Last June, each student from Pebble Hill Traditional School planted a pickling cucumber plant in one of five raised garden beds on school-owned grounds. South Delta Secondary students tended the crop during July and over the first couple of weeks of August. In the end, 35 dozen pickling cucumbers were harvested.
This was the start of a Delta school district initiative called Project Pickle, which has been developed by the district and its partners to teach children about agriculture and horticulture by giving them hands-on experience on district-owned lands.
Exposing elements of horticulture in school neighbourhood farms will hopefully stimulate interest amongst our youth in the hopes that many of them will consider careers up and down the agri-food industry supply chain. Future farmers and chefs, retailers and processors, marketers and distributors all need to understand the importance of the food economy.
It makes sense to use underutilized lands owned by the district to grow food, and the kids will be exposed to the food cycle in the morning, at recess, lunchtime, after school and in school projects with their mentors and teachers.
Project Pickle will go a long way to show our youth they can grow their own food and more.
The Delta school district chose the ever-popular pickle for its "Hort in the Hood" (horticulture in the neighbourhood) programs and unit based curriculum studies because a pickle is quite a complicated snack.
Tending, harvesting, warehousing, the actual pickling process, canning and branding are all valuable and active lessons that kids really enjoy.
Peer mentoring is a big part of Project Pickle and in October of this year, high school students came back to Pebble Hill to teach and mentor Grade 7 student leaders, who in turn taught the younger grades how to pickle.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Sustainable Agriculture program is partnering with the Delta school district to provide agriculture and food system study units for K-12. Kwantlen students, as part of their internship, will come to Delta to share their knowledge with our students, ensuring the peer mentoring model grows.
Lettuce, beets and spinach were planted at Pebble Hill and English Bluff in August and the crop was harvested in October. It was sold to school farm neighbourhood families in a "Green for Greens" fundraiser. All grades participated in harvesting and preparing the greens.
What wasn't sold to their parents was donated to the South Delta Food Bank and food banks will be a key destination for an allocation of Project Pickle produce on a regular basis.
Project Pickle learners have built 25 raised garden beds. Everyone gets involved. Hauling lumber and soil have proved to be tons of fun for the kids. Any school in Delta is welcome to participate in Project Pickle to benefit from all it entails. You can check out some of the fun at www.bycoop.ca.
The Delta school district is supportive of a regional food strategy and is taking the lead in this regard in B.C. The good news is it won't have to do it alone.
A committee will be struck in the coming weeks to ensure the Corporation of Delta, the school district and its partners work together to keep food, farming and horticulture front of mind for future Deltans. Where we live, this just makes sense.
Mike Schneider is the founder of the Backyard Cooperative and has been working on Project Pickle with the Delta school district.