Walter E. Harris Public School, Oshawa, ON
Last year, our school received a seed grant of $1,500 from Farm to Cafeteria Canada. Immediately, this money was put to good use, as our Garden Club and Grade 3 students began growing sprouts for consumption during the cold winter months. With this infusion of cash, we bought new tools, a bunch of bamboo pots, vegetable seeds, trays, a germination heat mat, a grow light, potting soil, lumber, hand tools, and cooking equipment.
Not only was our school going to build raised beds to grow fresh vegetables, we were going to cook them too! Never in my teaching career have I run an extra-curricular activity with such passionate and committed students. When it comes to food, kids do not mess around.
As time went on, and the snow began to thaw, those same students dusted off the garden tools, overturned soil bags, and began prepping the earth for the growing season. After the threat of the last frost, our indoor seedlings of tomatoes, onions, radishes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs were ready to be planted. All summer long, we tended to our babies – weeding, watering, and pruning.
So, as the doors swung open on September 3rd, 2019, we came full circle. The students took joy in eating freshly grown veg of all colours, shapes and sizes. The grade 7s have made salsa, soup, and sauces, all from the bumper tomato crop. Plans are in the works to include grade 8s into the cooking club.
As we look ahead to 2020, and celebrate our school building’s 50th anniversary, I continue to map new gardening spaces with the students, as we set our sights on our goal of feeding more and more kids. We still have a lot of work to do. On the horizon: purchasing more berry bushes, along with several fruit trees. Teaching students how to preserve food through canning is also in the pipeline.
A sincere thank you to Farm to Cafeteria Canada for their patience with us, as we slowly spend their seed grant, and realize our gardening dreams at Walter E. Harris!
By Adrian Hogendoorn