It is amazing to observe the growth that is happening around the Vic High Garden. When I first arrived at Vic High 3 years ago I witnessed the early stages of the garden. Little did I know, the team had already been working on getting the garden to this point for 4 years. It was approximately 1000 square feet, there was a greenhouse, the layout of an indigenous medicine wheel and several garden beds had been built. Vegetables were and indigenous plants were growing, success! A lot of progress had been made but much work still needed to be done and the gradual changes often do not grasp the viewer’s attention. Today I found this old picture of the garden from 3 or 4 years ago and then I took a walk through that same space today. Check out the comparison!
Vic High Garden 2014/15
Vic High Garden June 2018
The change and growth blew me away. We are at the stage now where some of the food grown in that space can be used in the Vic High School Salad Bar. This is a tremendous accomplishment for the people involved who have been involved from the grass roots stage of this project. One of the main hurdles has been figuring out how to produce enough food to supply the majority if not all of the food sold at the Vic High Salad Bar. The original square footage was too small to produce enough vegetables for a salad bar and that is where the idea of expanding the garden came from. In the fall of 2017, the steps to expanding the garden included layering cardboard and mulch over a large grassy area, covering it with plastic and letting mother nature do the rest. In the early spring months, the plastic was removed and yards and yards of soil was spread over the new farm land.
Official Opening of Expansion April 2018
April 2018 marked the official opening of the expanded garden and the first vegetable starts were planted. The size of the Vic high garden had tripled and it became evident that this space could eventually produce the amount of food needed to sustain a salad bar. However, there was still the question of whether the land would be arable as only 5 months prior it was just a plot of grass sitting on top of clay. Thanks to the expertise of Jesse Brown, from Mason Street Farms and his team, we have had a very successful growing season so far this spring.
Panoramic View of Expansion June 2018
A wire worm epidemic has plague a few of our crops but Jesse Brown implemented several strategies over the past couple seasons in the original garden space, which seemed to be reduce the number of wire worm, so hopefully after a couple seasons we will able to rid the land of those pesky little insects.
Close up of Expanded Section June 2018
There has been so much work done by so many people to reach this achievement. This is a great opportunity to quote the line from the famous baseball movie Field of Dreams; “if you build it, they will come.” Now that the garden size has tripled, it is only a matter of time before we are able to harvest enough food to run the Salad Bar exclusively from our very own garden at Vic High.
Currently we’ve been running the salad bar once per week. We offer a build it yourself salad, a bowl of vegetarian soup and a bun for $3. We set the price at $3 to make it more affordable for students and we’ve been able to do so with the support of food donations and gift certificates from Whole foods. Whole foods has been very generous in donating a $150 gift card each month, which we put toward purchasing the additional necessities for a big soup and salad. The earnings from salad sales also get used to purchase any other necessities. The operation of the salad bar has been possible due to the hard work of a social and employment skills class with support from a junior PE class. Approximately 8-10 students with adult support spend approximately one hour preparing a big vegetarian soup in advance of the Salad Bar day. On Salad Bar day another group of students with adult support spend an hour chopping veg and prepping the food for the Salad Bar. These students are expected to volunteer 1 lunch hour per week to serve the food at lunch, which was difficult to manage in the beginning, but after a few weeks it was evident they really enjoyed the opportunity. These students are learning culinary art skills, customer service skills and even practicing numeracy skills through their involvement in the Salad Bar. That is a huge learning opportunity from my perspective but it’s not even the best part. The best part is that we are providing a healthy affordable food option for the Vic High staff and student population and they love it! We are currently selling to approximately 30 customers each Salad Bar day which is a good number for us at this time. In the last couple weeks, we’ve added a tortilla wrap option as we had some feedback that it was too difficult to carry a bowl of soup and a big plate of salad in the busy hall ways. It hasn’t really increased sales yet, but we are hopeful that more people will see the wraps and try them out.
Vic High Staff Member