CANORA - For the second consecutive year, Canora Composite School staff and students planted and looked after the school garden through the growing season.
Derek Serdachny, CCS vice-principal, said there are a variety of goals and benefits involved in the garden project.
"It will encourage community members to become active in our students' learning, teach students and parents the importance of agriculture in our community and the world, while offering our students experiential learning opportunities through agricultural-based activities," said Serdachny. "We intend to reach our goals by creating a learning environment that includes a large garden, fruit orchard, student wellness garden, outdoor learning spaces and a renovated school kitchen to utilize the foods we harvest at school."
This year's garden was planted on June 9 by the entire school, as well as the Grade 4 students from Canora Junior Elementary School, who are the current Grade 5 class at CCS.
"Each class was given a quadrant that they seeded," explained Serdachny. "Students Elizabeth Cuni, Daylia Lukey, Natalie Psyhk, and Heidi Mentanko helped maintain the garden over the summer. We were very fortunate to have their parents help maintain the garden as well. Leona Kitchen, one of our teachers, helped water our new trees and helped with the maintenance.
“Students were given an honorarium to maintain the garden and help sell vegetables at the Canora Live & Play Street Festival in August. Vegetables that are harvested from our garden are sold at our own school Farmer’s Market and community markets. Proceeds from these events help buy seeds, tools, and compensate our students for their hard work."
Serdachny said the garden was very productive this year.
"Some of the extra money earned this year will go towards our kitchen renovation. Big thank you to everyone who came out to support our school. We hope the vegetables were delicious!"
As is the case with any relatively new venture, Serdachny said lessons learned along the way will be applied in future years.
"In our first year we had most of our beets and cucumbers disappear. Some individuals may have thought it was a community garden and helped themselves. We will be making permanent signs this year that will explain what the garden is used for. Our students will be designing them in class.
"We unfortunately had some mole issues and potato bugs. Some of the corn and potato plants were damaged."
Unfortunately, cool and wet spring weather prevented them from getting into the garden early, but there was a positive side as well.
"For the most part we didn’t have to water the garden. We watered the new trees regularly throughout the summer. This was a significant time commitment."
Serdachny and the CCS staff are highly motivated to advance student learning, which is a large part of the garden project. The first goal was to raise enough funds to build a garden on school property. Through grants and community donations, the funds raised were sufficient to create a 5,750 square-foot garden.
"The garden is important because it will provide healthy food for our students and our Practical Applied Arts/Food Studies programs," continued Serdachny. "Our next major goal is to renovate our kitchen. This renovation will allow us to offer programs such as food related PAA strands, Food Studies, and Life Skills courses for our functionally integrated students. In addition, our new kitchen will allow us to offer a nutrition program before and during school hours. We can offer healthy lunches and snacks for our students throughout the day. To ensure we are focusing on our students’ holistic health, we are also working on our fitness center. Our goal is to create a facility that allows students to exercise and learn the benefits of an active lifestyle all while incorporating agriculture into their learning."
Agriculture is a vital industry for Canora and surrounding area, but Serdachny admits there are students at CCS "that do not know the difference between corn and cucumbers.
"Our youth need to learn that there is a great deal of work that goes into the production of food. Grocery stores are only a fraction of this process. The garden was the first step in showing students how and what work goes into growing produce. The second step is to renovate our kitchen. Once completed, the kitchen will have a direct impact on student health and learning opportunities."
One of the goals for the program is to provide students with the best learning experience possible by utilizing experts from the community and surrounding areas.
"Our hope is that community members will help teach our students valuable techniques and skills used when growing and processing vegetables," explained Serdachny. "For example, we would love to have community members volunteer and teach our students traditional teachings, canning techniques, pickling, and demonstrate how to utilize the vegetables we grow. Renovating our kitchen allows us to offer curricular courses that are important to our students' development. It helps engage them in their learning and teaches them skills they can use every day. Most importantly, it teaches students the process of getting food from the farm to the plate.
"Our kitchen connects our community members with our student population. The sharing of knowledge from young and old helps our community come together and work together. These relationships benefit everyone in the community."
Serdachny said plans are in place to continue to grow and diversify the project next year.
"We planted a variety of crops this year including: canola, wheat, barley, oats, and canary seed. Our hope is to get agricultural experts out to our school to teach us about the different varieties, plant and soil science, and different careers that are involved in the agricultural industry. We will try our best to get construction started on the kitchen in 2023."
Support from the community going forward will play a key role in the continued success of the project.
"Our staff is working hard to generate funds through grant writing," said Serdachny. "We earned over $10,000 to help build our garden, buy tools, and build the garden shed. Additional grants we received in 2021 and 2022 will go towards the kitchen renovation. Good Spirit School Division is also contributing money towards the renovation which we appreciate. Unfortunately, we are short approximately $100,000.
"Our hope is that community members and the business community will see the value in renovating our school kitchen. The kitchen enhances our students' learning, improves student health, and adds to our community. Our SCC and CCS staff will be working on some fundraising events this year. Please keep an eye out for information. If anyone is interested in the program and would like to learn more about it, please contact the school at 306-563-5492."