Fresh Produce and a Growing Sense of Place

gaspegardenTurning unproductive farmland into co-operative gardens will help young Anglophones to realize how much they can contribute to their community.

As one of 11 pilot schools across Québec, Gaspé Polyvalente has been busy identifying ways it can help build the entrepreneurial capacity of its region. One initiative scheduled to begin next September will unite students, teachers and the community at large in eco-friendly sustainable development.

Action plan being finalized

But first a little background. Over 600 hectares of what was once agricultural land lie fallow around the Gaspé coast. Working closely with 30 local business and economic development partners, the school is finalizing an action plan to turn one hectare of this unused land into a co-operative community garden in which both high school and elementary students will play starring roles. Local farming families have already offered to provide equipment and teach students in the Work-Oriented Training Path and what is commonly called the 15+ Program how to prepare the land for production. With support from the Centre local d’emploi, Entrepreneurship students will then publicize the availability of garden plots and manage the new co-op. Construction of a greenhouse on the grounds of Gaspé Elementary School will engage younger students in planting seeds and tending the seedlings that, come June 2014, will be transferred to the gardens in a community planting day. A local shrimp plant will supply compost and, to close the cycle, the gardens are expected to provide summer employment for the 15+ students.

“Ties in perfectly with QEP’s aim”

If all goes as planned, each year additional hectares will be converted to arable land. “We see it as our emblem project for sustainable community development,” says Gaspé Polyvalente’s principal, Daniel Gallagher. “And it ties in perfectly with the QEP’s aim to have students become active partners in society.”

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