Robert Wallace Nicundano MacDonald (left to right), Yara Al-Odatallah, Claire Bigeau and Newton Ng working in the outdoor gardens at Reynolds Secondary. (Photo courtesy Leah Selzter)

Greater Victoria students help bring small-scale urban farming to community

The high school students presented their work at City Hall on Nov. 13

  • Nov. 16, 2019 12:00 a.m.

Students in the Greater Victoria school district participated in a small-scale urban agriculture project over the summer and were able to grow food, connect with the community and improve their mental health in the process.

The Seed the City project was open to all secondary students in the district. Thirteen students from Mount Douglas Secondary, Reynolds Secondary, Victoria High School and Esquimalt High School took part in the program and put in at least 100 hours each over the course of nine weeks.

The project was a partnership between School District 61 (SD61), LifeCycles and Topsoil, explained LifeCycles program manager Leah Seltzer.

LifeCycles has been operating in the Capital Regional District for over 25 years and seeks to develop communities that build, share and harvest food.

Seed the City emerged from a need to bring agriculture to schools and help students in high school learn about career paths associated with farming, Seltzer said.

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She worked closely with the students all summer teaching them about the many aspects of urban agriculture.

Students earned work experience credit through the program and spent their summer growing vegetables in the courtyard gardens at Reynolds Secondary and salad greens in the new, above-ground, micro-farm beds provided by Topsoil. The students also attended workshops and field trips and ran a stall at the Topsoil farmers’ market each week.

Seltzer pointed out that none of the students dropped out of the program and that many spoke of how much they enjoyed learning, eating healthy, being outside, connecting with their peers and building something that lasts. The garden remains on the school grounds and has provided fresh food used in the cafeteria throughout the fall.

On Nov. 13, the students presented at City Hall during a small-scale urban farming information session.

The program has given them several opportunities to become advocates for what they care about, Seltzer noted.

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Seed the City exposed students to career paths in horticulture and sustainability which is the goal, according to District vice-principal Lindsay Johnson, who oversees the career path programs in SD61. Helping students figure out who they are and then find a career path that aligns with who they are while still in school is the district’s goal, she noted.

Many of the students who participated indicated a desire for a livelihood involved in making positive change, Seltzer said. Now, they know that farming isn’t just happening in rural areas and that they can combine life in the city with their passions for food-growing.

Seltzer and Johnson are hopeful the program will run again in the summer of 2020. For updates, visit the lifecyclesproject.ca.


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