Growing the next generation of local food leadersMar 6, 2020
Empowering youth to be part of a local food movement.
Seed the City is an innovative educational program for high school students that gives them experience in urban farming and gardening, lets them earn credits toward graduation, and encourages them to become part of the local food movement in their city.
A partnership between LifeCycles Project Society, TOPSOIL Innovative Urban Agriculture and the Greater Victoria School District, Seed the City received a grant from the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation to launch a micro-farming pilot program for grades 9-12 students at Reynolds Secondary School.
Using TOPSOIL’s modular urban farming model, students produced enough greens this past fall to feed 120 people every week for 10 weeks. To date, they have grown 575 lbs of greens, equal to 3400 servings for the school’s weekly salad bar program.
Each summer, Seed the City also hosts a work experience program for high school students at its micro-farm where they develop community and horticultural knowledge through growing, harvesting, preserving, cooking, and marketing local foods. The program offers opportunities for young people to connect with food in a way that builds transferable skills and encourages a positive relationship with healthy eating. It also fosters social inclusion and has been seen to improve participating students’ mental health.
"Mental health is a huge issue, especially in teens, and this program has really helped, " says Anna, a Grade 10 student.
Managing a garden, producing and growing products, attending field trips to other food initiatives, and learning from guest instructors has been positively life-changing, report participating students, their parents, and their teachers. Cooperating with their peers has helped students reduce social isolation and connect with positive adult mentors who have introduced them to career pathways and post-secondary options they didn’t know existed while fostering a keen interest in food sciences and horticultural studies.
"It is really important to make programs like this available to youth because it gives us access to a whole new world, lets us experience a field that is otherwise difficult to enter, and it gives us a reason to spend more time outdoors, " says Rekha, a Grade 11 student at Reynolds Secondary School.
Following the success of this TELUS Friendly Future Foundation-funded pilot project, Seed the City is expanding to four more schools over the next three years, giving more kids access to outdoor learning environments and helping them develop new life skills.