Wednesday June 14, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 4:40 pm]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
ARCHIVE: FOOD SECURITY NEWS
PEXSISEN Elementary School is a brand new K-5 school in Langford, atop a hillside on Constellation Avenue in the Westhills neighbourhood.
The school capacity is 500 students — they’re not full this year (372 students) but are expecting to absorb more students in September 2023 (430 student enrollment estimated for 2023-2024).
Smack dab in view for anyone arriving at the school is an army of 16 garden boxes of substantive size. Growing food.
All classes at PEXSISEN Elementary have an opportunity to participate in gardening as it lends to interactive learning about how food is grown. This is something students may take forward in their lives, underlying their interest or capacity to grow food at home at various stages of their lives.
Especially as housing types become more varied in the region (including many that are smaller and within high-density urban areas), the capacity to grow a bit of fresh food is a valuable skill.
At its root, food resilience is a skill aimed at income resilience.
Garden boxes this year feature plants like basil, strawberries, peas, beans, tomatoes, Swiss chard and more.
For the most part these are resilient types of plants to grow outdoors in this climate zone.
They’re also the type of starter plants that are available for purchase from garden suppliers in town, or seeds that are easy to grow and perhaps available from local suppliers.
Irrigation & maintenance:
The garden boxes have an irrigation system, which of course helps maintain consistent watering and reducing the likelihood of crop failure.
Food growing of course continues through the summer, when students are not in class.
There are no contractors involved in the gardens, they are maintained by staff and volunteers, says SD62. But mentorship and guidance is provided through the third-party organization called Farm to School BC, including leadership from Matthew Kemshaw.
Other school gardens:
Food-growing gardens have been sprouting up across SD62 over the past several years, at elementary, middle, and secondary schools in Colwood, Langford and Sooke.
Some of the food-growing gardens are quite advanced in size and complexity — such as the one at EMCS in Sooke — which in part spawned the Eco Academy program. The growing area at Royal Bay Secondary in Colwood helps supply the school’s culinary arts program. At Belmont Secondary there is food-growing learning garden.
The SD62 facilities department last year came up with a policy that each school garden as it becomes established must be reliably maintained before expansion to more gardens is undertaken. This is, in part, to get around the ‘champion’ phenomenon, i.e. where any project relies on one person championing it but when they move on the project falls apart.
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Island Social Trends (and the previous publications MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, and West Shore Voice News 2014-2020) delivers socioeconomic news insights about life on the west shore of south Vancouver Island.