Veggie farm run by Chilliwack students for CSA this summer

Secondary students from across Chilliwack can sign up for the Sustainable Vegetable Production course this summer

A work bee brought students to the Sardis Secondary farm on Richardson Drive where they're preparing garden beds for a CSA operation this summer.

A work bee brought students to the Sardis Secondary farm on Richardson Drive where they're preparing garden beds for a CSA operation this summer.

Kids will be learning to grow food sustainably on the Sardis Secondary School Farm this summer.

Not only that, SSS students will also be running a veggie bin business to supply 40 local families with fresh produce every week.

“This will be the first year the students have a farm as a classroom,” said Agriculture teacher Joe Massie, who shares teaching duties with Tania Toth at SSS.

This summer will also be the first time they invite elementary students to grow fresh vegetables on a school plot at the SSS Farm.

“We have been collaborating on it all year and they will be choosing and planting their crops this spring,” he noted.

Anywhere from 30 to 60 high school students will be signing up for Sustainable Vegetable Production course — which will run as a summer school course for kids going into grades 10 to 12.

They can either take a 2-credit course over 40 hours this summer, or a 4-credit version for 80 hours, said Massie, and it’s open to students from across the district, not just SSS.

The agriculture students will be learning about the science of agriculture from soil health, to fertilizers, pest control and more.

“It will increase food literacy for a generation that’s grown up thinking all food comes from the supermarket,” the ag teacher said.

Running the CSA (community supported agriculture) to fill weekly veggie bins will also teach them the business side of things, with an emphasis on marketing, sales and customer relations, as well as fostering community partnerships, and attracting sponsors.

“All of these different aspects will come together,” said Massie.

Agriculture is also taught in the classroom and in the greenhouse at Sardis secondary.

A smaller CSA program started last summer at the farm to serve about about 20 families.

“This year, we are going to phase two of the project, and doubling the size of it,” he said. “You name it, and we’re growing it.”

It will be the second summer student David Wiebe, 19, will spend working at the farm.

Wiebe told The Progress he loves the “hands-on” aspect of the work, and is taking the course as independent study, and working on a four-part video series.

“We’re learning farming techniques first hand, which is really important especially in an agricultural community like Chilliwack. I also think it’s really important for students to know where their food comes from and how to grow it.”

It’s crucial to get the kids on-board.

“We need to teach the next generation about sustainable living,” he said. “I’ve found they get super excited about it and love getting their hands dirty. If they start young, they will want to do it the rest of their lives.”

Wiebe, who lives on a small hobby farm in Yarrow, said it’s been great to watch interest surging in growing food gardens.

“Here you can see the students engaged in working and planting their garden plots.”

Working on the five-acre farm on Richardson Avenue, he’s learned the value of team work, alongside his fellow agriculture students.

“I’ve found we can get a ton of work done real fast,” he said.

Seeing their hard work come to fruition at harvest time is “very satisfying,” he added.

The Annual SSS Mother’s Day plant sale will be held  May 7, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m, to support the Agriculture program.

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