Wednesday, 21 October 2015

JPCI Another Great Season

A Season in Review!

 As the first frost slowly puts the garden to sleep and as we finish our final fall harvests it becomes time to reflect on the season. Time to look back and remember the beautiful tomatoes, wheelbarrows full of potatoes, community dinners, shared memories, hardships, lessons, and growth that took place in the garden and all of its community, volunteers, and students. Oh! What a year it has been!
Our Fibonacci Herb Spiral coming in to full bloom! What a great teaching tool and sitting Area! 

Layers of compost

We started early again in the greenhouse growing beautiful cool weather and hot weather crops, kale's, cabbage, leeks, onions, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, celery all got head starts in doors while winter raged on. We grow all our seedlings in soil blocks, this system allows us to use our own compost we make mixed with topsoil, sand, and worm castings to create an almost no waste seeding program. We have full control over our soil mixes, we know that everything is organic and we don't have to buy thousands of containers or flimsy plastic seeding trays that usually have to be thrown away at the end of the season. By growing our own seedlings we can use saved seed and grow a wide diversity of vegetables, flowers, and herbs that you will not find garden centers and stores.
 The Spring season is usually the hardest season. Lots of soil needs to be tended too, seedlings transplanted, beds made, compost flipped. Everyday it feels like a shovel or garden fork is glued to your hand! There is only one way to get through all the work and that is to call upon volunteers, community, and friends who have supported the garden throughout the last four years. We were able to finished building our permaculutre raised beds, plant over 60 fruit trees and shrubs, transplant hundred and hundreds of cabbage seedlings. Slowly seeing the first green growth of the season is the biggest award yet!


Friends and volunteers helping build our raised permaculutre beds in early spring
 Usually everyone gets to see the bountiful harvests, serene sunsets, and market stands of an urban farm; the bright side of growing food. I think its very important to also see and realize the other side of growing food. This season we were hit with a very late spring frost on May 24th. A hard enough frost that kale, cabbgae, and a bunch of swisschard and radish seedlings died. To have this late of a frost in May is very rare. We lost almost all of our special seedling varities that we had taken care of in the greenhouse. We counted our loses and started as many brassica seedlings as possible, we reseeded radish and swiss chard, and asked around for help finding organic vegeatable seedlings. We finally got all our hot crops in (tomato, eggplant, pepper, etc) by mid June. June the last month of spring and the start of summer was unseasonably cold and extremely wet, so wet that large portions of our beds and garden were flooded. I am not sure if more drops of rain fell or if more tears were shed during that time. Weather and uncontrollable forces can really but a strain on bodies and minds already physically exhausted and running out of ideas. We started a lot of beds over again and thanks to a stronger community and lots of helping hands we were able to reseed and start over. The rest of the season we had great weather, huge harvests and a late fall frost! Sometimes tough times like this are a great reminder to how little control we have and all you can do is try to but your best food forward.(the weather is also a great reminder of our impact on our environment and the unpredictability of future farming).

This season can be highlighted by all the amazing initiatives and new projects that took place in the garden!
One of our biggest initiatives this season was that we started a Community Compost Program!
Our Kitchen Scraps to Fresh food program has been widely successful. Trying to figure out away to get more people involved in the garden, to distribute fresh food to folks in need in an ethical and dignified way, and how to produce enough compost so that we wouldn’t need to truck any in; led to the development of our Compost Markets. We held five markets starting in mid August to Mid October were community members could bring kitchen waste and trade for market dollars that were good at each market. Collection bins were setup at all the entrances to the garden; and would be brimming with kitchen scraps every morning or after every weekend. Bringing food scraps to the garden became a great incentive based way to get our community composting! It allowed everyone to get involved and feel connected to the garden. 

A wheelbarrow of food scraps traded for fresh veggies

Jonathon excited for composting!
We also made large pots of soup for and muffins so everyone could also eat together creating a stronger community. It was so successful that throughout next season we will have biweekly community compost markets! We now have the largest schoolyard compost program in Canada and will produce over 40 yards of finished compost this year!

