Back when George Epp was in grade school, the Chilliwack Schools Garden Program cost one dime to join.
“And they were called Victory Gardens,” he said, when people were encouraged to grow their own food to help with the war efforts.
“Mr. Rennie was running the program and to get the seeds we had to pay 10 cents,” he said. “Well. Suffering cats! To get it back we had to pick the weeds.”
The judges would come around and make sure their gardens were growing nicely, and eventually, the finest gardens would win awards for their owners.
That was the 1940s, and not much has changed today.
The cost has increased, but only to $2 per child. That covers the program’s costs of seeds, advertising and prizes. Today, around 200 student gardeners enrol each year.
They can grow gardens of any size, from small patio containers to larger crops. They can enter as individual, or as a pair to split up the workload. Their bounty is not only judged by a helpful panel of experienced gardeners, including gardening expert Jack Kouwenhoeven. Its also entered into the Chilliwack Fair, where the kids can earn prize money.
The 111 year old Chilliwack Schools Garden Program celebrated their annual awards night on Sept. 23, at Cheam elementary. Epp was one of several presenters, who handed trophies and smiles over to eager young gardeners.
The program is open to students from public and private schools, as well as online learners. Several of them showed up to receive their awards, hear the speakers, and meet other young gardeners.
They also got to hear from a past student gardener who has “crossed over” to be on the group’s committee.
Megan Krabbendam was in the program throughout school. As emcee for the night’s ceremony, she offered up some advice to the young audience.
“I would definitely encourage you to keep coming back here,” she said, and with practice, the gardeners will get “better and better.”
“If you don’t get called up tonight, don’t worry, maybe you will next time,” she said.
Registration for the next season will begin around February and March, with the seeds and information distributed in late April.
To learn more about the program, visit garden.sd33.bc.ca.