Beginning April 9th 2018, students at Victoria High School will have the opportunity to learn hands on what it’s like to grow food in an urban setting as the school opens its Learning Farm.
“The on-going inspiration has been to connect students to land, teach them applicable skills to grow their own food, and help students decide if they want to choose farming as a viable career,” says Aaren Topley, Capital Region Farm to School Animator with Farm to School BC.
The Victoria High School garden opened about four years ago. After that, in 2016, Asha Rao, the champion teacher, and student Eden Murray became interested in expanding the garden and including support from local urban farmers. Farm to School BC provided initial funding and support for the project. VanCity was also able to provide funding to support City Harvest Co-op, who helped plan and develop the project. In 2017, Farm to Cafeteria Canada and the Whole Kids Foundation provided additional funding. When the Learning Farm launches in April, it will be the first time the 100ft by 50ft piece of land will be growing food.
Teachers at Victoria High School will be able to sign up their classes to work on the farm once a week. The teacher will then decide how to integrate the lesson into the British Columbia curriculum. “We are looking at different ways students can receive a credit,” says Topley. “There is this dream floating around that one day we would love the program to evolve into a farmer career program where students get the skills to run their own farm after graduation and get some transferable credits to college or university.”
Lessons on the Learning Farm will be taught by Jesse Brown of Mason St. Farm. Brown has been a farmer for 10 years. “He is going to share his wealth of farming experience with students,” says Topley. “Multi-site farming takes a lot of work, and Mason St. Farm is the closest physical urban farm to Victoria High School.”
On top of the experiential learning, students will grow food for a weekly salad bar to feed their peers healthy and local food. “Food is the fabric of society. It has the ability to bring communities together to share meals and learn from each other,” says Topley. “If we truly want to be a sovereign region, it is important to have control of our own food system. Understanding where our food comes from and how to grow it is the first step. By connecting students to the land, teaching them how to grow food and then providing opportunity to share food together, we are teaching a whole generation of young people how to take control of their food system.”
“I hope students will have a great appreciation for what it takes to grow food and feed people,” Topley says. “Students will step away from this project wanting to grow their own food, wanting to cook food from scratch and wanting to support their local food system.”
You can join the Learning Farm crew on Monday April 9th at 10:00 am for the official launch, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and to see the first crops being planted. Learn more about the project here.