Writing this report has been invaluable for us. It’s made us realize how far we have come since first receiving support from Farm to School BC to start a “school food revolution” at Fernwood Elementary School. We set out to grow, harvest and consume food from our own garden, have a whole school harvest community lunch, arrange a field trip to a local farm, and ultimately give our kids a strong sense of food security they can carry with them and share with others throughout their lives.
Students have been truly empowered by learning about soil, composting, preparing garden beds, planting seeds, watering, caring for plants and harvesting food. We offered a Harvest Lunch twice this year. Students, as well as staff and many parents prepared food sourced from our partner farm, North End Farm, as well as from our school garden. Roast chicken soup with vegetables along with a vegetarian option was served, accompanied by salad greens, kale, swiss chard, homemade bread, hardboiled eggs, sliced carrots and dried apple rings. It felt wonderful to support our partner farmers!
During the month of June, each class will be going on a field trip to the Salt Spring Island Farmer’s Institute to see antique farm equipment, the Bittancourt House Museum and learn more about pioneer farming on Salt Spring Island. Children at Fernwood can now say “I can grow my own food!” Children have realized how delicious healthy locally sourced food can be.
Although we were faced with some challenges expanding our apple tree orchard, some amazing unexpected outcomes cropped up. The first is…we decided to get chickens! This was not in our original plan, but with permission from the Gulf Islands School District, a beautiful new portable coop along with a chicken run was built. All students, headed by the Grade 5 Class, have had an opportunity to learn about raising poultry from egg incubation, chick hatching, growth, development and care, all the way to a beautiful (have you ever seen how beautiful a roosters feathers are?) chicken flock that they care for daily. We can now add fresh organic eggs to our pre-existing healthy offering of vegetables to our students.
Another unexpected outcome has been the boost to our school garden revenue by the sale of the garden produce at the farmstand that has been built with our Farm to School funds. We feel so lucky to have a way to sustain our garden financially.
Most important to us is how our sense of community has been strengthened throughout this entire Farm to School experience. We have connected with our local farms, worked together in the garden, ate together at community meals, and witnessed friendships forming amongst students across age groups and intellectual and physical abilities. Our garden has been beatified but the true beauty is watching watching a child’s face light up at the elation of being included, of being proud and of eating healthy food. Thank you!