Growing knowledge about the farm

Growing Young Farmers program is teaching Saanich Peninsula students the basics

Michaela Curnow

Grade 4 and 5 students from Sidney Elementary got to taste the literal fruits of their labour last week when they chowed down on bread with garlic butter made from garlic they grew themselves.

The school teamed up with the not-for-profit Growing Young Farmers Society and Mr. Organic himself, Dave Friend, over the last couple of years to help students learn about growing their own food.

“It’s been a great program for the school and the students absolutely love it,” said Jennifer Alberring, a Grade 4 and 5 teacher at the school. “It’s all project-based and hands-on learning.”

“We work it all into our curriculum too, so it applies to every unit we teach.”

The program helps students learn how to garden and grow their own food but it also instills in them the importance of growing their own food and the benefits it has.

“You know you have nutritious food to eat and if you garden you can also do things like compost and put nutrients back into the ground,” said Grade 5 student Clayton Harris.

The program is comprised of six outdoor sessions with Mr. Organic over the fall months, a brief hiatus over the winter months, and more sessions through the spring.

This fall the students learned about planting lasagna gardens which can grow food almost anywhere.

“A lasagna garden is a garden made with layers of cardboard, newspaper, grass clippings, leaves, coffee grinds and of course soil and compost,” explained Grade 5 student Jadie Siemens.

“The way it’s made it can grow things anywhere, even in the middle of the road if you wanted, as long as there’s sun. And lasagna gardens also compost at the same time,” she added.

The school now has a handful of lasagna gardens along with a few raised bed gardens which are planted with things like broad beans, broccoli, kale, chives, cauliflower, onion and of course, garlic.

“Each student planted a clove of garlic so we’ll hopefully grow 107 garlic plants,” said Alberring, who also added the program is encouraging more families to grow food at home.

“There has definitely been a trickle-down effect with this program and we’ve seen lots of families starting to garden at home because of it.”