by Bonnie Klohn
Happy calendar and lunar new year everyone! Although the days are short and snow has been falling, it’s been really exciting to see how the Farm to School programs in our region are taking time this season to prepare for growing season and to lean into food literacy activities in the classroom. I am excited to share some of the amazing work that is happening here.
First, I want to share a story about Skeetchestn Community School, which was one of the first schools in our region to start its Farm to School Program. Maureen Zutz started the program with a garden and a composting system. As the program evolved, there was a greenhouse that needed to be moved, and some issues with irrigation for the summer. Maureen and a few others came together to see if there was something that could be done collectively to reinvigorate the gardens. From this, the Knowing Our Roots initiative was born. The Skeetchestn Community School partnered with Qwemstin Health, Skeetchestn Indian Band administration and youth program, and Farm to School to develop a vision for food literacy for youth. They engaged a local landscape designer, and based on designs that had been completed by the students earlier, as part of the Farm to School program, created a final image of what the school could look like as a centre for food literacy and agriculture training. Knowing Our Roots envisions edible landscaping, a vegetable garden right outside the classroom doors, Indigenous plant garden, cob oven, community harvest table and rainwater collection. They are also envisioning an agriculture training centre with a small livestock space, and economic development training centre that could include raising seeds for land reclamation. The plan has been invigorating work for those involved and has stimulated interesting discussions with Community Futures Development Corporation of the Central Interior First Nations about how they can help bring it to reality.
Skeetchestn Community School recently received further support from Farm to School BC for the students to be involved in a video project that will document the development of the food literacy and agriculture training centre in their community.
What I really like about this plan is that it will engage the students at Skeetchestn Community School during the school year, and then the Skeetchestn Indian Band Youth Program coordinator will be working with young people in the summers to maintain and grow the garden. Once students have graduated, the long-term vision is to have a place for agriculture business incubation with the market garden and small livestock. I am very much looking forward to seeing the plans continue to materialize over the winter, and for it to come to fruition in the next growing season.
Secondly, I wanted to provide an update about the new Farm to School programs this year. There are two new schools coming on board in 2019: McGowan Park Elementary School, and Dallas Elementary School. Dallas will be working on building food literacy into the school through a school garden that will incorporate several class rooms working together, and some interesting growing techniques such as container gardening, three sisters, and grain growing. McGowan Park is developing a program that will help its students understand where their food comes through egg-laying hens. They will bring 4-6 hens into the school courtyard during the school year, and student will have the chance to learn about care of hens as well as eggs as a local protein source. As a backyard hen keeper myself, and can’t wait to see the hens and to share the model that is developed with other schools who may also be interested in this type of food literacy component.
As we turn the corner to spring there are several things that I am really looking forward to. First of all, of course, is seeing all beautiful outdoor gardens and harvesting activities that will happen once the snow melts. I am also gearing up for the Spring Celebration. Addie, the previous Kamloops Hub Region Farm to School BC Coordinator was a Spring Celebration guru and brought an immense amount of creativity and fun to the day for participating students and teachers. I am grateful for the model that she developed in the region which allows for community partners and students to learn and celebrate together. This year, Farm to School will be partnering with the Mount Paul Community Food Centre to host the celebration. This new facility in Kamloops is an incredible resource for food literacy in our area. The Mount Paul Community Food Centre contains a huge kitchen, a large gathering hall, and a stunning collective garden that will be able to be utilized for workshops for kids at the Spring Celebration. They hard working staff at the centre already are engaging with the School District to bring classrooms to the kitchen and the garden for food literacy field trips. The Spring Celebration will be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the programs and facilities at the centre.
Secondly, I am looking forward to the 2019 Farm to Cafeteria Canada Farm to School Conference in May. I will be co-presenting with the other Animators throughout BC on the community animator model and some of the sticky questions around how to building community capacity for food literacy. I would highly recommend checking it out.
I hope everyone reading this is finding pleasure in the slower pace of nature in the winter and taking the time to contemplate seed catalogues, wildcrafting resources and local food guides. I can’t wait to report on the spring season and bite into my first sprig of spinach or crunchy radish.