Urban farming at a Montreal high school
Published Saturday, June 15, 2019 6:41PM EDT Last Updated Monday, June 17, 2019 2:47PM EDT
Summer school is taking on a new meaning at Montreal's Villa Maria High as students will work on urban agriculture.
They've already been working and experimenting on what's known as the Technofarm for months and in mid-June were busy sowing seeds.
Emily Cerone said checking on strawberry bushes while photographing invasive plants and insects was the best part of her day.
"I think just being outside and being on the campus because our campus is truly beautiful," she said of the sprawling area nestled on a quiet hillside where it's difficult to hear a highway that is less than half a kilometre away.
The high school started the farm last year as a way to get students out of the classroom.
Science teacher Andre Cholmsky led the students in transforming 2,000 square feet of terrain into garden plots -- some raised beds, some surrounded by chicken wire -- where students run tests on soil quality and analyze growth.
The private high school also ensures students get close to insects, bugs, and food scraps as they test different methods of composting.
"One of the goals of the Technofarm program is to develop lessons that integrate very well with the secondary school curriculum that can be carried out at least partially outdoors in a setting like this," said Cholmsky.
Throughout the summer students from other high schools are joining the program.
One of those students is Royal West Academy's Hajeong Seo, who has been experimenting with fogponics.
"Fogponics is a way of growing plants using fog so instead of using water you're generating fog to give water and nutrients to the plants," said Seo.
The students are also practicing urban beekeeping, something that is being practiced at other schools in the neighbourhood, and this year students planted one garden specifically to attract butterflies, bees, and birds that pollinate.
It's not always simple: the local groundhogs are a nuisance.
"We're looking at that as a challenge. How are we going to protect our assets from the rodents?" said Cholmsky.
But students say that overall, they're expecting a bountiful harvest.
"I feel incredible that I can even just put a little bit into helping the planet," said Cerone.
This autumn's harvest will be donated to a local food bank.
Angela MacKenzie contributed to this report