Students growing their own food

Kwalikum Secondary School students in Qualicum Beach experiment with organic gardening

Kwalikum Secondary students Josie Christie and Keeley Campbell serve principal Jessie Witte an organic salad

Kwalikum Secondary students Josie Christie and Keeley Campbell serve principal Jessie Witte an organic salad

There are big plans for an organic garden at Kwalikum Secondary, with tasty greens already being sampled just five weeks into the project.

“The idea is to continually grow the garden from year to year, with each class expanding on the previous year’s garden,” said organic gardener Ron Campbell.

The idea grew out of the Oceanside Communities for Quality Education group’s effort to show the school’s value to the community in a time of tough budget considerations.

They are calling it KOSS-FM (Kwalikum organic sustainable school — food movement) and encourage people to tune in to the sound of fresh organic produce.

Campbell listed some of the things already growing — including Swiss chard, red sail lettuce, thyme, rosemary, chive, oregano, tomatoes — and talked of possible additions from more vegetables, sunflower seeds, fruit trees and chickens.

He pointed out the big flat, sun exposed school roof would be perfect for peppers and tomatoes.

Campbell is already looking forward to the eye opening experience students will have when they taste meals made with produce fresh from their own organic garden and how much more flavourful it will be than the processed, artificial food they’re used to.

When students eat salsa with all their own fresh ingredients or pasta with fresh oregano they will discover what real food is, he said.

He said Quality Foods is a big supporter of the project and he didn’t want to pick on them, but pointed out most produce in local supermarkets comes from California, bringing up the issues of the inefficiency of transporting the food and food security.

He pointed out Vancouver Island grows less than five per cent of its own food, down from 85 per cent 50 years ago, and small, mixed local gardens are the future.

They want to bring the community into the garden and are reaching out to dignitaries. Campbell said when Education Minister George Abbott recently visited the district but not KSS, he brought the garden to Abbott and had him plant some red sail lettuce in a pot, which he will transfer to the garden.

The garden is also perfectly located in the community, Campbell said, where students can plant and tend it, study in the food service classroom and branch out through things like the commercial kitchen at The Gardens next door, the soup kitchen at the church around the corner and the farmer’s market a block away.

“We want to get the students selling their own food at the market and reinvesting any money in the garden,” he said pointing out he’s on the farmer’s market board and secured a table for them indefinitely.

Campbell said just as its first season starts to flourish, students are off for summer vacation and Campbell is looking for garden mentors to help. 

He encourages anyone to stop by his Maggie’s Farm table at the Qualicum Beach Farmer’s Market to volunteer to help out with anything from occasional watering to expert help.