To meet, we all rose before sunrise, some gathering in Ganges, SSI to catch the morning water bus, others riding the ferry from Pender, and the rest rising to arrive at the Sunny Mayne Cafe where we made introductions and set the agenda over coffee and muffins around 7:30am. All together, we were twelve, including 7-year-old Roslyn, plus her toddler sister Evie.
Pender, Phoenix, Fulford, Salt Spring Elementary, and Mayne School Gardens were represented, along with school garden enthusiasts from as far as Victoria. Selena Flood, the Mayne School Garden Coordinator hosted along with Robin Jenkinson from Salt Spring Elementary, and the event was supported by the DPAC and an Island Savings Community Endowment grant. Our goals were to connect across school gardens, share successes and challenges, and learn from one another.
At the Mayne School Garden, Selena, along with Katja Korinth, shared some of the history and plans for the gardens. We learned about the wicking beds that help conserve water and make summer irrigation much easier. People remarked about the mature fruit trees and perennials in the garden, and others appreciated the accessibility and visibility of the project. Selena told us about the bumper crops grown this year and the excited students and families, about their school Harvest Lunch, and a study done on an extremely tall sunflower. Plans for the future include a gathering area, requested by teachers, and figuring out ways to engage more community with students for garden work-parties.
Inside the cozy Mayne School Library, we shared photos and posters about the various school gardens, then Robin led a small-group worksheet exercise about reflecting and setting goals for school gardens in a balanced framework of project sustainability. After discussing each garden project in small groups and making notes using the worksheet, we reported back to one another and learned more about the current successes and challenges of each project. We agreed that District-level support would be very welcome, along with ongoing opportunities to get together and share, like this one.
Before we all departed for ferries home, Arthur Kikuchi showed us seeds gathered from the school garden and described bringing chicks to the school for garden work days, and Julie Johnston shared a poster about how school gardens teach exactly what's needed to create resilience in the face of climate change.
In the end, this event forged new relationships and brought school garden enthusiasts together with knowledgeable supporters. It also resulted in a strong plan for support of the Mayne School Gardens by the Mayne Agricultural Society, the opportunity for Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds to stay on Mayne that afternoon to help them develop a seed diversity library, and for Serena Mellen to offer to loan Salt Spring Elementary an awesome hydroponic grow tower for the winter! Serena and husband Richard came to SSE the next day and taught Kari Holmes kindergarteners about this space-age technology and each planted their own seeds to grow out over the winter in the school hallway. Serena was so inspired by this gathering that she even created a new Facebook Group called "School Gardens" that you can join here!