The gardens at Meadowridge School in Maple Ridge, British Columbia have been under construction for the past year—but lucky for our SAGE Team, they're coming back in full bloom! The four-year-old organic garden, run by Meadowridge's outdoor experiential education coordinator, James Willms, is composed of a 10’x 20’ greenhouse and 12 raised garden beds with automated irrigation. Because students are the primary gardeners, the edible gardens are timed for harvest during the school year. Students grow beans, cucumbers, garlic, kale, lettuces, onions, peas, pumpkins, radishes, squashes, sunflowers, tomatoes, and dwarf apple trees, which are a particular source of temptation to the local deer.
Sustainability and hands-on education are the principles underlying the decisions made at Meadowridge. The intent of the garden is to be a daily learning space for students, who prep the soil, plant and tend to the crops, and reap the harvest. The range of their projects is incredible, but each pairs a theoretical concept with a tangible experience:
As Willms observes, students “hear a lot about big concerns: climate change, food security, pesticides, GMOs. The garden gives them experience and a frame of reference. It’s on a small scale, but it allows them to make tangible connections they wouldn’t otherwise."
Underlying these varied educational experiences are plenty of fantastic fruits, herbs, and veggies—and SAGE takes all we can get! In the past, we've used parsley, cilantro, basil, mixed greens, zucchini, pumpkins, and butternut squash. According to Food Service Director Gary Riemer, we've used the herbs and veggies in soups, sauces, main dishes, and even desserts like Chocolate Zucchini Cake—which has proven a great way to get students to eat their veggies!
We're looking forward to even more bounty as the gardens grow back. We've heard tantalizing rumors of heirloom carrots and tomatoes, and we're hoping to time this year's annual Fall Harvest Supper just right so that we can serve Meadowridge's own fresh, local produce to the senior citizens who come to dine with the senior class. Beyond that, Willms has some ideas for the future, like creating an outdoor kitchen where students could learn to cook with fresh, seasonal produce from the gardens and greenhouse. We can't wait to see what's next!