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Farm to School – What’s happening in Alberta? October 20, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.
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We, Patci Hopkins and Cathy White, had the privilege to attend the 5th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Detroit, May 17th-19th, 2010. The theme of the conference was Taking Root.  706 people attended the conference from 44 states including DC, 6 Canadian provinces, Brazil and the Netherlands – the most of any Farm to Cafeteria conference to date!

Prior to the conference  an inquiry was made to Growing Food Security in Alberta and Alberta Health Services personnel  requesting any information/details about what F2S (Farm to School)  initiatives are currently taking place in Alberta.

We felt  quite honored to be asked to represent Alberta at the conference  and believe that we are just in the beginning stages of learning what is happening in this province surrounding connecting schools to local foods – especially to farms.

There are many things happening between Farms and Schools with the majority of initiatives educating kids about farm life. Many schools are growing gardens and community gardens are working to engage schools in gardening.  Schools and communities seem to be interested in creating more sustainable food communities and growing food locally.

What we have  learned  is that there are very few partnerships between farms and school cafeterias.   We are still in the process of gathering  information and learning what is happening and what could happen between farms and schools.

A great example of a Farm to School initiative is taking place in Sylvan Lake, Alberta. 
• Our Lady of the Rosary School has built 3 outdoor garden boxes, where they plant herbs, flowers and vegetables in the spring.  These gardens are cared for by the seniors and families surrounding the school. 
• They have Earthboxes – (2) to grow vegetables indoors for salsa and salad greens.
• A partnership has been established between  Hidden Valley Farms and the grade 1 class.   Each spring students plant a garden at the farm.  The farmer waters and tends to the garden during the summer with the students returning  in the fall to harvest vegetables.  The fall harvests contribute to a school wide ”Stone Soup” celebration.  Extra produce is distributed to grade 1 families and the Sylvan Lake community dinner.

We are still researching school gardening and Farm to School initiatives happening in Alberta.  If you know of any schools participating with farms and school gardens we would love to hear from you so we can make sure to capture this information to share with others.  Please contact us at growingpeasandcarrots@gmail.com

(Submitted by Cathy White and Patci Hopkins)

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1. Dustin Bajer - October 20, 2010

Love it! …and as for researching Farm to School initiatives in Alberta, I’d like to share one that i have been working on (http://permaculture.jasperplace.ca)

since February of this year, I’ve been working at Jasper Place High School to create a very unique permaculture program (a design system based on patterns found in ecology). With funding from AlbertEcotrust, we have transformed the schools largest courtyard into a self-maintaining food forest. Like a conventional garden, it produces a large variety of edible herbs, vegetables, and fruit, but unlike a conventional garden, it requires no waters, no fertilizing, and a minimal amount of weeding. In addition, the entire system is perennial (won’t need to be planted next year), produces it’s own soil and mulch, and increases biodiversity as time passes.

For a complete record of everything that we have done at the school, including the initial Elberta Ecotrust grant and cost’s to date, please visit:

http://permaculture.jasperplace.ca

Though we have had many great successes, I feel that there is still much that can be done at the school; with ample green-space and a greenhouse on the roof, Jasper Place is in a unique position to create a cross-curricular program with far reaching benefits to the community and similar school projects across the province. I’m currently working on creating a locally developed curriculum around the principles of permaculture and am very confident that once done, educational institutions who’ve seen what permaculture design is capable of will want to attempt similar programs; the added bonus being that once permaculture is an approved course and can be rewarded credit, it will fund itself.

2. Shirzad Chunara - October 20, 2010

Hello Cathy and Patci.

My name is Shirzad and I’m a registered Dietitian working with Alberta Ag on EarthBox Kids project. We have over 12 schools around the province currently involved in both indoor and outdoor gardening projects, and another 6-8 signed up for next year along with Devonian Gardens Green School, Northlands Ice School/Farm to Fork pilot project. With the project funds we have we are supplying schools with 10-25 EarthBoxes. We also provide assistance and guidance on how to get started and by January we will have a resource book available on “Grow your own Salsa, Soup or Salad”, which provides guidance on choosing seeds, seedlings, maintaining the plants, etc. Would love to hear more about what you’re doing and if you have any other schools, communities interested, perhaps we could offer our services and the EarthBoxes too. Looking forward to hearing from you. 780 422-2550


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