Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Friend,
Last Saturday, Isles’ Legacy Celebration brought over 300 people to our new Social Profit Center for a big party.  Folks from all walks of my life turned out.  That diverse room reminded all of us of what it takes to impact the world – not just a village, but multiple villages across old boundaries that too often constrain us! 
Thanks to all the family, friends, donors, colleagues and supporters that made it such a special evening.  For those that couldn’t join us, take look at a short video.
This time of year, we give thanks to you for helping us build healthy, fun places and communities – alongside those that live and work there!  Our work is literally impossible without you.
In the coming days, you’ll receive a request for support from Isles, describing the impacts you made possible in 2019.  We’ll also launch our online #GivingTuesday campaign just after Thanksgiving.
At a time when so many question fact from fiction, good from bad, isn’t it good to know that vital work moves forward here, at a very low cost?  You can help grow it this holiday season! 
As I retire from the CEO position after 39 years, I give thanks for the chance to be a builder at Isles, and to create a productive career along the way.  As we transition, your support is needed more than ever. 
Thanks again for being there for Isles – and me!

From all of us here at Isles, have a very Happy Thanksgiving.
-Marty Johnson

September 2019 Update

For 5 years, I’ve been half-time at Isles, and half-time faculty, teaching Social Entrepreneurship, and sharing Isles’ lessons with Princeton students – next generation leaders. In my absence, COO John Hart provided essential leadership. We maintained audacious goals, and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.
So after 38 years, I’ve decided to step down as Isles’ CEO at year’s end.

Just writing that sentence is a bit overwhelming. In April of 1981, we were students at Princeton, driving to Trenton to incorporate Isles. Uncertain of what we set in motion with our dreams and first-year budget of $10,000, who could have imagined 38 years later? What an honor to build this organization alongside so many friends and allies.

I look back with pride over the long arc of Isles’ evolution. I am literally writing our history now, highlighting Isles’ founding, milestones, lessons, and key people who made it possible. Over nearly four decades, the challenges have been awesome, but the benefits far greater!

I’ve grown up with Isles. I met my wife Liz at Isles, and we worked together for 20 of those 38 years. We helped build a “village” that in turn, benefited us and our sons – a true labor of love.  My Isles colleagues are family, amazingly capable and committed to self-reliance and community health. Isles’ Board, led by Chair Linda Revelle, strongly supports our unique vision and team.
Founder transitions bring unique challenges. The best examples are well-planned, transparent, and extended. After I step down as CEO January 1, I intend to continue part time in an “outward-facing” role at Isles, assisting my successor as needed. So this is not yet goodbye! The Trustee Search Committee is coordinating the extensive search for our next CEO.

To support this transition, the board has decided to establish an Isles 2020 Fund, to be a part of my legacy. This board-restricted Fund will support our ongoing work during and after the transition. As you can imagine, the need for your support is greater than ever! To learn more, contact me or Director of Development, Patricia Walker, at 609.341.4734.

In a way, Isles is my 4th child. Like a parent, I’m learning to let go. But I hope you will lean in, now, to ensure that Isles continues to grow and innovate by strengthening people and places.

We’re planning a fun “Legacy Celebration” event on November 16 (click here for more information.) I hope you can join us!

Until then, accept my deepest thanks for your friendship, support and good will. We couldn’t have built this organization, career, and family, without you.
In community,
Marty Johnson
Founder and President         

2019 Camp Carrot Highlights

This month, Isles hosted 17 students at Camp Carrot—a 3-week camp where kids explored the outdoors, cooked healthy meals, went on field trips and discovered more about the environment and gardening through fun and educational activities.  Students learned about the importance of nutrition and exercise as they grew fresh produce, created tasty meals and practiced yoga.

“At camp we got to plant beets, carrots, bok choy, radishes and cilantro,” said eight-year-old camper Mary.

Students also enjoyed adventuring to nature sites such as Grounds for Sculpture, Gravity Hill Farm, the Abbott Marshlands and Howell Living History Farm.

“I liked going on the trip to Gravity Hill Farm,” stated 13-year-old camper Arielis.  “We went into the garden, picked food and got to eat fresh onions.”

Our Tucker Street garden served as an interactive area for students to learn about local produce, plants and how to maintain a garden.  Campers participated in activities that explained the importance of pollinators in a garden, watering systems, the differences between seeds and how to harvest fruits and vegetables.  12-year-old camper Gabe especially took interest in studying the bee hive at Tucker Street.

“When a bee hive gets too hot they use their wings’ down-drift to cool it off,” he explained.  “When the hive gets too cold they rub against each other creating friction.”

Thank you campers and our Urban Agriculture team for an exciting season!  Help us continue to grow this camp by donating at isles.org/donate.

A Birthday of Service

Carol Haag has been a volunteer, donor, and advocate for many local organizations over the years. For her 80th birthday, she asked her friends to give a day of service and join her in volunteering at these organizations. 

On July 11, Carol and a group of friends volunteered with Isles to work at the Tucker Street Garden. She has been a long-time donor to Isles but had never visited the organization itself.

“I was always impressed with the philosophy of Isles and the local impact of the organization,” noted Carol.  “But after visiting, I was totally blown away by the complexity and diversity in the ways Isles meets the needs of those in Trenton.” 

Thank you Carol and friends for your efforts to better the community!

Green Infrastructure

Though Isles’ environmental work has always extended far beyond the garden fence, we are excited to be part of a three-year green infrastructure project with partners Rutgers Water Resources and New Jersey Future utilizing funding from the federal Clean Water Act.

We are working with community and municipal partners to install demonstration projects that reduce stormwater runoff like street tree plantings, rain gardens, and rainwater collection systems. Two projects located at our Tucker Street facility include a 1500 gallon rainwater cistern and a 750 square foot rain garden. Together, they both limit the amount of water from the roof that enters the stormwater system and provide the bulk of the water needs for the nearby demonstration and educational garden.

We also hosted a rain barrel building workshop where people learned how to harvest rain water and built their own rain barrel to take home, and also worked with the NJ Tree Foundation to run a tree care workshop which included a tour of the community orchard at Tucker Street and a hands-on pruning demonstration.

See our calendar for upcoming workshops and events.

2019 Camp Carrot

Join us for a summer of discovery at gardens and parks in the city!

  • Explore the outdoors
  • Learn to grow your own food
  • Prepare tasty, healthy meals
  • Play games and get active
  • Learn through STEAM activities

Healthy lunch and snack included. Contact us for more details!

Who: Trenton students ages 9-12
When: August 5th-9th, 12th- 16th, 19th -23th 9:00 am- 4:00 pm
Where: Main location – Garden at 33 Tucker Street, Trenton NJ 08618
Contact: Christina at 609-341-4763, cheimann@isles.org

Camp Carrot Flyer Summer 2019 (English and Spanish)