By: Korie Marshall

A school garden is taking shape outside the current soccer field fence at Valemount Secondary School, and principal Dan Kenkel hopes, with some community support, there will be a good harvest ready in September.

Kenkel says a couple of schools in Canada are doing school gardens or orchards.

“It’s just a way of connecting kids to the environment, getting their hands dirty.”

He says he thought the idea would fit with the project-based learning model the school is trying to move toward, and it makes use of a piece of land that is currently not of much use.

“We have some donations and some support from the school community to get this going,” says Kenkel, “and we are off and running.”

Some volunteers have begun to clear small trees and shrubs and level the ground, and some fruit trees and other perennial plants have been purchased and donated.

“The greenhouse and garden will work in tandem, its set up nicely to be a staging area,” says Kenkel.

He says the garden will have a section for perennials and fruit trees, primarily food-bearing plants, and there will be another section for plants coming from the greenhouse. The greenhouse is currently in use by the Horticulture 11 class, but the crops will be done by the end of school in June.

“There is lots of potential for the foods class, we’re trying to do sort of a back-to-earth foods program with canning and food storage, that kind of thing,” says Kenkel.

Right now they are looking for donations of dirt, manure, clay, anything that can help amend the soil, and Kenkel says they can come pick it up with a dump truck. He says school maintenance staff is installing water lines, school district staff is going to put in a gate through the soccer field fence, and he and a few students are going to build a fence around the garden to make it bear- and deer-safe.

Kenkel had tried to apply for CBT CI AAP funds, but there were some concerns about zoning and who would be responsible, which he says he understands. The Village has confirmed the land is reserved for future school use, and a school garden is a suitable use for the property.

“We are trying to encourage members of the community to help and support our school garden,” says Kenkel. He hopes community members can demonstrate their gardening skills, and especially help with maintaining the garden over the summer, though he hopes kids can get work experience credit over the summer as well.

“We hope kids will have a place they can feel “this is my garden, my school; I’m allowed to come pick an apple,” says Kenkel.