Student market garden grows knowledge

Amid the steady stream of cars and looming high rises, 26 raised garden beds are waiting to be harvested for the last time before winter arrives.

The market garden, on the front lawn of Bendale Business and Technical Institute near Midland and Lawrence Avenues, gives students the opportunity to try their hand at urban agriculture.

The project is a joint venture of the school and FoodShare, a non-profit food organization in Toronto.

“It got started just as an idea that we could grow our own food,” horticulture teacher Shane Jones said .

Bendale Market Garden is believed to be the first school-based market garden in the country.

Students are involved in the entire process from field to table. They even sell the produce at an on-site farmers’ market.

Small beginnings

They started with two small “footprint” gardens at the back of the school. After reciving a provincial grant, they expanded the project to the front lawn.

“It’s also highly visible, which is what we wanted,” Jones said. “It’s about building awareness and showing people that they can build their own gardens, they can grow their own food.”

Students planted a variety of vegetables — carrots, swiss chard, bok choy, callalou, cucumber and tomatoes — into 26 raised beds.

Co-op student Anton Crawford got involved with the garden after his guidance councillor asked him if he wanted to do something hands-on.

“I really like it because urban gardens are really good for the environment,” he said. “Food is grown closer to home and you actually know what is on your vegetables. I never knew it was so fresh and good-tasting food.”