By Darren Lum
Published March 30 2017
Standing steps from Nature’s Place in Minden it’s difficult to see past the detritus left behind from the snow melt on the One to Three Youth Garden at the back of the building.
However four senior Haliburton Highlands Secondary School students are doing just that looking past seemingly insurmountable environmental issues to make a difference for themselves and other youth.
Last year Grade 12 students Rachael Reddering and Vivian Collings with Grade 11 students Emily Parish and Andrew Carmount combined their efforts to use the Minden Hills Cultural Centre’s donated land to plant cultivate and harvest such vegetables as tomatoes carrots zucchini potatoes radishes and basil. That was a trial year which encouraged the group to continue this year and include other youth.
Their aim with the trial year was to learn first-hand how to be self-reliant make positive change. They admit it was a small step in a larger movement starting in their own figurative backyard.
Andrew is a socially conscious teen. He invites other high school aged students to join them.
This project fills an important void for teens he said.
“Our community is missing for involvement especially related to gardening and non-sport things. We feel like there are things for little kids to do and adults to do but there is a huge gap for teenagers to get out and do things in the community” he said.
The learning objective is to teach self-reliance.
“Our main goal is for youth [to learn] that skill: knowing how to grow food. Also we wanted this to be a social thing. [Teach] social skills and how to do things on your own” Andrew said.
He adds this is an important lesson particularly for high school students preparing to leave home for university.
It fills an important need to not just provide a communal experience but to inspire and give young people an emotional boost.
“We saw a gap for education for youth outside of school. We saw how growing food is very important and this lack of social community within teenagers now a days is hugely lacking. So we thought this would be the best thing to get people out and talking about important issues while also doing something as positive as growing food” Andrew said.
It’s much more palatable for people to focus on a step rather than realize all the changes required Rachael said.
“If you start small and grow from that they can adapt to it” she said.
The idea for the garden came back in 2015 while competing in the video contest The Solvey Project. Open to the public competitors sent in their video with their idea to teach youth about environment issues while learning how to grow food. They competed again in 2016.
The project is run by YouTube personalities and friends Louis Cole and Dave Erasmus. Cole is a vlogger (a person who uses personal videos to deliver messages) aiming to inspire others through his FunForLouis channel which documents his adventures around the world. Also a vlogger Erasmus has been a guest speaker for TED Talks basing his talk on giving and is the founder of givey.com a global donation platform that supports charitable projects internationally. The aim of the Solvey Project videos was to encourage youth to become involved with sustainable agriculture. The winning video would be awarded money and assistance. The local teens did not win but found last year’s garden rewarding.
Before this trial effort the students had only gardened at home. They had never been part of anything of this scale or like this outside of school.
During the growing season the foursome was helped by cultural centre staff who provided labour and ensured the irrigation system was activated when none of them could come to the garden.
Andrew’s mother and centre director Laurie Carmount welcomed the students and encouraged their ambition. She was dismayed by criticism directed at the teens for how the garden looked during the year. The garden may not have always looked like it was well-tended to but the point of the garden was experiential learning. This year signage is being planned to better inform the public about the garden.
The students learned about the importance of balancing responsibilities and scheduling.
“We see it as a success for that reason. It wasn’t because of beautification. It wasn’t because of aesthetics … It was a success because these kids learned and they learned first-hand” Carmount said.
Vivian agrees and sees value in learning even if it was from mistakes.
Andrew said there was a steep learning curve to working on the garden. This year the group is striving to be more organized to deal with time constraints.
“We kind of got caught up with having jobs outside jobs for making money for university and things like that. It was really hard to find time for people get out and to work on it” he said. “There were technical things that we could do better.”
Andrew said the group is making a schedule and hopes with more people – even just one – working on the garden it will alleviate pressures.
Last year’s harvest provided enough for everyone to go home with produce despite the dry conditions. It helped that the garden didn’t face much challenge from insects or deer which actually helped by pruning peppers. The young gardeners employed permaculture and companion planting. As a preventative measure against pests the young gardeners planted marigolds.
Andrew said the key is to keep it simple. The plan is to plant less but increase the yield for garlic tomatoes peppers onions carrots potatoes and beans. Those who help this coming harvest season will share in the yield.
Rachael said this garden represents what is possible and how people can get away from the current trend of consumerism.
“It’s really important to teach our youth like us to alter our mindset about how we have to live and how we have to be consumers and consume consume consume. There is so much waste in that. When you’re self-sustaining you can grow everything you need and want basically” she said. “It’s very important because now at the rate we’re going it’s not sustainable at all. We’re kind of digging ourselves a hole.”
People don’t realize this lifestyle is detrimental she said.
“We’re just so focused on money and ourselves we don’t realize we’re killing ourselves really. I just think it will go downhill if we don’t do anything” she said.
They’ve considered mentorships with the Minden Horticultural Society and other groups. Sharing knowledge is what this effort is about and the group welcomes advice. They hope people can believe in them and give moral support. Donations of lumber for garden box frames and trellises are welcome.
The foursome have been growing plants at their homes for the past few weeks in preparation for the season.
“We basically have it all planned out. We just need the snow to go away” Andrew said.
The group will use its Facebook page (One.to.three) to document their progress and announce when the garden needs work such as weeding or harvesting which will likely be held Saturdays.
He wants people to remember a philosophy in this endeavour.
“Global thinking local action” he said.
For more details or to help with the effort contact email@example.com