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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:

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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