Volunteers help David Thompson school garden grow

For the volunteers who came out April 12 to prepare the garden beds at David Thompson secondary school, it was about supporting environmental causes in any way they could.

Volunteer Barbara Bradbury said there’s a huge need for individuals to help out. “The Vancouver Park Board doesn’t have enough money,” she said. “They can’t hire enough people to do it and it’s labour intensive.”

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Bradbury said she’s always been gardening. Growing up on a farm in Mill Bay, she has witnessed changes in the climate and ecosystem and believes the Earth needs as much support as it can get. “The natural environment is declining from all the [industrial, commercial and residential] development,” she said.

The David Thompson garden beds are a two-year-old initiative between Fresh Roots and the Vancouver School Board in a push for fresher produce in the cafeteria and food literacy skills in the students. Beside the gardens are an outdoor classroom with logs positioned around a chalkboard like an amphitheatre and a group of green picnic tables underneath shady trees.

Lower Mainland Green Team organizer Lyda Salatian said her organization wants to help the public and empower volunteers.

“People want to help the environment but don’t know what to do or don’t see the opportunities. I want to change that,” she said. “We want to put it back into their hands and make an impact instead letting them feel they can’t do anything.”

Salatian sees her group as a gateway to opportunities for Vancouverites and counts it a success if people create or join established environmental groups within their own neighbourhoods. Consistency is important, she said.

Seven able-bodied helpers were digging into the earth and removing clumps of grass from the beds so they didn’t compete for nutrients in the soil April 8. The day was cloudy, and the threat of rain might have kept others from attending.

Fresh Roots community coordinator Rosalind Sadowski said kids engage in weekly garden clubs and are empowered to eat better in their daily lives because they know where their food comes from.

“It takes a community to feed a community,” she said. “It’s not just a corporation.”

Sadowski said the gardens also changed the face of the school by animating the space.

She said gardens didn’t thrive before because of a variety of reasons. Teachers who were in charge would move to a different school, some were intimidated by their lack of knowledge, and sometimes no one was available to care for the gardens during the summer.

“It takes a lot of dedicated work.”

Fresh Roots and the Lower Mainland Green Team stepped in to help out. At the moment, Fresh Roots has gardens at Vancouver Technical secondary and David Thompson.

Neil Xing Chan, the youngest helper of the day, would like to see a garden at his school, Eric Hamber secondary. “It’s somewhat hard work but it’s manageable,” he said.

It was the 15-year-old’s first time volunteering with the Green Team, an opportunity his mother suggested to him while he was looking for volunteer hours to fulfill his high school graduation requirement.

He plans to continue volunteering because he feels he’s making a contribution to the community and is learning from Sadowski.

Bradbury said the younger generations are not working outside enough. “They don’t know what’s a weed, what’s not. They don’t recognize invasive species.”

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