Teachers, farmers and students all gathered at the Grange Hall on Friday to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of Island Grown Schools, a farm education program that now spans the entire living memory of many Island students.

The warm, doughy scent of Lebanese man'oushe bread, cooked on a convex saj griddle, greeted people as they entered the door. Food was plentiful, provided by Island Grown Initiative senior consultant and Epicure chef Naji Boustany. The greens were Island-grown, and the apple cider was hot.

As guests gathered to mingle and chat, Good Night Louise played folksy tunes, operating with two guitars, a stand-up bass and a whole collection of harmonicas.

Island Grown Schools founder Noli Taylor (left) with Emily Armstrong. — Ray Ewing

Colorful artwork created by Island Grown Schools students hung on the spare, dark beams of the old wooden hall. Once dinner was eaten, the crowd moved upstairs to watch a short film documenting the journey of the program.

“Don’t be afraid of the front row!” announced Brian Ditchfield, founder of Circuit Films, which produced the video.

“Who’s watching the farm while you’re all here,” joked IGI executive director Rebecca Haag, before introducing the film which tracked the origin and impact of Island Grown Schools. “These women have had such an impact on the next generation of kids,” she said referring to the women who started the program. “They’re gonna be the food advocates of the future.”

In the film, founder Noli Taylor described the meeting where the idea for Island Grown was first formulated; the program was launched in 2007.

Food, of course, was served. — Ray Ewing

“It was a stormy night in December,” she said. “You could just feel that something important was happening.”

In a tearful speech following the film, Ms. Taylor thanked the “incredible parade of leaders” who have contributed since that first meeting.

“It all seemed so distant,” she said. “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into…I hope you all feel really proud.”

A number of people personally impacted by the program also spoke. Astrid Tilton, who first encountered IGI as a high school student, is now the organization’s gleaning manager. That program, which includes student participation in the gleaning and also supplies schools with local produce, harvested 48,000 pounds of produce last year.

Alex and Naji from Epicure MV — Ray Ewing

Ms. Tilton said one of her favorite parts of the job is introducing kids to local food for the first time, to show them that “it’s fun to grow food, and it’s fun to eat delicious food, and it’s fun to eat a carrot covered in dirt.”

Wren Robinson, a current charter school student, took the stage after being awarded first place in the Island Grown Schools art contest. Her work was displayed downstairs and featured sunflower seeds parachuting down into a garden to be planted. Ms. Robinson recalled planting seeds in the garden while in preschool.

“I am so excited to give back to them after they have given so much to me over a decade,” she said.

IGI education coordinator Emily Armstrong closed out the presentation by suggesting the storytelling continue.

“It’s a really exciting time to be working at Island Grown,” she said. “I’m sure we all have more stories to share, so we can go downstairs and keep eating food and keep sharing stories.”