Anna Maria Stone
Aug. 6, 2022
"Growing food is about so much more than simply watering plants. It's a place-based learning opportunity in which they understand to care for the soil biodiversity and its proven therapeutic power, and participate in a healing process where we compost our ideas into tangible nutrients that nurture our body, mind and spirit."
"Teaching youth about gardening is planting seeds for our future"
Recently, we got the pleasure of hosting a vertical gardening workshop at the incredible courtyard garden at Reynolds Secondary School. We have been running these workshops teaching our community members to grow in burlap sacks since 2020. Inspired by Afro-Indigenous growing methods, and taught to us by Marie Pierre from REFARMERS, this gardening method allows us to grow 15-20 plants where we may only have been able to grow 2-3 plants if we were growing in the ground. This is a great low-budget, beginner-friendly growing technique for small spaces. We've started dozens of these "vertical gardens" around the city of Victoria, but it was an extra special day to get to share it with the youth.
The part-garden-part-urban micro farm that we visited at Reynolds Secondary School is a part of Lifecycles' Seed the City program. In this program, students gain hands-on experience with urban agriculture while earning grade 12 credits toward graduation. They learn about how to grow food from seed to harvest - Some of the produce grown in the courtyard gardens will be sold by students at the Oaklands Sunset Market, and some can be taken home to eat with their families. This is an incredible opportunity for our youth to observe and participate in a shared garden space for an entire season, witnessing the seeds they plant become fully grown, and eventually making it onto their very own plates.
However, during our gardening workshops, we discuss so much more than how plants grow.
We share the importance of acknowledging and learning about the indigenous stewardship of the lands that we live and grow on, the Afro-Indigenous roots of this method of growing in burlap sacks, and how we can use these teachings for our urban contexts. In this particular workshop, we also started off by inviting the students to introduce themselves based on the lands they are from or the meaning of their last names. For example, we learned that in the Netherlands, they have a series of dykes and water control mechanisms, and those with the last name "Onderwater" were typically below the dykes (they were closer to "underwater"), but those that lived above the dykes were known as "Van Dyck", or "above dyke". How fascinating when our family names are tied to place and cultural history!
It was so special and rich to start off our time together learning about each other and our roots. We heard common threads of displacement, the pain of leaving behind homelands, but also of resiliency. All of our ancestors endured great challenges in various forms, and have also overcome so much, to be able to continue to pass down the wisdom of soil, seeds, and water.
Growing food is about so much more than simply watering plants. It's a place-based learning opportunity in which they understand to care for the soil biodiversity and its proven therapeutic power, and participate in a healing process where we compost our ideas into tangible nutrients that nurture our body, mind and spirit.
We are so grateful for the continued invitation to take part in these programs. In gratitude to Amira, Julia, the staff, and the students.
What sorts of relationships are you cultivating around food, land, and culture? What do you know about the lands where you or your ancestors were born?
If you feel into it, you will find your own answers.