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Squamish School Farm blossoms downtown

Squamish CAN farm serves schools and the community in the heart of town.

It is 8 a.m. at the Downtown Squamish School Farm

A high school student working at the farm for the summer is harvesting zucchini. 

Dozens upon dozens of bees buzz around a Phacelia tanacetifolia (Bee’s Friend) plant.

School farm manager Constance Cope of the Squamish Climate Action Network (CAN), is surveying the scene. 

She says seeing the farm take shape and attract bees and the like has been a highlight of the project. 

"Outside the fence is just like scraggly, dead grass, basically zero biodiversity. And now we've got birds in here sitting on the fence. They're coming in and finding bugs. We've got bees, we've got like aphids. People might not be excited about the aphids, but [because of the] aphids, now I have this huge nursery for ladybugs," she said.

There are 26 50-foot-long garden beds in the centre of the farm, plus about 100 feet along the fence with an abundance of rich soil and healthy vegetables.  

Cope noted they don't use herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers in the soil. 

"You can know that this is very clean food that we're growing here," she said.

Though it is still relatively cool, this is the middle of a heat wave; the sun will surely pound down all day on the peas, kale, and lettuce plants. 

A sprinkler is quenching the thirst of two rows of vegetables.

The garden also includes potatoes, onions, and plants for winter harvest, including Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and radicchio.

The heat has delayed seeding, but when things cool off — likely next week — they will be planting a bed of lettuce, spinach and arugula.

On the southern portion of the site is a hut with cold storage. 

On Wednesdays at a Farm Stand out front of the farm from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., folks can purchase vegetables from the school farm and produce from the Mamquam Edible Schoolyard and the Valleycliffe Garden

There is also an outdoor sink and a large outdoor greenhouse that currently has tomatoes and peppers. "I started a few of the tomatoes myself, but most of the plants that we have in here were actually donated from Local Roots, which is the new nursery at the Squamish CAN [Common Acres] Community Farm. So, already, our little growing farming community is supporting each other," Cope said. 

In the summer, the greenhouse will have heat-loving crops; in the winter, it will be salad crops and even early-season carrots. 

"So that we have food to grow harvests while students are actually in school," she said, noting that typically outdoor gardens are harvested while students are out of school.

Cope stressed that the farm would work not only with students from the nearby Howe Sound Secondary School but also with students from all schools. 

Good Food Boxes are another Squamish CAN farm initiative. The program is currently full, but it is a produce subscription box starting the first week of August. Good Food boxes will be filled with fresh produce grown at the school farm and gardens. It operates on a pay-what-you-can sliding scale. 

Next year, Cope said she hopes to offer workshops at the farm for the public outside of school hours. 

"And also, if you see me here, you're welcome to say hi, and, you know, I am happy to answer any questions you have. I can give you a little tour."

While it was a long-time dream, the farm has sprouted up on the field between Howe Sound Secondary and Squamish Elementary in the last year. 

"I think we need to see more of it in our urban environments, and we need to definitely see more of it in our schools," said Cope.

"This style of farming is one piece of solving the food security puzzle, but so is exploring, like, hydroponics or aquaponics, or growing mushrooms in the urban environment. There's a lot of different solutions."

Cope said Squamish CAN is grateful for the community's support of the project. 

"Thank you to everyone for their support. Thanks to everyone who's been coming out and supporting the Farm Stand, people who have made donations," she said. 

Fundraising is still underway for in-kind or cash donations. 

Find out more by contacting Squamish CAN

IMG_8166 copySquamish School Farm
Constance Cope - school farm manager.  Photo by Jennifer Thuncher


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