Official SUNY ESF DLA Off-Campus Blog

The Reality of Food on Martha’s Vineyard by t.devlin
September 29, 2010, 2:30 pm
Filed under: Martha's Vineyard 2010

The chart above represents the total amount of food imported to the Vineyard in the year 2009, broken down into categories.  An alarming amount of food is imported to the Vineyard as result of developing agricultural lands on the island and taking them out of food production.  The importation of food is detrimental for a number of reasons as trucking food across the country consumes fossil fuels while emitting harmful pollutants.  Purchasing imported food to the Vineyard removes funds from the local community.  Year round residents paid a total of $43,196,679 on food in 2005, and this number is project to increase as the cost of living continues to climb on island.  The data in the chart above was developed using the U.S. Food Market Estimator.  To view other information regarding the importation of food to Martha’s Vineyard, please visit the document Agricultural Self-Sufficiency on Martha’s Vineyard prepared by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in conjunction with the Island Plan.

Despite the decrease of agricultural lands on island, residents of Martha’s Vineyard still identify strongly with the remaining farms.  Many islanders support the idea of living local and moving toward the idea of the “Vineyard Food Basket” shifting focus from importing food to consuming what could viably be grown on island.  To stress the point of islanders valuing working farms on Martha’s Vineyard, here is a list of organizations involved with farming on island:

  • The Agricultural Society
  • The Island Grown Initiative
  • The Farm Institute
  • The Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group
  • The Martha’s Vineyard Conservation Partnership
  • The Dukes County Commission
  • The Martha’s Vineyard Commission
  • The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Alliance

Live well and enjoy the local harvest,



Martha’s Vineyard & Denmark’s Samsø Island – More in Common Than Expected? by t.devlin
September 29, 2010, 9:36 am
Filed under: Martha's Vineyard 2010

Much like Martha’s Vineyard, the island economy of Samsø in Denmark depends on thousands of tourists and has a small core of year round residents active in the island’s planning process. Accessible by ferry, island residents pay more for everything than residents of  mainland Denmark.  However, the island has recently become energy independent, and actually generates more energy than the island uses.   Ten onshore and eleven offshore wind turbines combined with improving efficiency in homes and offices, using renewable resources on and around the island, and active community involvement make energy independence possible.  Tourists still travel to Samsø every year, now with a new interest to see sustainability and renewable energy in action.

Here on island, the Vineyard Energy Project (VEP) over the last few months has been reaching out to island residents discussing the energy resources of Martha’s Vineyard.  Island residents have been in strong support of a community-owned cooperative that would keep the power generated on the Vineyard. Energy independence may be in the future for Martha’s Vineyard as supported by the island plan’s vision for a sustainable future.

Having the opportunity to study in Denmark over the summer, I think there is a lot to learn from the Danish approach to the landscape and land planning.  Take a moment and watch the brief video below to see Jesper Kjems of the Samsø Energy Academy give a brief introduction to energy independence on Samsø:



Creating Sustainable Island Communities by t.devlin
September 21, 2010, 10:28 am
Filed under: Martha's Vineyard 2010

The island currently faces many challenges that threaten its overall existence as a viable community.  The seasonal population flux in the high season causes congested roads, threatens overall island safety, and strains the island infrastructures.  Development pressure and pollution from residential septic systems and fertilizers have polluted the landscape. Mostly rural in character, the low density land use patterns encourage automobile dependency making the promotion of alternate means of transportation difficult.  With an abnormally high cost of living and real estate value, it is difficult to create sustainable year round communities.

However, as a result of the challenges the island faces there are a number of active groups working to keep the island environmentally healthy, safe, and culturally rich.  Specifically, many of the groups pictured above are dedicated to provide affordable island housing, promote and encourage island raised food, and to preserve the characteristics that make the island such a unique environment.  As a result of active planning, there are no roads over two lanes wide, stop lights, or parking meters on island.  A bus service runs regularly transporting people from town to town, and there is an extensive network of bike trails and multi use paths that offer alternatives to personal vehicular transportation.  Active planning on island ensures a positive future in which the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard can be experienced in a sustainable manner.

