Melinda Rabbitt DeFeo

Melinda Rabbitt DeFeo

My interest in growing things began in the hills of Chilmark where my roots run deep in family farming. A native of Martha’s Vineyard Island with a lineage in whaling & public service, I’ve inherited a deep sense of place and a strong commitment for preserving the island’s cultural heritage through the raising and advocacy for eating local food.

The Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship will greatly enhance my ability to contribute and guide the food and agriculture initiatives taking place on our island, especially the ones that reach children. In addition to being engaged in coordinating school gardens, farm visits, and taste testing local foods through the Island Grown Schools Program, I am busy teaching in and out of classrooms and mentoring teachers Island-wide. My Fellowship education plan includes course work, service-learning experiences, and professional development opportunities designed to assist our community in taking the next steps to sustain this work.

As Islanders, I feel, we are blessed with a rare opportunity to effect significant and sustainable change
within our own food shed that will in due course serve as a guiding model for other communities.  My accomplishments in conjunction with Island Grown Initiative, Slow Food MV, Polly Hill Arboretum, The FARM Institute and the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society offer vivid examples of what is possible when like-minded organizations collaborate towards the same goal.  Community partnerships such as these are essential in connecting the dots to inspire others to influence sustainable change.

My Internship work in conjunction with the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools Superintendents’ office illustrates a strong desire by our educational leaders to build a K-12 agriculture based curriculum into the regular teaching protocols of Island educators. Daily, it is becoming clearer that we must reverse the course of the deteriorating national food system. Ultimately, today’s students will be the next generation of consumers that will drive the health of our planet. It my desire to empower our community in such a way that future generations will be raised with an intuitive understanding of how food and farming affect each and every day.

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