The Island Grown Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting locally grown food and its farmers on the Vineyard, has been granted $10,000 to improve and expand its poultry program.
The grant was awarded by Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education from its sustainable community innovation category, which fosters connections between sustainable agriculture and rural communities. Northeast Sustainable is a grants program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The initiative will use the money to expand the scope and usage of its mobile processing unit, as well as to further develop educational opportunities for poultry farmers and backyard growers on Island.
The initiative first purchased and used their mobile processing unit last spring. For an $80 farm-call fee, trained professionals bring the unit directly to a farm and kill and clean the chickens at a price competitive with those charged by off-Island slaughterhouses. For the Island farmer or backyard grower, the unit makes a ferry trip unnecessary and reduces the stress for both animals and farmer. Last season, seven farmers and growers hired the unit to process about 550 birds.
The initiative will use the grant money to purchase new equipment for the unit so that turkeys can be processed as well as chickens. The grant will also allow members from the initiative to visit other rural communities and talk with them about the unit. Finally, funds also will go toward hosting a poultry day similar to the one the initiative hosted this winter.
“The first was a great success,” Ali Berlow, executive director of the initiative, said of the event, which drew roughly 150 poultry enthusiasts over the course of the day.
“The goal is getting local meat into as many possible outlets as our farmers can support,” she said of the poultry program.