British Columbia

'It's hard work — but it's fun': North Van high schoolers farm up fresh foods

Students turn an empty field in front of their school into a 1,300 square metre garden — and they can't get enough of the kale.

Students at Sutherland Secondary School get firsthand farming lessons in 1,300 sq. m garden

Cynthia Bunbury leads a group of eager students through the massive garden at the Sutherland Secondardy School. Left to right: Kris Lakatos, Hadeel Abu Shamat, Jaime Hackland, Wendy Matsubuchi, Julia Duncan, Seth Divina, Veronica Matsubuchi, and Cynthia Bunbury. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

High schooler Seth Divina was never too keen on gardening. He used to visit his grandfather's farm in the Philippines — and always chose not to get his hands dirty.

But his mindset changed after joining the gardening club at Sutherland Secondardy School in North Vancouver.

"It's hard work ... but it's fun!" he told CBC radio producer Margaret Gallagher. "I think [my grandfather would] be pretty happy."

Divina is one of 25 students in the gardening program at the school, which is currently producing squash, dahlias and arugula across 1,300 square feet of land — right outside the school's doors.

"It's hard work — but its fun," said student Seth Devino. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

The program is the brainchild of Cynthia Bunbury, who teaches English and French at the school. 

"We had a lot of huge, grassy space out at the front of the school when our new school was built," she said.

"It struck me that it made sense to do something that was productive with that space as opposed to simply having grass that has to be cut by the district all the time."

With the help of a resident farmer, Bunbury was able to convert the space into a massive garden with 86 raised beds. Slowly but surely, students began taking interest.

The garden takes up 1,300 square feet. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

"I felt that it was really important that young people know where their food comes from, and it's kind of a movement that's gotten started," she said.

Now, students from every grade participate in the club, and they come from a number of different cultural backgrounds.

Bunbury has even used the garden to educate in creative ways.

"We've had a one-year festival to celebrate the garden where I posed as Marie Antoinette, and fed everyone cake. And last year I did Shakespearean readings in the garden to demonstrate how Shakespeare himself was enamoured with gardens."

Students get to enjoy the fruits — and vegetables — of their labour in the form of a caesar salad.

The garden creates enough fruit, veggies and flowers to run a market twice a week during peak season. And a lot of the produce makes it into the cafeteria so the kids can enjoy the fruits — and veggies — of their labour.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

To listen to the full segment, click on the audio labelled: "It's hard work — but it's fun": North Van high schoolers farm up fresh foods