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Next-Gen Farmers

A Look at Sardis Secondary’s Farm Program

Tom Baumann

Tom Baumann speaks at the breaking ground ceremony of Sardis Secondary's Farm Program

Tom Baumann speaks at the breaking ground ceremony of Sardis Secondary’s Farm Program

I am waiting at the gate under blue skies. The temperature is warm and a strong breeze from the west blows across the trees at the corner. A group of young people in their cars wait, just like me, enjoying the outdoors in the meantime. Right on time, Tania and Joe, two Sardis Secondary teachers, open the gate and a flood of vehicles enters the small parking lot at the School District 33 farm site.

Shortly thereafter, magically orchestrated, small groups of students prepare soil, add compost, seed, plant, apply weed supressing plastic mulch or paper mulch, install irrigation and generally make themselves useful. One is measuring distances and height for a ramp for the lawnmower to be driven into the storage container.

Tania Toth and Joe Massie, teachers and overseers of Sardis Secondary School Farm

Tania Toth and Joe Massie, teachers and overseers of Sardis Secondary School Farm

Under the capable guidance of Tania and Joe, this place has been transformed from a holding property into a place of appreciation for agriculture and agricultural education for elementary to university students. The students mingle; the upper grades mentor the lower grades, and the university students from UFV mentor the high school students. The teachers, both with a passion for producing food, have taken the program from the classroom to a school greenhouse and mini barn, and finally to a 5-acre farm site close to the school.

The program has resonated with local businesses and our own Canadian horticulture expert, Brian Minter, who share their expertise and substantial support with this next generation of growers. Interest in this effort has spread around the province of BC—throughout the Fraser Valley, Metro Vancouver and even the interior of the province. The goal is clear: get young students interested in the science and art of growing food, while using sustainable methods to do so. Help them understand the lifecycle of crops, the fertility of the soil, and all that lives and crawls around the farm.

Over the past 12 years, farms, garden centres, researchers, extension services, and government bodies have already reaped the benefits of this particular program and its ever expanding influence. This has become the breeding ground for bigger and greater things; and, every year, without pause, the program expands.

Students sign up for the farm’s summer learning course and the Community Supported Agriculture program is underway as I observe the activities. Funds from the CSA program are used to support the school’s farm program.

As I explain to the students how a graft is done and a variety joined to a rootstock, it dawns on me that I am in the right spot. And that the teachers are in the right spot, and so are the students and the entire community. The confluence of knowledge, application of skills, and the independent, hands-on learning creates precious food producers while beautifying our community.

Students sign up for the farm’s summer learning course and the Community Supported Agriculture program is underway

Students sign up for the farm’s summer learning course and the Community Supported Agriculture program is underway

Government has also acknowledged these efforts. The education that is happening is where the jobs are. Students learn on site, getting their hands dirty. Parents and farmers get involved, and watch the lights switch on in those eager eyes that are absorbing the new information with lightning speed. There is excitement over the first sprout, the first strawberry, the smell of the herbs and, yes, even the chats while weeding. All combine to create an atmosphere where learning and experience are continually fed.

We are all a part of this food web. We all live and breathe agriculture. Survey after survey shows that locally grown food is “in” and local farmers are more and more appreciated. Even drivers, who have to slow down for the wagon pulling the feed for the steaks they are going to eat that evening, smile when they smell the familiar scent of fresh hay.

Yes, we are in the right place. The natural resources here in BC have provided opportunities for us to become the best and most forward-thinking agriculturists in the world. There have been exciting innovations in all agriculture sectors including food processing, hops, papayas, greenhouses, and locally grown, fresh, high quality food with fewer carbon miles.

Here in BC, we are ready. Our next generation has what it takes to make a living in agriculture and keep us all fed. They will turn on irrigation and feeders from their cell phones, be respectful of the environment, and will be drivers of technological advances. A big bow to the younger generation; we are in good hands. Now where is my cell phone so I can turn the irrigation off?

For more information about the Sardis Secondary School Farm, visit the website.

Sardis School Farm

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