Agnes L Mathers Elementary School, Sandspit, BC
2018-2019 (Grant Year 2)
Agnes L Mathers Elementary School is in Sandspit British Columbia on Moresby Island, and is part of the archipelago called Haida Gwaii situated off the west coast of British Columbia.
Our small student population enables students and teachers to spend lots of time outdoors, whether at the beach searching and discovering, picking locally grown apples for the school salad bar or in our new second greenhouse, there’s always plenty for all to do.

The farm to school co-ordinator was inspired to promote healthy fresh produce using existing local producers and community involvement after attending Farm to Cafeteria Canada’s BC Farm to School training in October 2018. Student learning about healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle grew from themes such as planting, caring for, harvesting, preparing and presenting food that is locally sourced, further inspiring and promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for all.

With the recent arrival and setting up of our new school’s greenhouse, students were set to become actively involved in soil preparation and planting this spring. With the onset of Covid19, this was more gradual than expected, yet with the assistance of a very dedicated teacher, Mr. C, whose tireless extra labour of love on extra outside garden beds, show how to make the greenhouse involve students and become an exceptional example of healthy produce, as seen in the above photo.

Most students in an older grade 4-7 class have been involved at some point with the establishment of the greenhouse during this season of remote learning. This unique challenge needed careful planning and delivery of a thoughtful strategic approach. Working through such a challenge proves the resilience of many in this strong small community.  The older greenhouse has also recently proved to be a source of inspiration for the younger K-3 class at ALM.   After many hands-on help with weeding, preparing, enriching the soil and planting, there is now a well-watered and thriving variety of vegetables both inside and outside the greenhouse.

From tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and kale, to cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkin, squash and Haida potatoes, the indoor and outdoor garden beds are looking very good. One thing that is extra special, so much kale sprung up from seemingly ‘out of nowhere’! Why? The answer is simple. Many years of hard dedicated work from local community members who care enough to provide a very well tendered garden of kale and many other plants over many years recently sprung to life again.

Last October, was a special month. Our small group of K-3 students walked to a local apple tree and picked over 200 apples!  Students enjoyed apple sauce, apple crisp and dried apple slices, specially prepared by our pre-school co-ordinator, Rhonda McNeil, who always has extra special dried produce in the making, including;  kale chips, fruit leather, dried celery, dried plums, dried oranges, dried apples, dried peppers, dried watermelon, dried cantaloupe and dried onions.

Thanks to our parent helper, our school salad bar successfully provided healthy food alternatives from September 2019, inspiring students to make connections between growing and harvesting fresh healthy produce and enjoying the best food that is available, while keeping the farm to school theme well and truly alive. A variety of very fresh treats were served for students to taste including, pizza with squash and other vegetables, fruit cups with yoghurt, freeze drier strawberry samples, fruit kebabs, fruit smoothies and many creative serving arrangements of various fresh, raw vegetables served with delicious dressings. Complimented by the consistent provision of dried fruit and vegetables from Rhonda, the salad bar has been a tasty, healthy success.

Locally grown pumpkins were used for the usual Halloween celebrations, carving and pie making.  Freeze dried samples of fruit and vegetables were willingly supplied locally. The purchase of a freeze dryer will be a successful venture, given the present outstanding state of the new and old greenhouses on the school site.

Lastly, we have been delightfully surprized by generous donations from readily available island food sources such as fish from Brenna Kowalchuk and Brian Williams.  The Pantry supplied tomato plants for our greenhouse start up and include donations from other generous and thoughtful locals such as Moresby Explorers, Claire Gauthier and Colin Greenough from the local high school.  Emmy O’Gorman is co-ordinating high school student involvement in the older greenhouse during the summer months.  The likely outcome of produce is looking delicious and healthy for harvest time in September and October!

Overall, with the Farm to School Canada Grant, Farm to Cafeteria Canada has made a strong inroad within a very supportive small community that has been very active with local produce for many years.  Only greater things are in store that’s for sure. As I hand over my role as Farm to School co-ordinator to next year’s co-ordinator, I am very confident that Farm to School will be kept alive and will thrive at Agnes L Mathers Elementary School.

Martin Wood
Farm to School Co-ordinator

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