H.C. Avery Middle School, Winnipeg, MB
Grant term 2020-2022
“I didn’t know growing your own food was this fun and easy to do!”
This was one of the messages heard from students who participated in building, preparing, growing, and eating hydroponic-grown lettuce through the Farm-to-School grant at H.C. Avery Middle School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
H.C. Avery is located on Treaty1 Territory, the ancestral Lands of the Anishinaabe, Ininewak, Aniishinin, Dene and Dakota peoples, and on the homeland of the Red River Metis Nation.
Throughout the last 5 years, our grades 6, 7, & 8 school of 375 students has been working to better develop a comprehensive food system, which had previously included a large outdoor garden space and passive solar greenhouse. Seeing the need to continue the work of growing food during the cold winter months, we successfully applied to the Farm-to-School grant and constructed three portable hydroponic units, each capable of growing 48 plants.
Like most Farm-to-School grant recipients, the COVID-19 pandemic affected us immensely with implementing our program plan, particularly with food services and prepping. As a physically small school, all available spaces were occupied with students – most notably our learning kitchen.
As pandemic restrictions have relaxed over the last six months in 2022, we have experienced a reinvigoration to engage students in food education. This has included an expanding food system team at our school, which has just under half of our teaching staff on the committee. Students at our school have been developing skills at starting seedlings, measuring nutrient loads and pH levels in our hydroponic units, as well as improving their knife skills, food safety, and portion prep. These activities have been primarily done on a class-by-class level. A larger community event will take place in mid-June (called the Marigold Market), where we will be showcasing the unit and program to our community.
Having now established the infrastructure to implement our salad bar service, we intend to kick off our salad bar service at the start of September and establish a bi-weekly salad service throughout the year. Having made a community connection with Chef Christa Bruneau-Guenther of Feast Cafe and Bistro in Winnipeg, our intent is to develop our salad service that highlights Indigenous foods, practices, and recipes.
A transformational piece of our learning from Farm-to-School Canada has been the tremendous work done by schools across Canada to make food education a primary part of classroom learning rather than an extra-curricular group or activity. It is evident in our experience that students are able to move towards independence in growing their own foods as a result of this change in classroom practice. A number of students have started small gardens with their families, think more critically about where their food comes from, participate in our summer “farm-club,” or have volunteered with our upcoming Marigold Market, a student-run farmers’ and makers’ market.
Feel free to find and connect with us on Instagram through @hcaveryfarm