In November 2014 several Ash trees in the Montcrest School community garden had to be taken down due to their infection with the Emerald Ash Borer. Students mourned the loss in Eco Club. The situation presented opportunities as it opened up the tree canopy and allowed for more plant growth. After raising funds for FoodShare and the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative with a grub day on Earth Day, the Eco Club decided to donate proceeds from the potatoes grown for the first time in the community garden to FoodShare.
Many students, staff, and family members from the Montcrest School community helped to plant, water, and harvest potatoes in the community garden. Classes from grades 2 to 6 took part in planting potatoes in the spring of 2015 as part of science and drama lessons, allowing them to experience the planting process and connect their learning to outdoor experiences in nature. The garden provided a great learning space, especially for science units in grade 3 on plants and in grade 4 on habitats.
Once potatoes and other crops were planted, regular garden visits during the school year provided opportunities for watering, and a few rain barrels allowed for a minimal need for tapwater. During the summer, a community watering program was set up to allow for several staff, students, and parents to take on a week of watering at a time. By the time the 2015/16 school year rolled around the plants had grown tall and were just beginning to lose their colours – perfect for picking!
Over two garden visits, many students got out gloves and trowels and removed the tasty tubers from the ground, having a lot of fun participating in the harvest. It was great to see all the smiles, and allowing some enthusiastic students to see the full life cycle of the plant. Potatoes were cleaned, stored in the basement, then arranged for sale at the Montcrest Fall Fair near the end of September, and they sold out quickly! There was a lot of interest from families, a great starting point to growing vegetables for future years.
A big thank you to all the Montcrest students, staff, and families who helped to get the project started, and also to FoodShare in all its valuable efforts to connect youth across the city to nature and educate groups about food.
“Though the problems of this world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple” – Bill Mollison
Teacher / Researcher
Ben Blakey is a contributing guest on the FoodShare blog.