Clearly, she would have appreciated IGI. Island Grown Initiative has shown creativity and tenacity from the very start.”

Founded in 2006 by Islanders seeking to preserve local farms and food sources and promote healthy eating, the nonprofit soon began to sprout programs throughout the community.

School gardens, summer community lunches, a mobile food market, volunteer gleaning teams and a community composting program that includes food waste pickup at more than 50 Island restaurants are among Island Grown’s more visible activities.

The Island Grown Schools division, led by Noli Taylor, weathered rejections at every campus before winning over school administrators the following year.

“To this day, each school has its own teaching garden and offers healthy home-cooked meals,” Ms. Bramhall said.

“We’ve really applauded that can-do spirit.”

Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal member and Permanent Endowment board member Adriana Ignacio took the podium to say the mobile market has made quality, affordable food more accessible in her town.

“It didn’t just come to Aquinnah, it came to the tribe. It came to the tribal housing and it came to the tribal community,” which has many mothers with young children, Ms. Ignacio said.

“Every year, more and more people are taking advantage of this. It’s one of the things they remember: Aquinnah, 5:30, Mondays, get there.”

Chris Porterfield, who runs the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital food program, also praised the mobile market, which added a stop at the hospital this year to serve staff, outpatients and Windemere residents.

Mobile market staffers “come in with such a thrill for what they do,” he said. “They love what they do, and when they come in on Fridays, you’d think we were their busiest stop.”

Ms. Haag thanked her staff, board members, volunteers and donors as well as the Island’s farmers, recognizing each group in turn for its hard work and support. — Albert O. Fischer 3rd

Heather Quinn, director of early childhood programs at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, said her young pupils look forward to weekly visits from Island Grown Schools and that their annual tour of the Farm Hub is “easily the most popular field trip of the year” for parents and children alike.

West Tisbury library director Beth Kramer spoke up for the community meals Island Grown has provided in recent years. While her library has long made meals available during school breaks, she said the Island Grown food is of much higher quality.

“The food that we’ve served since the collaboration with IGI is unbelievable,” Ms. Kramer said.

Island Grown’s summer community lunch program served 5,500 meals at six locations in 2019, up from 3,200 at five sites in 2018, Ms. Kramer said, with 600 of this year’s meals served at her library.

Ms. Kramer said the library also has distributed more than 500 countertop composting buckets provided by Island Grown.

“It’s shifted people’s minds,” she said of the nonprofit’s work. “They created a shift that has lifted all of us up . . . Thank you to IGI for making it so cool to care.”

Rebecca Haag, who took over as executive director of Island Grown three years ago after a career in health and human services including as head of AIDS Action, said the job has changed her life.

“I never imagined that I would be discussing compost recipes, or kneeling in the fields to harvest carrots, or sitting with fifth-graders having lunch with a meal that they actually prepared,” she said.

Ms. Haag thanked her staff, board members, volunteers and donors as well as the Island’s farmers, recognizing each group in turn for its hard work and support.

IGI is the fifth organization to win the Creative Living Awards trophy — a smooth glacial rock from the Island’s shore, mounted on a low pedestal — and $1,000 prize, which nearly always go to individuals.

Among the former honorees who attended Tuesday’s celebration were painter and farmer Allen Whiting, who received the award in 1994, and farmer Clarissa Allen, who with her husband Mitchell Posin accepted it in 2008.