Monday, May 15, 2017

Organic Farming Experiential Program at YMCA...

I was thrilled to accompany Northview Heights Secondary School's grade 12 culinary program teachers and students on their field trip to YMCA Cedar Glen in Schomberg (one hour north from downtown Toronto), to enjoy one of YMCA's outdoor experiential programs of organic farming. Ministry of Education's Student's Success/Learning to 18 Strategic Policy branch has mandated a toolkit for Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) enrolled students, called I.C.E. - innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Northview chose Cedar Glen as the community partner and worked with them to come up with solutions to a problem. As the practical activity to the class theory on growing food to complete Gear 3 of the I.C.E. toolkit, program head Chef Dimitra K. organized for her students to get hands-on at a real farm for a 360 experience. They've already come in October to help in the harvest and to enjoy the farm-to-fork produce for lunch in the centre's cafeteria. Now, they're returning in the spring to see the front end- to be part of how it all starts and grows. Connecting with nature and mother earth, and planting seeds for the food future is beyond exhilarating! 

Teaching kids cooking and life skills at Northview, making everything from scratch right down to pastry and ketchup, their culinary program is a poster child for everything Food Revolution stands for (two years ago, they held my massive event of 1500 participants with Jamie Oliver joining in via video-conf). Their 400 + enrolled grades 10 to 12 students along with teachers, program assistants and student volunteers cook everything from scratch every day to make the lunch meals served in the school cafeteria — now up to 1700 students! And their culinary program is hands-down amazing with a frequently updated student food blog to showcase all the great work! I have a continual relationship with their culinary curriculum and I am always excited to be there to capture their amazing advocacy for "real" field education beyond the classroom. Props to the incredible department of dedicated teachers!

Northview's SHSM is partnered with Food Share and the community HUB to work on the school grounds garden connected with the HUB space. They partner to teach youth how to start a garden, grow and manage their garden, and then benefit from the produce!

HUB Space adjacent to Northview School.

Getting the low down on the exercise out on the field today.

Grabbing our farming tools of rakes and shovels and off we march to the field.
It was a beautiful but extremely windy day out there... Hang on to our hats!

Preparing the seed bed for growing.

Turning the soil for aeration with a rake.

Planting oats!

Farming is a lot of work. A great work out for your muscles! 

Digging deeper to prepare for planting onions and potatoes. Then over goes some compost.

Onions are planted from bulbs!

Can you guess what these are?

Banana Fingerling Potatoes!

Russet Potatoes!


Getting instructions to plant kale.

Balmy in the greenhouse!

Culinary Program Instructors Chef Dimitra K. and Janet.

Preparing the soil for seedling planters. We've got cucumbers and zucchini.

Plant pointy seed side down!

The dynamic culinary program of students graduating this year! More than half are going to pursue a food career and continuing their studies at a college. I wish you all the best of luck!

The breathtaking panoramic view from the YMCA cafeteria during lunch.
In the fall, the colours and foliage is even more exquisite!

Located in beautiful surroundings, YMCA Outdoor Centres create meaningful group experiences fostering personal growth, skill development and teamwork especially to support youth, educational and community organizations. Leaving the classroom behind and getting outdoors allows students to learn, strengthen and create memories that will last a lifetime with experiential learning activities! With farming, its the best kind of real food education ever!

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