A deliciously warm autumn in the school food gardens
The school food gardens in east downtown Toronto have been blessed with an exceptionally long and warm autumn, making for a lot of harvested greens, fruits and vegetables like mouse melons, tomatoes, ground-cherries, sunberries, peppers, lemon cucumbers, lettuce, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, okra, coriander, Chinese chives, Tulsi and Genovese basil, dill, bok choy, thyme, and many other varieties by the children.
One of the students new favourite revamped workshops is Nutrition All-Stars. This workshop incorporates harvesting, a fun and competitive nutrition knowledge “game show” challenge, and a food prep component. Children got to make their own homemade salad dressings with herbs from the garden in wide-mouthed mason jars and than taste their creations with greens such as kale from the garden. Each group got to name their salad dressings too. My favourite so far is Magnifique Saladinia Cocktail, which came about because the group members working on the lemon juice, honey, garlic, parsley and chive based dressing could not decide on one name. So combine all three! Amazing!
In terms of building, children and youth have taken advantage of this lovely weather to build more garden beds with Henry’s earthblock bricks from Fifth Wind Farm at three locations.
The Grade 7 students from Ms. P’s class constructed another new earth block bed at Winchester P.S., bringing the total number of food beds over 14 at their school, three constructed out of the sustainable sun-dried local material!
At l’école Gabrielle-Roy the grade 5’s built a new bed too, with some adjustment. Students had to stagger the bottom layer, leaving gaps in between blocks, because we were not able to cut a hole in the concrete in order to allow drainage. This week, we had a giant garden overhaul, where the students ranging from kindergarten to grade 6 worked together to add compost and mulch the beds, and secure and water the seedlings (using the spiffy rainwater collector system the hired youth build over the summer) under the cover of the hoop house. They named the hoop house “Petit Allan Gardens”.
Also, children from the Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club in Regent Park helped build an awesome retaining wall at Riverdale Farm in our after-school program.
Other activities still ongoing: composting (Composters of the Month, Build a Worm Bin Compost Challenge), garden club, seed saving, garlic planting, garden prepping for next spring, and season extension (i.e. growing greens under cover!).
Our garden season extension methods include constructing hoops houses over some of the earthblocks so that we can continue to grow greens all winter long AND get a head start next year!
Green Thumbs was also able to participate at the Eat-In Ontario event in October with various organizations and individuals. 700 GTA students ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 12 participated in various curriculum linked garden, food and environmental workshops in front of Queen’s Park.
Also notable was the first Growing Up Together workshop for educators, a collaborative between Green Thumbs Growing Kids, FoodShare, Toronto Public Health and TDSB EcoSchools. Our first session entitled Tasting the Seasons included workshops on planning a food garden on schoolgrounds, a lesson in food miles, incorporating herbs from the garden into pesto making, green smoothies, food safety in the classroom, garlic planting and etc. Thanks to all the teachers, students and educators that made it!
Other significant workshops: garden clean up at Allan Gardens with the women from the Centre Francophone de Toronto, and a workshop with 20+ youth from UforChange.
All in all a lot of experiential programs encouraging healthy eating, physical activity and local food consumption!