James Thomson Elementary students spent the year connecting to the curriculum through activities in the Kid’s Patch school garden and our Farm To School Kitchen Classroom. While most classes enjoyed cooking activities the grade 6/7 French Immersion class put in a huge effort to bake bread and make homemade Farm To School soups for the whole school throughout the year.  As part of a school ground greening effort local business Mother Nature Garden Center donated hundreds of tulip, crocus, and daffodil bulbs that students and teachers planted in the garden among the fruit trees and around the playground.

Grade 1 French Immersion students digging holes in the communal Farm To School garden beds to plant bulbs donated by Mother Nature Garden Center.

Spring clean up in the Farm To School garden beds with students.

A recurring problem in the garden is that students and visitors often sample produce from classroom beds that have lovingly been planted and tended with a specific purpose in mind. A communal “Snack Track” was planted with herbs for our Farm To School soups and cooking activities, as well as a large patch of snacking greens such as perennial French sorrel, perennial arugula, parsley, chives and kale. Our new “Snack Track” is an innovative effort to reduce damage to classroom beds by providing curious students with a designated place to sample veggies. Young primary students were regularly seen playing “kitchen” by preparing a wide variety of green wraps made from a sorrel leaf topped by parsley, chives, kale and calendula flower petals. With a tangy lemon flavour and a year round growing season, the perennial French sorrel is a huge success!

The “Snack Track” is a section of the Farm To School garden beds planted as an innovative approach to allow year round access to edible greens and herbs in an effort to reduce damage to classroom crops.

Our local WildSafeBC Community Coordinator came with ducklings to do predator-prey wildlife presentations in the garden classroom. Each primary class learned about local predators and discussed what farm animals would be seen as prey. Ducklings spent the week in the garden teaching students about what would attract a predator to our homes and gardens and how we can stay safe while gardening in bear country. Students spent every recess exploring the soil and digging for bugs and worms to feed the ducklings. By the time school let out in June, the classroom garden beds were full of spinach, lettuce, peas, radishes, kale, Asian greens, garlic, potatoes, raspberries and calendula. Students used teamwork, problem solving and imagination to create pea trellises and spent time harvesting and eating the fruits of their labour.

Students learned about the connection between fruit trees, compost and livestock attracting predators and best practices for staying safe while protecting our agricultural resources.

Bringing a bit of the farm to the school to connect to the curriculum and community partners.

In September a successful work party occurred where students, teachers and parents installed the underground irrigation system that will truly allow the Farm To School program to scale up for 2019. Trenches were dug and PVC pipes were laid connecting all classroom beds to the professional irrigation timer. Drip irrigation tubes will service each of 12 classroom garden beds in addition to expanded irrigation on the perimeter communal Snack Track in the Farm To School garden beds where herbs, fruit, veggies and flowers grow. This grant has allowed us the opportunity to secure a more bountiful harvest for students, as well as alleviate the challenges of summer irrigation during warm weather watering restrictions.

The new irrigation system will have multiple zones controlled by a timer in order to water each bed as well as the communal Farm To School perimeter beds.

Summer irrigation is always a challenge and this new system with buried PVC pipes and drip lines will conserve water and improve yield, contributing to long term success and sustainability.