At Torquay Elementary School students, teachers, families and community partners have shared an exciting journey of developing our little school yard farm. Here the Torquay Eco-Tiger club has been busy growing a variety of veggies and organizing a monthly Souper Tuesday Café serving up soup to our student population. Our Grade Kindergarten through 5 school is located in the Gordon Head neighbourhood of Victoria. Although we have strong historical and geographical connections to agriculture in our community, such ties often seems far removed when we look out upon the grassy soccer fields and playgrounds that have replaced what was once a thriving farming community. We have aimed to connect to our local farming heritage and build upon this history to inspire students in growing food at school. Our project goals include building food literacy by fostering active student participation in every step of establishing our gardens, growing crops, preparing food and sharing meals. An exciting outcome of our project has been the positive community connections formed along the way.
During the early winter months of 2016 we spent time planning with one of our community partners, Heather Parker of City Harvest Cooperative. Her expert knowledge in urban farming practice was invaluable and she helped us draw up plans, source the building/growing materials and make sure such details as fencing and irrigation were in place. On a sunny day in early March we brought members of the community together and spent a day building our raised beds and setting up the hoop house. Meanwhile Heather and the Torquay Eco-Tigers club planted seedlings that would later be transplanted into our garden. In late Spring some of our students also enjoyed a trip to Heather’s gardens and were able to see a thriving urban farm in the heart of Victoria.
Over the course of the summer our crops grew and in September we returned to an abundance of tomatoes, onions, carrots, chard and other vegetables. Our team spent time harvesting and preserving. Many of our crops could stay in the ground where they flourished right through the winter. Each month students and volunteers worked together in the kitchen preparing and serving up large quantities of soup to the student population. Our Souper Tuesday Cafe minestrone soup was a big hit with the wider school population!
It turns out that maintaining a year round garden, preparing soup and setting up a monthly Soup Café is a time-consuming endeavor for one teacher to oversee, even with the enthusiasm and full participation of our students. Thank goodness for the steady and reliable help from the Garth Homer Community Access Team, another one of our community partners! This small but committed group of volunteers is part of the Garth Homer Society, a local organization that supports community involvement and inclusion opportunities for adults who live with developmental disabilities. Katie and the team arrived without fail each Tuesday. They worked alongside the children to help in the garden, the kitchen and the café. They also went shopping and coordinated with local businesses to access donations such as the bread we serve with our soup. Our Garth Homer volunteers kept the garden growing all summer and organized donations of our excess food to the Shelbourne Community Kitchen. It has been an absolute delight to watch the relationships form between the Community Access volunteers and Torquay students as they work together for a common goal.
In heading outdoors at Torquay during recess, one continues to see a rush of activity on the soccer fields, playgrounds and basketball courts. But there is also a hum of activity over in the garden beds of the Torquay Farm. Here students are getting their hands dirty and feet wet as they purposefully tend crops, grow food and keep the farming traditions of Gordon Head moving forward.
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