Students from the EMCS culinary program hang out in the garden on the last day of class on June 13. (Back

EMCS garden becomes a classroom

Edible garden at school will provide food for school lunches

The Edward Milne community school garden is slowly flourishing year after year, and now has the green thumb touch of a professional gardener.

After receiving PAC money, Candace Thompson, from Eagle Paws Organics in East Sooke, was hired to provide invaluable gardening tricks to students and staff.

“We were able to get some funding and we’ve hired a really well-known gardener, farmer, and she’s given us advice and it’s really helped us,” said Pia Carroll, chef and EMCS culinary arts teacher.

One of the main features Thompson has introduced to the EMCS garden is drip watering systems. The drip lines overlay each garden bed, and have manual switches, allowing control of when and how much water is released.

In the past, the garden has utilized automatic aerial spray heads, which overwatered some plants and fed weeds.

“The drip line is just concentrating on that specific area, so it’s not going to be feeding the weeds in here,” Carroll said.

The new watering system is only one of many tricks Thompson has passed on to Carroll, her students and her colleague, Marion French, also an EMCS culinary arts teacher.

“I can carry on with that information and show the students to come,” Carroll said of her new found knowledge.

The garden’s greenhouse, which was erected last spring after the District of Sooke provided an $8,000 grant, will also see its first real crop of vegetables this year.

“This will be our first true year of… having that greenhouse and really making it work,” Carroll said. “This year, we’ve got it looking really good, so that when we come back in the fall, we’ll have many good plants for the winter.”

Due to conscientious gardening, vegetables like spinach and lettuce will come into fruition for next year, which is exactly on course with future goals.

Carroll hopes that one day all greens served in the cafeteria like collard greens, mustard greens, spinach and lettuce will come from the garden, but at the same time said not everything will be supplied from EMCS soil.

“We’ve learned what grows well, what we can do and fit in the time table, and what’s pretty hearty,” she said, adding the purpose is to encourage students to discover the importance of home-grown food.

“We’re trying to instill that thread of carrying on growing your own food and how needed it is in our culture.”

EMCS culinary arts students and staff work in the garden consistently for about two hours a week.

The garden has a myriad of vegetables ranging from squash, tomatoes, carrots, beans, peas, strawberries, lemon verbena, peppers and potatoes.

Vegetables and fresh produce that will not keep over the summer will either be frozen for use in the fall or donated to different community organizations.

“If we can freeze it, we freeze it,” Carroll said, adding fresh items are taken to the Crisis Centre, Sooke Food Bank and old age pensioners.

“Nothing ever goes to waste.”

Carroll said the garden has been a learning experience each year, since it began in 2004. The EMCS garden has the markings of an invested school effort, with the shed being constructed by the wood working department, and artwork that embellishes the fencing done by students.

The garden was started with a $10,000 donation from Feast of Fields and has received monetary support from various other sources.