Smithers Secondary School, Smithers British Columbia
1) What are your proud accomplishments? Think about your students’ learning, the relationships you’ve formed, or local food you’ve enjoyed together.
- Worked and formed relationships with many students. Were able to incorporate special needs students in planting, weeding, harvesting, and the sale of produce. Produced over 35 different varieties of produce. Our culinary arts program has prepared a variety of dishes that has resulted on over 80% of our school’s enrolling students have cooked and consumed our school-grown harvest. In addition to this, we have been able to facilitate senior students to obtain self-directed study credits while enhancing their knowledge base, and creating and managing websites and information databases.
2) What challenges were there and how did you address it?
- Dealing with pest issues was a major problem in one of our greenhouses. We had a big problem with slugs. They destroyed over 50% of our plants; some plants were eaten down to ground level before they even had a chance to mature while others looked like they had been shot with a shotgun. Although we tried many different methods of dealing with the slugs they prevailed in the end. We decided to shut the green house down this winter and let everything freeze up and as well removed all the leaves that we used as mulch (we had discovered that the leaves were infested with slugs and that is how they were introduced to the green house in the first place). We are hoping this year will bring better results.
- Another issue we faced was dealing with the amount of weeds that took over our 2000 square foot garden. The amount of time we had allocated wasn’t nearly enough and the weeds dominated the garden. This year we are going to allocate more time for the hired summer students and as well are going to cover much of the garden with ground cloth to reduce the weed population.
- With school cutbacks we lost all of the time that was allocated to us for maintaining the gardens and as a result had to do everything on volunteer time. To try and alleviate this problem we have started a new class; a Farm to Table Culinary Arts Program will introduce students to the principles of professional cooking as well as exploring progressive agricultural and farming practices. The harvest will be used as ingredients in the recipes that the students prepare in class. This will give students a better understanding of how good agricultural and ecological thinking are essential elements in the kitchen. A fully enrolled class of 24 students will be starting this fall. In addition we have made a proposal to our school district to allocate some time to help maintain and facilitate our garden projects.
3) How did Farm to School make a difference in your school and/or community?
- The financial support we received from Farm to School enabled us to get our program up and running. Without this support we would not have been able to get our program started. As a result not only have we been able to have two greenhouses and a 2000 square foot garden up and running but we have been able to form relationships and receive support from local groups as well.
4) We’d love to hear about how many students are involved, examples of student leadership, what partners are you working with (i.e. community organizations, local business, farmers, health authority, others), and how much local food are you purchasing and/ or growing.
- Worked with Groundbreakers Collective (A local group of unique individuals all with a similar passion and goal to promote sustainability through gardening, farming and eating locally grown foods). Groundbreakers has assisted us with supplying students to help water, weed, etc. the gardens during the summer months when school isn’t in session. Groundbreakers has also offered learning materials that could be used in the classroom.
- We were able to collaborate with other teachers where we would take students who were suffering from mental health issues out of the classroom and took them out to the garden where the environment was a more calming and relaxing. It has now created such a demand that students fight over who gets to go.