Farm school is in session in Morinville
High school starts unique urban agriculture class
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 06:00 am
Morinville high school students will get to cut up pigs and sell their own crops this year as part of a new course run by a St. Albert resident.
About 20 students from Morinville Community High School spent the day at Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm last week. Lead by owner Tam Andersen, they picked dill, tasted tomatoes and ate apples right from the tree.
They were there as part of the school’s new Urban Agriculture class. Run by teacher and St. Albert resident Neil Korotash, the course aims to teach students how to grow and prepare their own food.
In a presentation to town council, Korotash said he got the idea for the course last year when his biology students took an interest in his stories about canning vegetables and butchering meat. “I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could teach a class on this and where their food comes from?”
The course is meant to teach students “homesteading” skills such as canning, Korotash said, and involves weekly cooking sessions at the town’s Community Cultural Centre. He hoped the course would give students a better appreciation for healthy eating and the environment, and get them more invested in their community.
“I’ve got a class of eager, keen young students who want to learn how to plant,” he told council. He hoped the students would be able to help out with town naturalization projects and the Incredible Edibles initiative.
About 100 students applied to get into the course, Korotash said – they had room for 42. So far, they’ve built mini-greenhouses, pickled vegetables and collected tomato seeds.
Later, they’ll grow herbs through hydroponics (possibly for sale at Sobeys or the farmers’ market), visit some 12 different local growers, and make bread from wheat they mill themselves. “Kids see the whole thing from growing to the end product on their table.”
Students will even butcher their own pigs, Korotash said. “We’re going to meet our pigs … butcher those same pigs and make sausage and make ham and make bacon.” (A professional abattoir will slaughter the pigs for the students, he noted.)
The students are a mix of city and country students, Korotash. Some have a lifetime of farm experience, while others have none.
Genevieve Ratusz, a Grade 11 student from St. Albert, said she signed up for the course to learn how to garden. “A lot of foods today have genetically modified ingredients and pesticides, and those aren’t good for you,” she said. “Growing your own food, it’s healthy, it’s organic, and you don’t have any pesticides in it.”
Morinville resident Shoshana Laidlaw said she signed up because she was interested in healthy living.
“I think the world is very obese,” said the Grade 12 student, and a big reason for it is overconsumption of processed food. “You look at a label and it says, ‘10 per cent fruit.’ Well, what’s the rest of it?” With local food, you can see for yourself what goes into your food and how it’s grown.
Grade 12 student Michael Riordon saw this course as a way to become self-sufficient. “If you need to be able to provide for your family and have some land, why not be able to use it?”
This was a marvellous way to connect students with local food and the importance of agriculture, Andersen said. “It’s a bridge of that rural-urban disconnect.” She also hoped it would encourage students to seek jobs or careers in farming.
Speaking in council, Mayor Gordon Boddez praised the course. “This high school has been innovative since it opened in 1995,” he said. “I think it’s great to have young people integrated more and more not only into the town, but into the community.”
Call 780-939-6891 for details.