For Vic High student Eden Murray, being around plants is where she feels most at ease.
The Grade 12 student found herself drawn to the garden on the school’s grounds after experiencing the challenges of social anxiety. “I just wanted to be around the plants,” she says, shrugging.
What started as a medium-sized plot where students were tending to everything from kale to tulips to sweet grass, has now revealed itself as the impetus for Victoria’s first learning school farm.
In partnership with Farm to School BC and Mason Street City Farms, the 5,000 sq. ft. space is bringing healthy, local and sustainable food to students and the community.
Murray, who started a club to tend to the garden, calls the farm “a really important opportunity for the youth in our community.”
“This is something that the students can interact with on a more diverse level,” she says. “There’s diversity of plants, and diversity of opportunities and different skills that we’re learning.”
Neighbours have donated fencing, the City threw in for some mulch and on Monday, students joined community members – including Mayor Lisa Helps – as Murray cut the ribbon on the new farm, quickly getting their hands dirty planting peas and fava beans.
It’s all rolling out organically, Murray says.
Helps was proud to congratulate the students on their project, saying she hopes to see a roadside stand pop up to offer the fruits of the students’ labour.
“Truly it takes a community to build a garden,” says Aaren Topley, community animator with Farm to School BC. “But, when we think about student gardens we really need to be putting student voices at the forefront.”
Farm to School BC’s mandate is to offer programs to broaden food literacy for students across the province with hands-on learning. Topley hopes the Vic High farm sets a precedent to inspire other schools to create sustainable practices of their own; the greens grown on this farm are used in the school’s salad bar program.
As Murray prepares to graduate at the end of the semester, she’s confident the farm is in good hands.
“I think that when people reach out for something like going to the garden, it means that they need it for some reason,” she says. “I think when people spend time outside, they have healing either way.”