Peace Wapiti Academy Applied Botany
We want to build a stronger community through better connections to the land and how we grow our food. While our school serves the rural community in a farming region, the number of students directly involved in agriculture, through a family farm or otherwise, has been decreasing over the years due to farm consolidation and increasing urbanization. We want to get kids out into the dirt and start them growing their own food again as much as possible to help show them where the food they eat comes from. As part of this, we are partnering with the local Grande Prairie Friendship Centre to help them grow and expand their community healing garden. This community garden is a space for learning and for nourishing both the body and the soul, and we hope to contribute to the growth of the garden as much as we can.
Our botany class has been growing seedlings in our class, visiting gardening centres to learn about gardening techniques and different types of plants, and spending a lot of time at our local Friendship Centre garden, helping them to prepare the garden for this year’s growing season, as well as planting out seeds and bedding plants. This garden is primarily used by the Friendship Centre as a teaching space, as well as a source of food and traditional medicines. We were able to help spread a full 5 yards of garden soil to refill the garden beds and improve the solid conditions, as well as an additional 5 yards of mulch to help suppress the weeds between the planting boxes and to start to amend the earth within the garden area. The students who took part in the class learned a lot about planting and growing plants for food, and many of them took seedlings and plants that they started in the class home with them to plant in their own yards. Several of the students were inspired by the class to build new gardens at their own houses as well.
In the past year, we have seen how inflationary pressures and cost of living increases have made obtaining good, healthy food difficult. As well, for a region like northern Alberta, large amounts of energy are used to transport food to the area from more southerly regions, despite the fact that our growing conditions are actually quite well suited to growing fruits and vegetables, with long summer days, warm temperatures and more rainfall than many other areas to the south of us. I think that by teaching my students how easy and satisfying it can be to grow our own food and how amazing fresh produce can taste when it comes from your own garden, we can increase the number of people who are growing and creating gardens in the community. As well, by helping the local Friendship Centre with their garden, we are building connections between our school and the local indigenous communities through tangible actions.