Hillcrest Elementary students were treated to an amazing day of learning at Wild Flight Farm’s organic farming operations in Mara, British Columbia. Forty-eight students traveled by bus to Wild Flight Farms and spent the morning touring the farm.

Owner, Louise Bruns, and farm employee Emma Avery led students through the many rows of crops growing at the farm. Students observed plants in every stage of their life cycle. They learned how workers plant seeds, transplant seedlings, protect plants from insects without the use of sprays, and use green houses to extend the growing season.

After touring greenhouse crops of basil, radishes and carrots and field crops such as raspberries, kohlrabi, beans, peas, and lettuce, students planted their own snap peas to take home.

The final part of the tour saw students back at the washing and packing facility for a tasting of freshly harvested carrots, kohlrabi and salad turnip.

While the day was an overall success, we faced a small logistical challenge of having 45 students tour the facility. This seemed like a lot of students in an area not intended for large groups. The solution was to split the students into two smaller groups. While one group toured the farm, the other hiked a nearby trail noticing local flora, fauna, indigenous plants, and pollinators.

While on the hike, students learned to identify the call of the Red –Winged Black Bird. They spotted painted turtles, bald eagles, hawks, osprey and Swallowtail butterflies. Students also observed signs of the water cycle; notably the spring freshet and local flooding of pasture used by a nearby dairy farmer.

The farm tour was a significant learning opportunity for our students. For many, this was their first time seeing vegetables growing in a garden. For all, this was their first visit to a working organic farm. Students engaged all their senses as they learned about the plants grown at the farm. They had a chance to work with soil and “get their hands dirty” as they planted their own seeds.

Finally, we purchased enough vegetables take back to school and prepare enough salad for both classes to enjoy the next day. Understanding where the food came from, and enjoying it together, helped solidify students’ learning from the previous day.

Moving forward, the teachers involved in planning the tour are inspired by the students’ enthusiasm and learning. We feel that connecting students to local farmers, and locally sourced food, is an important way to help them connect with “place.”  We are already exploring opportunities for students to be involved with planting and caring for vegetables next year.  Thanks to the Farm to School Grant, we have class set of garden tools to work with. Students have enjoyed using the tools in our school’s Courtyard “Pollinators” Garden this spring. We look forward to building on the enthusiasm for gardening that our visit to Wild Flight Farms inspired.

Louise from Wild Flight Farms teaches Hillcrest Students about the wonders of kohlrabi.

Students are tasked with estimating how long (in metres) the raspberry rows are.

A farm visit engages all the senses.

Pacing out the raspberries…

Students see tomatoes which will be trained up the ropes in this greenhouse.

Perfect little seedlings waiting to be set out.

Tasting at the end of the tour!

Exploring the nearby wetlands, while the other class toured the farm.