Thank you to all the amazing schools in the Capital region for a wonderful school year! My expectations are always blown away watching us grow our regional Farm to School network. This blog post is full of some incredible events that have happened over the last few months of the school year. From hosting Professional Development Days, connecting to our spiritual side and promoting traditional Indigenous ways of knowing through the five traditional school garden blessings, and hosting the annual Farm to School Spring Celebration in the Capital Region, there was no shortage of activities with Farm to School BC.
Annual Farm to School Spring Celebration
On May 29th at Fernwood NRG (Neighbourhood Resource Group), over 50 people from across the region joined us to celebrate our largest ever-annual Spring Celebration. Chef Andrew Paumier from Indecent Risotto and Growing Chefs! prepared a delicious four-course meal: a sustainable meal of local and rescued food! The food was generously donated by Whole Foods Market and the Food Share Network.
One of the highlights of the evening was the Demonstration and Conversation Tables that showcased Lifecycles Project Society, PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱, Growing Young Farmers, and Mason St. Farm’s Vic High Learning Farm. Attendees got to connect with organizations that are really making Farm to School BC programs happen throughout the region.
Another highlight of the evening was the announcement of our first annual Pollinator Award, which went to Reynolds Secondary School. The Pollinator Award recognized a Farm to School BC program and school team who acts as pollinators within their community; buzzing around their gardens, kitchens, and classrooms to build healthy food systems, transferring and sharing knowledge, fostering thriving learning environments, and supporting the development of young healthy “seeds”. Reynolds has done an amazing job at sharing knowledge about how to create a successful and sustainable farm to school programs with other schools; they grew their school garden with Lifecycles Project Society, and have the school engaged in local sustainable food systems. Congratulations to the Reynolds Secondary School team!
May 18th Professional Development Day
On May 18th, we held our first full day Professional Development Day; we partnered with Lifecycles Project Society, Whole Kids Foundation, Whole Foods Market and the Horner Foundation. This Professional Development Day allowed teachers to get their hands dirty in the garden and in the kitchen. Leah Seltzer, Matthew Kemshaw, and Shereen Kukhabryson of the Lifecycles Project Society connected teachers to the garden and taught them how to take care of the school garden and integrate it into teaching practices and curriculum. Chef Andrew Paumier from Indecent Risotto food truck and Growing Chefs! got teachers connected to the kitchen teaching them about how to incorporate local food into their dishes and food skills into the classroom using the Whole Kids Foundation demonstration cooking program. It was an incredible day that brought together good food and good people.
Harvest4Knowledge School Garden Blessings
At the end of the May, Elders Maryann Thomas of Esquimalt Nation and Elmer George of Songhees Nation blessed five school gardens. The reason for blessing the gardens is make sure the ancestors know that the school will be working with the land and to make sure it happens in a positive way. Students and teachers were a central parts of the blessings; learning about Songhees and Esquimalt Nations ways of knowing and being able to connect to their soon-to-be Indigenous plant gardens for the first time. When a group of middle school students were asked what they remember from the blessings, they said that Maryann called them all of them “little flowers”, because like little flowers they will grow with the garden.
Reflecting on this school year leaves me with joy and gratitude for the amazing people with our regional network. I cannot express enough how proud I am of every school and organization in our region that is building the farm to school movement. This movement spans provincially, nationally, and internationally but the true heart is in our community and communities like ours around the world. As we take a break for the summer, I am thinking about all the school gardens that wait patiently for students to return and like the gardens, I cannot wait for what the next school year has in store for us.