The Torquay Eco-Tiger Garden is now two years old and has continued as a hub of activity at our Gordon Head neighbourhood elementary School. We have maintained a strong partnership with the Garth Homer Society in Saanich BC. This amazing community organization has facilitated a team of volunteers, who are all young adults living with developmental disabilities, to work in our garden alongside the children. Not only do they check in regularly to tend our growing crops, but they work alongside the staff and children at our school and bring support, positivity and many smiles to share.
This year we have experienced both success and challenges to overcome, but have continued on the path toward our goals of connecting to our local farming heritage, growing food, providing active learning opportunities for our students and building positive relationships in our community.
When we established our garden we were aware that our temporary fence was inadequate, but hoped it would see us through just a little longer. Unfortunately our neighbourhood deer population found their way in, and did significant damage to our summer crops. We managed to salvage our carrots, pumpkin, zucchini and beets. But not much else survived. Our thriving soup program from the previous year was not to be. Thanks to the creative thinking from the Garth Homer Society we switched from soup making to muffin baking. Our community volunteers were more than happy to spend time organizing recipes and ingredients. During the Fall our school staffroom was often filled with the happy energy of children and volunteers baking delicious carrot, zucchini and pumpkin muffins. All the children in our school had a chance to share the tasty treats.
This February we received the good news that we were recipients of a Whole Kids Grant. We were quickly able to upgrade our fence. With renewed motivation, the Eco-Tigers and our Garth Homer volunteers spent several weeks starting veggie seeds of many sorts inside. We had quite the indoor greenhouse in our school stairwell, under a skylight. Over several weeks we transplanted our seedlings into our outdoor garden. So far our fence is doing what it should and our crops our growing well. Over the summer, our Garth Homer volunteers will harvest and preserve the peas, beans, potatoes and carrots. We anticipate returning in the Fall to harvest numerous tomatoes, squash, greens and peppers. Our popular Souper Tuesday Cafe should be back in business for next year.
Our Torquay Eco-Tigers, which includes children in Grades 3 – 5 have always provided the leadership behind our garden project. They are a strong, keen team who we really count on at school to keep things on track. However this year we noticed many others in the school wanting to share the experience. Frequently our younger children will show up outside the fence during recess work times looking in and wanting to be involved. We also notice those children who need help to regulate emotions, anxiety or behaviour will often find their way to the garden too. We welcome anyone to come in, roll up their sleeves and get busy. As well as growing healthy food we are a place of refuge, reflection and friendship for all.