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High school’s new garden draws community

Written on May 13th, 2013

[caption id=”attachment_133” align=”aligncenter” width=”348”]Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua (second from right) and Vaughan Ward 2 councillor Tony Carellawith with TDCH students. Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua (second from right) and Vaughan Ward 2 councillor Tony Carellawith with TDCH students.[/caption]

From Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua planting a couple of vegetables last Friday to community members calling in to say they’ll help weed, water and harvest this summer, a new garden at Toronto District Christian High (TDCH) has been yielding a crop of community connections since the idea for it was planted.

This is what’s been most exciting about the new garden for Grade 12 student Amy Frankruyter.

Whether connecting with Seeds for Change, which has funded and provided expertise around growing the garden, or co-ordinating with students who have come forward to share their ideas for the plot, “to be able to be there and help bring it all together was really neat,” Frankruyter adds. “That was the most interesting and exciting part for me.”

Last year a TDCH Grade 10 environmental sciences class proposed the school take up a challenge issued by Seeds for Change, a grass-roots community organization, partnered with the York Region Food Network, to create healthier neighbourhoods through school and community gardens.

Seeds for Change has “thrown down the gauntlet” for York Region citizens to register and grow 2,015 new food garden plots by 2015, in correlation with the FIFA women’s world cup and Pan Am Games.

Starting her Grade 12 environmental sciences class this semester, Frankruyter got excited about joining in to make this happen and offered to take the lead on liaising with Seeds for Change.

Since then, various students have offered to work on different parts of the project. One group built four raised structures to hold the vegetation, others planted and continue to provide care while still others are co-ordinating what is done with the harvested goods.

Already the school store is offering the garden’s lettuce crop, and other produce will be donated to local food banks. Garden fare includes herbs such as dill, rosemary and mint, a bed of tomatoes, strawberries and eggplant and even some watermelon and cucumbers.

The intent is for the school’s Grade 10 and 12 environmental sciences classes to care for the garden during the school year, and letters have been sent to community members inviting them to tend it through the summer. A number have already called in to say they’d like to do so.

On June 7, the mayor visited to officially open the garden and also help commemorate the school’s 50th anniversary.

“He shared with us how important he thought the vision is that we have here and that we made it come to life,” says Frankruyter, also noting he was impressed that TDCH is the first school in York Region to have a food garden plot.

A new crew of students is now being trained to tend and harvest the garden this fall. There are also plans to work the garden into as many of the school’s subject areas as possible, from business to biology, Frankruyter says.