Until next time,


Towns of Individal Character by t.devlin
September 20, 2010, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Martha's Vineyard 2010

Each town of Martha’s Vineyard is more radically different that the next.  They vary in population numbers, architectural styles, and overall development.  Take a look at the different town center maps above and browse the brief introduction below:

Aquinnah – By far the smallest town on island, Aquinnah can be found in the south west corner and is known for dramatic clay cliffs and the American Indian Wampanoag tribe, which is still very active today.

Chilmark – Boardering Aquinah, Chilmark is well known for the active fishing village of Menemsha.  The Town of Chilmark currently has the highest property values in the state of Massachusetts. The town has an unusually high percentage of def citizens and is where the Obama and Clinton families regularly vacation.

Vineyard Haven/Tisbury – This is the main point of entry to the island via ferry and is located in the northern section of the island.  Vineyard Haven and Tisbury are used interchangably.  This is a dry town.

West Tisbury – This town begins to form the area known as “up island” and is the agricultural center of the island.  Singer/songwriter Carly Simon is a resident.

Oak Bluffs – Oak Bluffs is one of the year round communities on island.  In the early 19th century, members of the Methodist Church pitched tents and held yearly meetings.  This eventually led to the development of the iconic Queen Anne and Gothic Revival cottages with gingerbread trim and unique color palettes that the area is so well known for today.  The campground is now a historic landmark and Oak Bluffs is a major tourist center on island.

Edgartown – Edgartown has deep historical roots in the whaling industry of the 1800’s.  Edgartown is now a popular tourist destination as many of the impressive homes of the whaling captains are fully restored and well maintained.  Paul McCartney, David Letterman, and Diane Sawyer all have homes in Edgartown.

Until next time,


Internship with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission by t.devlin
September 20, 2010, 4:22 pm
Filed under: Martha's Vineyard 2010

For the fall 2010 semester, ESF DLA students Timothy Devlin, Brittany Wells, Gino Dos Santos, and Luke Grasmeyer all have internships with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, commonly known as MVC for short.  The MVC is the regional planning agency of the island encompassing all six townships and was formed in 1974.

Chapter 831 of the Acts of 1977 for the State of Massachusetts, as amended below, is the legislation that recognizes the practices of the MVC

Martha’s Vineyard possesses unique natural, historical, ecological, scientific, cultural and other values . . . These values are being threatened and may be irreversibly damaged by uncoordinated or inappropriate uses of the land.

The development of this internship has been a collaboration between the students and members of the MVC to propose and conduct projects that will be of educational and beneficial experience for both parties.  This semester I am working as a team with my colleague Brittany Wells conducting studies of community identity analysis in different sites across the island.  For new construction projects to blend into the character of a community, the character must first be studied and documented.  For more information on the MVC and to read the Island Plan in full, please visit

Live well and be well,


Greetings from Martha’s Vineyard! by t.devlin
September 20, 2010, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Martha's Vineyard 2010

Martha’s Vineyard is an island seven miles off the south of Cape Cod in the state of Massachusetts.  The name Martha’s Vineyard originated from the abundance of wild grape vines on the island.  Martha was the name of English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold’s mother-in-law and second child.  Gosnold sailed to the island in 1602 from England.  The large image above is a satellite image of the island surrounded by other photographs I have taken on island from within our first week.

Martha’s Vineyard…By The Numbers

  • The island is the 58th largest in the United States, and the third largest on the East Coast, with 87.48 square miles in overall land mass
  • From point to point the island is 9 miles wide and 23 miles long with 124.6 miles of shoreline
  • Year round population is estimated to be 20,000 inflating to a whopping 100,000 during the summer months
  • An additional 25,000 visitors to the island embark and debark the island on ferries daily during peak season
  • It is estimated 56% of homes on island are occupied on a seasonal basis
  • In a recent study done by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the cost of living on island is 60% higher than the national average, and the price of housing is 96% higher than the national average

I am off to do some more exploring and take advantage of September on the island.  The days are still warm, and the flocks of tourists are back on the mainland.  This is the time to be on Martha’s Vineyard.  As overheard in the grocery store, “We get out island back”.