Trevor Randle uses the community garden at Maple Ridge secondary to teach his students about the benefits of growing and cooking with local food.
He was going to cancel the garden program, though, after vandals ruined a storage shed and tore up the planter boxes this past summer, while teachers were still on strike.
Then two local businesses, with employees who live in the community – some of them graduates of the school– offered to help out.
On Saturday and Sunday, crews from Belfor Restoration and Centurion Contracting, constructed a chain link fence, for security, around the community garden, at the back of MRSS.
They also pulled grass and laid down landscaping paper and crushed rock, to beatify the garden.
And they built a new storage shed.
“It’s like a fortress,” said Randle, chef instructor for the culinary arts program at MRSS.
Students in the program have to take care of the garden plots daily, planting, watering and weeding.
In the boxes, they grow everything from lettuce and kale, peppers and peas to beans and tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis, even herbs and flowers.
All of it is used to cook the 250 meals the students prepare each day to be served at lunch in the school cafeteria, as well as for the community dinners they make every Thursday.
“A big part of my classroom here is awareness of why it’s important to grow, cook and eat locally,” rather than import out-of-season food.
Doing so is expensive, Randle said.
“And the flavor isn’t as good.”
Gardening gets his students in the right mindset. They see how much work it is to maintain the garden planters.
“Imagine what it’s like for a farmer with hundreds of acres?”
Money to maintain the community garden program comes from the school’s parent advisory committee. But it couldn’t afford to repair the garden and add a security fence, to ensure the work done by students would be protected.
“It would have taken five years of fundraising,” Randle said.
Belfor and Centurion donated the time and labour, though. As many as 17 volunteers helped out Saturday, and an smaller crew on Sunday.
Randle said their efforts were beyond expectations; laying the crushed rock was a nice surprise.
“It was awesome,” Randle said. “They saved the project.”