The Vancouver School Board and non-profit Fresh Roots signed a partnership agreement paving the way for a quarter acre landscaped school market garden. The agreement is the first of its kind in Canada.
"We're combining local food, urban agriculture and education at our schools," says Kevin Millsip, Sustainability Coordinator for the VSB. "The work we're doing on urban agriculture is important and we're very happy to work with Fresh Roots to take farm to school to the next level."
The school's market garden will be specifically designed to provide both an educational space where students can learn about agriculture and gardening while growing Asian greens, salad greens, beets, carrots, garlic and a variety of other vegetables that grow in parallel to the school year. By synchronizing the growing season of the garden with the school year, organizers say students will reap the benefits of a fall and winter harvest.
"Hundreds of children in schools in Vancouver eat our schoolyard grown veggies with huge smiles on their faces because they learn and play in the spaces where their food grows and know their farmers," said Ilana Labow, a Director with Fresh Roots. "We are so excited to grow a large-scale hands-on learning classroom that will make it possible for thousands of children to share in the same experience."
School Board officials say the partnership opens up a whole range of possibilities at a time that the district is seeking new ideas to repurpose existing land and facilities in lieu of declining enrolment and fiscal challenges.
"This is a wonderful example of the VSB taking an unusable space and repurposing it into something that's aesthetically pleasing, educationally engaging and sustainable," says Rob Wynen, a School Trustee with the Vancouver School Board.
Fresh Roots has already collaborated with the district on a pilot garden project at Queen Alexandra Elementary. The scale of the Van Tech project is expected to dwarf the Queen Alexandra pilot. Fresh Roots organizers say a future market garden is already being planned for David Thompson Secondary.