Growing a Garden- Victoria High School Digs in!
Victoria High School, in the heart of the Fernwood Community, is Victoria BC’s oldest school. In fact, our school archives have a photograph of Vic High Students in the early 1900’s working on plots of vegetable gardens.
It is incredible now, as 4 years ago we started to create or rather re-create another school garden with the goal of providing outdoor education on food sustainability and food security for our community. A number of educators at our school supported this project and we work in a community that truly supports local agriculture and urban farming. We also wanted to start sharing with students skills to not only grow their own food but also know how to make healthy choices.
This garden has really grown and developed because of the community and the partnerships that we have from: donated plants, to the garden fence, to tools, this community embraced this project.
When we made a connection with Aaren Topley with the Farm to School Network our dream to get a salad greens production on site as well as develop an Indigenous garden began to evolve. With our first grant with Farm to School BC, we were able to start do both.
In terms of the garden we began building irrigations systems, plantings, teaching about growing food. We connected with City Harvest Coop in Victoria and they were amazing farmers and shared their knowledge of the earth. They taught students how to build a greenhouse, to plant and process salad greens and to build a garden despite the decimating wire worms that we found in our soil! They kept the students positive and learning in practical ways about the day to day life of farming. They taught them how to seed greens for food production, how to cultivate the greens, harvest and process them. We served our first salad last school year and from there, we wanted more!
This year, students are deeply involved in this project. In fact, the salad bar program is run by key students in Environmental leadership who work together with students in a Life Skills class to process and prepare the greens, grate, boil, cut and slice beets, carrots, peppers, cucumbers and more! As well as mix together garlic balsamic and olive oil salad dressings. Delicious!
We have a dream to have fresh healthy eating a norm in our school. We also hope that our collaboration with community groups in building our school farm will initiate future building of school gardens and promote food security in our city.
And guess what ? We just got official approval for the expansion of our garden! Vic High Farm is on its way!
A garden is about the many people who take care of it…and that is why we want two more people to share our story
Sacred and Indigenous Medicine Wheel Garden
We are very proud of our medicine wheel garden journey. This project began in the Aboriginal Art and Culture class at Victoria High School this fall. The teachings and plans for the medicine wheel was then gifted from our class to Mr. Pine’s socials class in order for the project to continue into this semester. We received a Farm to School BC Grant to help with our project. The project began with the teachings of the medicine wheel, learning about Indigenous plants of the Lekwungen territory, and finally creating an artistic rendition of the medicine wheel garden full of the teachings the students acquired. It is still a work in progress as we plan to add labels for the plants – traditional and western names, a map of the garden sharing the teachings of the medicine wheel, the teachings of the plant medicine, and art. Each plant is placed in a particular quadrant of the medicine wheel to exemplify the teachings of that quadrant. There are 26 Indigenous plants and some that are endangered. For example, snowberry was put in the North quadrant to represent the snow, our elders and its healing qualities match up with the ‘physical’ portion of the medicine wheel. There is also a sacred medicine wheel that will provide the medicines used for smudging, cultural activities and ways of being, which we will harvest. Thank you to all who have helped in this process!
Sarah Rhude- Aboriginal Art and Culture Teacher
EDEN MURRAY- STUDENT
The garden at Vic High has been something for me to grow into. As I’ve worked in the space, planting, seeding, weeding, I’ve also been cultivating my own leadership skills. Part of being a gardener at Vic high, for me, has become less about farming and more about student leading.
Being an active voice in decisions being made for expansion, organization, and opportunities, I’ve established myself in all parts of the VHS-Eco Hub. This Hub that I have created is meant to tie the VHS Garden with our new Salad Bar program; a platform to make our healthy projects more accessible to students and staff. The website I have built for it has images, blurbs, an events calendar, a newsletter sign up, salad bar information, a blog, an email contact, and more. This all shows in detail the work being done related to the VHS Eco-Hub. The website is (vhsecohub.weebly.com).
Being a student volunteer and a key leader in the garden, I have a unique perspective on the entire project. I get to work in the many initiatives taking place within and outside of the fence. I get to run our school Garden Club, meeting twice every week this Spring where I teach and discuss with students the importance of growing our own food. Another teaching opportunity for myself consists of connecting classes to the garden; doing tours, being a research source, and hosting workshops. The projects I highlight as I do tours such as mentioned are the hoop house, the culinary herb bed, the Garden Club beds, the Salad Bar beds, the Native Medicine Wheel Garden, the Sacred Medicine Wheel Garden, our variety in fruit trees, the berries lining the fence, and projects soon to come.
My focus in the garden is to be a connecting piece. An aspect of teaching falls into this. Another responsibility of mine consists of outreach; creating posters, a website and being accessible for questions and inquiries. I have found myself filling this role, naturally. I am someone that loves working with people. The joy in serving salads to grateful students is so rewarding. Likewise, seeing my classmates connecting with the earth in the garden makes me feel great about what I do. Upon doing this kind of work with other youth, I have found myself quite surprised at the student/staff interest rate in the garden and other healthy projects. Accessibility and exposure seems to be the only leading factor preventing students to come out to the garden. The only way to inspire students to involve themselves in the well established projects we have here, at Vic High, is to expose them to it first hand and to help them understand the many opportunities that are available.
The garden has been the most wonderful project for me to take part in the last few years. I am honored to have such great responsibilities in this initiative and look forward to my last year at Vic High, continuing to provide healthy meals, food system teachings, and time to the VHS Garden.