Proper composting takes a community of organisms and people to make

 We also added to our outdoor kitchen! Building a rocket stove, which is a type of high efficiency wood stove, has allowed us to fry, saute, and boil along side baking with our oven. We also build a beautiful wine bottle and cob outdoor composting toilet that allows us to hold a bunch of events at our 24 person table! The best thing is we made all these things out found materials and from clay that we dug right from the garden ourselves. Using a car battery and converter we now also have the ability to have lights and music outdoors for nighttime events! With the improvements to our outdoor kitchen space we have started hosting a Chef series were Chefs can showcase beautiful and colorful farm to table dinners. We are excited to see how our outdoor cooking spaces will involve for the future! The importance for garden to have a place to share meals is important, food connects community. Many people in Lawrence Heights have come together to celebrate food and themselves in a beautiful way.

We were also lucky enough to work with Focus on Youth Toronto again this season and were able to award eight hard working student volunteers with full-time summer jobs. They spent the summer learning farming techniques and helped make sure that when school started in September that the best garden possible awaited teachers and students! Fall time in the garden is full of Teachers utilizing the garden and everything it has to offer as an outdoor learning space. The diversity of classes, age groups, and subjects that use the garden to learn is as varied as the insects and wildlife that call it home. Just to give you an idea I want to list some of the subjects and projects classes worked on.
Business Class- The business class ran a two season Community Supported Agriculture program. Students designed and Marketed a 20 person CSA for spring and fall. For 25 dollars a week members would get 30 or more dollars worth of the freshest, local, organic produce possible. For every share that was sold a share was donated to the community. Students helped plant, harvest, and fill the weekly bags. There business plan and model even won the Sage Canada Youth Entrepreneurship competition. They went on to represent there school and community on a global level in Seoul, South Korea.  
Grade 11th/12 th  Technology – They designed scan-codes; which with the help of a smart phone could directly link students and community members to recipes; information, harvest times, and pests for any plant in the garden.
Photography- Links much of there work into documenting seasonal change in the garden and allowing students an outdoor space to learn photo techniques, to take worm and bird eye view photos.
Art- Art classes help paint beautiful and informative signage for the garden. They also helped us build an outdoor cob oven. They learned about functional design in art, how to make cob, and designed found mosaics on the outside of the oven. The project accumulated in a outdoor nacho lunch made in the oven!
Career Class: Students learned about Urban Agriculture, outdoor education, and got to ask questions on different options and career paths for a variety of outdoor jobs, and environmental education.

Travel and Tourism ; lessons on Eco-tourism, and land preservation. Talked about farm trusts, national parks, and international preservation projects, and the importance of supporting local communities who are most invested in these spaces.
Grade 1 Flemington ; For four years this class has been using the garden to help children connect to nature and food. The children write about there experiences, new words like decomposition or organic, and things they learned in the garden every week. They come out weekly throughout the entire season learning to respect bees, how to make compost, or care for chickens. The noticeable difference in the kids behavior, listening skills, writing abilities, and decision making skills after just a few visits in the garden is phenomenal.Grade 4 science classes from local schools: Wild foraging and bio-diverse salads to highlight healthy eating and importance of biodiversity on small farmsGeneral Learning Skills- GLS- Mixed grades- Different garden projects promoting volunteering and building stronger friendship and relationships for everyday classroom activities.
ELS- Students helped build Fruit Guilds and Plant over 40 new fruit trees and shrubs, It allowed a lot of students to share stories and experiences from home.
Biology: Students use the space to lean about plant identification, biodiversity, seed saving, and to explore the Micro and Macro worlds that exist in the garden from the cellular level to the cycles of life’s for bees.
Grade Nine Science: Students setup malaise insect traps to safetly identify the diverse insect population of the garden. Each class also made worm compost bins for the classrooms during the winter months.Math: This season we built a Fibonacci herb spiral, classes would do math in nature workshops, learn about golden ratios and then try to find examples in the plants or insects throughout the garden.English: Students wrote creation myths stories that they then recited in the garden, also classes used the space for work and as an outdoor reading space, 

Creative Writing: Classes would write creative pieces about what they observed by sitting and experience all the senses of the garden.
Food and Nutrition: Classes did edible tours and talks on soil that highlight nutritional content of wild edibles and how organic farming practices produce more nutrient dense foods. Classes also are working on canning, making pickles and sauerkraut along with baking in the cob oven. Gym- Mixed grades- Gym classes have been coming out and talking about how to eat as an athlete; Also ways to do out of the gym exercising (Helping neighbors cut grass; working in the garden; getting physical labor jobs during the summer etc.)
The plethora of classes using the garden throughout the day allows kids multiple chances to learn and experience the garden in different ways throughout the week!  
What a season its been! 

1 comment:

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