Sardis secondary students will now be able to grow field crops

Fertile new ground for Sardis ag program

The Chilliwack school board has finally approved using vacant school district land for Sardis Secondary's agricultural program.

The field at Richardson and Blue Jay Avenues in Sardis will soon feature rows of carefully laid soil, and throngs of students tending to their nascent vegetable gardens.

The Chilliwack Board of Education has finally approved the use of their Richardson Avenue property for an expansion of Sardis Secondary school’s agricultural program, effective immediately.

Having access to the five-acre lot represents a major change for the Grade 11 and Grade 12 students enrolled in the Sustainable Resources elective course at Sardis.

Students will now be able to grow field crops, in addition to the flowers and indoor vegetables they already produce at the school’s greenhouse.

They will also run research trials for the University of the Fraser Valley’s Pacific Berry Resource Centre, thanks to a strengthening partnership with UFV. This might include looking at different fertilizers, culture control, and crop management. Berry research in the Valley depends on the next generation taking it on, explained UFV’s Prof. Tom Baumann, and schools should encourage even young kids to become excited about agriculture.

Access to the Richardson property will also allow students from any Chilliwack district school to plant and manage their own garden plots, reminiscent of Chilliwack’s past during which students frequently grew their own vegetables.

“This is a way of connecting our students with elementary schools, middle schools, within the district, and allowing for students to just start to plant, and watch things grow,” said Sardis teacher Tania Toth.

The school has been working towards this approval for three years, since first approaching the school board in June 2010. Since then, program organizers have confirmed with the Ministry of Education and the City of Chilliwack that there are no barriers to using the land for the ag program. They have also forged community connections with farmers, groups, and UFV.

This year, 120 students enrolled in the ag program. In the more than 20 years that the greenhouse has been at Sardis secondary, at least 1,000 students have passed through it.

“(This program) allows us to extend our classroom. We’re going to get kids out of their seats, out of the theoretical, and get their hands dirty, get planting crops, planting gardens…and really learn hands on how to do things,” said teacher Joe Massie.

Revenue from the sale of greenhouse products has allowed the program to be largely self-sufficient.

Massie hopes Sardis’ agriculture training eases more students into UFV’s agriculture programs, potentially providing some university prerequisites.

Other ideas for the program’s future include supplying food to the Sardis S.S. cafeteria and the UFV culinary arts program, providing students with early entry to UFV with priority enrollment, and expanding a summer program that focuses on crop science.

akonevski@theprogress.com
twitter.com/alinakonevski

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