On September 16, 2008 Toronto’s Bendale Business and Technical Institute (Bendale BTI) was in lockdown because of a shooting incident. Today it is the site of one of the most progressive, school-based market gardens in North America.
FoodShare Toronto partnered with Bendale BTI to create Canada’s first school market garden. With Focus on Youth funding, summer students were on hand to tend the crops all during the 2012 growing season.
By fall, the bean crop was so plentiful the business class had to help work out a scheme for selling the excess. According to the FoodShare blog, a lot more grew in the garden, including edamame, beets, carrots, beans and lots more produce.
Bendale has also added an ambitious aquaponics program, the largest school program in Canada, also in partnership with FoodShare. The 300 tilapia produce waste, which is transformed into plant food. The growing medium is pumped into beds, which in turn grow lettuce and watercress. According to the Globe and Mail, the harvest fish will supply a school banquet in the spring.
The Globe and Mail article says the school has also acquired a “blender bike”, with funding from the Trillium Foundation. Students take turns riding it to turn ingredients into breakfast smoothies.
Market gardening and aquaponics are only part of what’s offered at Bendale BTI, whose programs train students for business and technical careers. But it’s a particularly good example of making learning relevant. Whether they are studying horticulture, culinary arts, photography or science, students can apply their skills to a viable social enterprise.
The school became a Gold Eco-Certified School in 2010. Now they are working toward Plantinum certification. The planet needs young people with the kind of skills they are learning.
This gives me hope.