Most Shared

Remember 'Shutter Island'? Now it's an urban farm for low-income families.

After years of vacancy, this island is returning to its original 1600s purpose as a farm.

Remember 'Shutter Island'? Now it's an urban farm for low-income families.

You might recognize Boston's Long Island as the basis for the thriller movie and book "Shutter Island."

Based on a Dennis Lehane novel and set in an isolated asylum in the Boston Harbor, the movie is probably best remembered as Leonardo DiCaprio's second theatrical attempt at a Boston accent, for better or for worse.

Photo via ENTRTNMNT/YouTube.


In real life, though, the 225-acre Long Island has served a number of interesting purposes over the years.

Local Native American tribes used it as a farm when the English settlers first arrived in the 1600s. And yes, it was once home to a mental institution — though not quite as intense as the one depicted in the movie.

But over the years, the island has also functioned as a military fort, a hotel and resort, a refuge base for ex-Nazi scientists, a home for unwed mothers, and an addiction rehab center.

Photo by Doc Searls/Flickr.

For nearly 20 years, until 2014, the island even served as the city's largest homeless shelter.

It once housed more than 700 people. But it wasn't just any shelter: Residents also worked a large farm plot while they lived there, growing their own food and learning crucial new skills for after they left the island.

However, in 2014, city engineers condemned the only bridge out to the island as being unstable. And as a result, people without homes and in recovery were rushed off the island and into various group homes on the mainland, leaving farm fields, equipment, and other facilities abandoned.

Photo by Monika Schroeder/B.good, used with permission.

But now, after several years of vacancy, Long Island has returned to its original 1600s purpose as a farm ... with a clever modern twist.

It all started when a local restaurant chain called B.good screwed up while catering a 700-person event for Camp Harbor View, which creates summer programs that cater to at-risk Boston youth from low-income communities. B.good co-founder Jon Olinto figured that he owed an apology and a personal visit to the organizers of the event.

But when he went to speak with the staff at Camp Harbor View, Olinto ended up in discussion about the potential for that abandoned farm on Long Island instead, where the camp used to host some of their programs.

"It was all about, how we can build community, how can we keep this relationship," Olinto said. "It was never about, 'We can launch a farm.' I mean, getting on a boat? That's ridiculous." (Yes, the bridge is still out, so all transportation for now to and from the island is done by boat.)

Photo by Monika Schroeder/B.good, used with permission.

The Hannah Farm project came together fast and furiously.

The main idea was simple: B.good would take over management of the three acres of abandoned farmland on Long Island to grow a wide range of produce, from green and yellow beans to cherry tomatoes to kale and beets and radishes and herbs.

During the summer, they'd also be helped by local teenagers through Camp Harbor View. The teens would help out around the farm while also learning skills for potential future employment.

The summer camp aspect of the program would include a "Farm Club," where campers would learn how to prepare wholesome and delicious meals from the produce that they themselves had farmed. And campers would be provided with breakfast and lunch while working on the farm, too.

75% of the food grown at Hannah Farms would go to the working teenagers and other low-income families in the area, with the other 25% going to local B.good restaurants.

Photo by Monika Schroeder/B.good, used with permission.

The farm's first harvest at the end of August 2016 provided nearly 700 pounds of food to over 250 low-income families. And that was just the beginning.

Due to a late start, Olinto only expects about 20,000 pounds of produce by the end of the first fall harvest. But he fully expects to double that in 2017.

"At the core of B.good from the beginning, we've always tried to do something positive and I think we have a history for that," Olinto said.

In the future, they also plan to partner with Fair Foods, a long-running Boston-based nonprofit that sells fresh, affordable produce to families in low-income areas. And they'll continue their "Farm Club" food education program through the school year, too, as part of a new teen center initiative in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood.

Photo by Monika Schroeder/B.good, used with permission.

Can a for-profit company do good, help others, and help themselves? Olinto believes it's possible.

"Entrepreneurial spirit creates change, and it can be a force for good," he says. "And I hope in some small way that there can be a model for how companies can help improve communities."

For the hundreds of families being fed by the once-defunct farm on the former Shutter Island, that mission is certainly making a difference.

Check out what the folks at B.good are up to, below:

True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Last year, we shared the sad impact that plastic pollution has had on some of our planet's most beautiful places. With recycling not turning out to be the savior it was made out to be, solutions to our growing plastic problem can seem distant and complex.

We have seen some glimmers of hope from both human innovation and nature itself, however. In 2016, a bacteria that evolved with the ability to break down plastic was discovered in a Japanese waste site. Two years later, scientists managed to engineer the mutant plastic-eating enzyme they called PETase—named for polyethylene terephthalate, the most common plastic found in bottles and food packaging—in a lab.

Here's an explainer of how those enzymes work:

Ending Plastic Pollution with Designer Bacteria youtu.be

Now researchers have revealed another game-changer in the plastic-eater—a super-enzyme that can break down plastic six times faster than PETase alone.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather has become a beloved voice of reason, knowledge, and experience for many Americans on social media the past few years. At 88, Rather has seen more than most of us, and as a journalist, he's had a front row seat as modern history has played out. He combines that lifetime of experience and perspective with an eloquence that hearkens to a time when eloquence mattered, he called us to our common American ideals with his book "What Unites Us," and he comforts many of is with his repeated message to stay "steady" through the turmoil the U.S. has been experiencing.

All of that is to say, when Dan Rather sounds the alarm, you know we've reached a critical historical moment.

Yesterday, President Trump again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the election when directly asked if he would—yet another democratic norm being toppled. Afterward, Rather posted the following words of wisdom—and warning—to his nearly three million Facebook fans:


Keep Reading Show less
via DanielandDavid2 / Instagram

Editor's Note: We used "black" in lowercase for our headline and the body of this story in accordance with emerging guidelines from the Associated Press and other trusted news outlets who are using uppercase "Black" in reference to American descendants of the diaspora of individuals forcibly brought from Africa as slaves. As part of our ongoing efforts to be transparent and communicate choices with our readership, we've included this note for clarity. The original story begins below.

On February 26, 2019, Stacy and Babajide Omirin of Lagos, Nigeria got quite the shock. When Stacy delivered identical twins through C-section one came out black and the other, white.

The parents knew they were having identical twins and expected them to look exactly the same. But one has a white-looking complexion and golden, wavy hair.

"It was a massive surprise," Stacy told The Daily Mail. "Daniel came first, and then the nurse said the second baby has golden hair. I thought how can this be possible. I looked down and saw David, he was completely white."

Keep Reading Show less