Written by Meryn Corkery (Vancouver Area Regional Hub) | November 16, 2022 | Event Recap
On October 21st, over 50 educators, farmers and growers, community food champions, non-profit partners, and more came together at Reynolds Secondary School (Reynolds) to learn, share and grow the movement supporting school farms and local school food systems transformation!
The day consisted of a land acknowledgment and opening, networking, sessions on ways to use the farm as an outdoor classroom and strengthening partnerships, a tour by Lifecycles Project Society of the Reynolds micro-school farm, and panels on amplifying youth voices and Indigenous-led projects.
1) Flexibility is key – things rarely go as planned and adapting is essential. Setting up routines and frameworks is helpful, but activities need to be responsive to the seasons and the needs of students.
2) Incorporate multiple ways of knowing and doing – there is no single right way to structure a school farm project and there is beauty and strength in multiplicity, especially when applied to complex school farm and food systems projects.
3) ‘Don’t be a bully’ – showing up to this work with kindness and generosity matters just as much as technical skills and knowledge. School farms grow relationships and community as well as growing food.
4) Listen to youth voices – provide youth with opportunities to experience different aspects of farming and the food system, and provide them with agency and space to grow and feel empowered.
If you weren’t able to attend the Pro-D Day, but would still like to stay in the loop about exciting opportunities to establish a growing network of school farms, email email@example.com to be added to the list to receive updates.
Growing School Farms Pro-D Day Recap
Continue reading for a detailed summary of the day.
James Taylor (Traditional Knowledge Keeper, Curve Lake First Nation) started the day off by sharing his story of walking across Canada to honor and raise awareness for residential school victims and acknowledged that we were gathered on the homelands of the Lekwungen peoples known as the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. Jamie and Naia, two students from Reynolds also offered a land acknowledgment, owning the historical wrongs of colonialism and how to advance reconciliation.
After this opening, Meryn Corkery and Richard Han from Farm to School BC (a program of the Public Health Association of BC) offered context for the day, including holding the legacy of the colonial harms that farms have contributed to (read more here) while appreciating that school farms can also act as an emergent tool to support local, resilient food systems, youth job training, empowerment and community development. The floor was then opened up for a networking session, where attendees got a chance to connect and contribute to brainstorm boards on school farm successes and challenges.
Two-morning sessions were offered. In the ‘Curriculum: using the school farm as an outdoor classroom’ session, Jessica, a Foods and Career Experience teacher at Victoria High School, and Camille, Good Food Farm Manager from Fresh Roots, shared how they approach curriculum in school farms from a teacher and farmer perspective. While in different roles, they both expressed the need for flexibility and to let students lead. Jessica offered that having established routines can help ease this process, such as starting and ending with a sharing circle, touring the farm or garden and sharing observations, and engaging in a station-based approach with small groups rotating through tasks.
In the ‘Strengthening Partnerships’ session, participants joined a discussion from three different non-profit partners (Amira, LifeCycles; Constance, SquamishCAN; Darcy, Young Agrarians) on how they work to establish and grow partnerships to support school farms. The presenters expressed the need to build relationships first then contracts, and to partner with other groups to offer richer learning experiences outside the school in the community.
Lunch & School Farm Tour
Lunch was made and served by students from the Food Studies Class with support from all-star teacher champions, Roy Vizer (Food studies teacher) and Annalee Tyler (Science and Math). Students decided on a menu of soup, salad, and vegetarian mixed charcuterie alongside fresh focaccia bread. Putting the principles of the day into practice, the meal used the infrastructure for Reynolds’ salad bar program and featured greens from Reynold’s micro-farm and local produce. After lunch, Amira from LifeCycles Project Society led a tour of the micro-farm and courtyard garden, sharing the history of the collaboration and about LifeCycles’ Growing Schools and Seed the City programs.
The afternoon featured two amazing panels on youth experiences and Indigenous-led projects. In the ‘Amplifying Youth Voices: Youth experiences of school farm programs’, Vivian, Ava, and Zoe shared their experiences as youth involved in school farms, land-based learning, and other local food projects in high school and university. Hearing their reflections was a powerful reminder of the need to provide opportunities for youth to engage in multiple ways to experience different aspects of the food system and grow their leadership skills and career planning. One youth offered that there should always be an alternative way to engage with a topic or project so youth do not feel forced into dirty work or free labour. The panel also focused on how experiential programs are important for youth who struggle in traditional learning environments and can prioritize access for youth with mental and physical disabilities by providing information about the structure and expectations of the program ahead of time.
In the Indigenous-led Agriculture and Food systems Education panel, Charlene (KPU, Squamish Nation), Earl (PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱, SȾÁUTW̱ Nation), and Elizabeth (Local Food 2 School, Haida Nation) shared powerful stories of the work they are doing in their communities and their vision of what an Indigenous-led food system would look like. These visions included returning to the abundance of traditional foods like salmon, berries, camas, and seaweed and involving youth from a young age to build food sovereignty. The panel included calls to action for the attendees to develop place-based relationships with Indigenous peoples and students in their communities, learn about how farms have been used as a tool for colonialism in the past in residential schools, and incorporate trauma-informed practice into their programming that acknowledges those harms.
In the final circle, participants shared some learnings from the day that resonate across school farms and school food systems projects, as summarized above.
Saturday Food Tour
On Saturday, a food tour was offered at the Mustard Seed Food Security Distribution Centre, South Island Farm Hub Distribution Centre, and TOPSOIL’s farm site, with a stop for lunch at local favourites Cafe Fantastico and Fol Epi. Participants heard about each organization’s work to support a thriving local food system. TOPSOIL’s farm site is a larger version of the same farming model that Reynold’s micro farm utilizes a flexible and efficient approach to urban agriculture (seen in the photo above) and attendees were keen to hear how this method could be used in a school setting.
The organizing team would like to offer immense gratitude to all the participants, presenters, organizers, and sponsors who made the day a success. This day would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors and contributors: SPARC BC and Farm to Cafeteria Canada, McConnell Foundation, Province of British Columbia the Victoria Foundation, Reynolds Secondary School, and SD61.