A gardening and orchardry class will be offered in the spring, where youth will plan, till and organize a garden plot, says principal Dan Kenkel. They will then plant, fertilize and harvest as part of the course. Kenkel says they are pitching the course to students as learning a life skill.
In a letter to Council, Kenkel says they see a significant benefit in this program being connected to a community garden.
“If our students are working shoulder to shoulder with other members of the community, and are sharing equipment and resources as part of their collective gardening projects, it will enhance the connections with youth.”
He envisions a day when the community garden has “a healthy balance of seniors, adults, children and youth all working and learning together.” He also sees the harvest going to great community causes and charitable services.
“I see a great win-win.”
Kenkel says they need a piece of property near the school that can be accessed and used by the community. Ideally that would be a plot of land that has little or no reasonable prospects for future development as the planting of fruit trees and berry plants is a longer term venture.
Kenkel proposes the piece of land east of the school between the soccer field and the train tracks, as a good candidate property. It is village property that is held in reserve for school expansion, which makes it a poor prospect for development. It has lane access along the south fence line of the school, and is near to a water source. The small pine forest is not significant in value or in viability, he says. It is also flat with good drainage. There is room for parking and the proximity to the school means visibility and safety are quite good, he says.
Kenkel says the foundation of the Community Use Agreement is the sharing of resources between the School District and the village.
“I see this as an opportunity for the village to offer the use of village property to the school for a mutually beneficial community project.”
At the Oct. 9th Council meeting, Councillor Dallas Bullock voiced her support and noted that many communities have already gone through the same process to set up a garden, so there are plenty of resources for Valemount.
Councillor Hollie Blanchette said it would be good to get seniors involved in the garden.
“Thanks for taking this on,” Blanchette said to Kenkel who was present at the Council meeting. “This will be good.”
Kenkel says they are hoping to begin land preparation prior to freeze up. The layout of the garden would likely include individual plots cared for by specific students/residents, as well as a greenhouse, garden shed, orchard with berries and fruit trees, and a composting area.
Village CAO Anne Yanciw says the next step is community consultation. She said she would prepare a survey, both electronic and in paper form, to gauge interest from the community.