Quinton Darnell

Quinton Darnell

Donation drives expansion of school gardens

Lake Cowichan School is expanding its gardens, with plans to incorporate their

Lake Cowichan School is expanding its gardens, with plans to incorporate their increased harvest into pre-existing school programs, thanks to a donation from a Duncan car dealership.

On May 3, Quinton Darnell, sales manager at Jim Pattison Toyota Duncan, presented LCS with a cheque for $650.

The money will go to a variety of initiatives, including the construction of eight to 10 planter boxes, garden supplies and eventually a second greenhouse.

The funds come as part of the Toyota-Evergreen Learning Grounds program, in which Toyota Canada contributes to projects aimed at transforming school grounds into greener environments.

Darnell said his dealership had heard about the program for quite some time, but this was the first opportunity they had to participate with a school.

“[Toyota Canada] put us in touch with a school that’s closest to us that’s doing the program and that happens to be Lake Cowichan,” he said. “Whatever we can do as a local dealership in the future, I want to reach out to help out because when I was going to school it wasn’t like that so I was very impressed.”

The plan for the gardens at LCS is to grow food that can be used to subsidize pre-existing programs in the school which rely on purchased produce, such as the cooking/foods class, the lunch and breakfast programs and even the school’s Meals on Wheels program.

“So instead of having to pay for groceries for that, now that money can go towards other things,” said teacher Noni Battye who first identified the Evergreen program as a possibility. “This is where we’re starting to become, I suppose, a little more sustainable.”

When she first learned of the Evergreen program, Battye and some of her students surveyed the LCS grounds to decide what they could potentially put the money towards.

Eventually they would like to add benches and native plants to different parts of the school property, and to design and construct an outdoor classroom, but when they looked at a large vacant space at the rear of the building, the idea of expanding the school’s gardens became their top choice for a project.

“Rather than our foods program having to go out and buy foods, they can go out to the garden and pick it,” she said.

Battye also said the school has partnered with the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society and hopes students can begin growing some of the native plant species the society currently purchases from a grower up island.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to start generating some income from plant sales,” she said, adding that the program also fits with the school’s overarching goal of providing opportunities to get students out and active in the community.

The garden project is already underway, and there will be some volunteers helping with the garden’s watering and maintenance over the summer.

Battye said Darnell’s enthusiasm about the project was evident. She was happy he came to the school for a tour.

“I don’t think a lot of people in Duncan realize what it’s like out here. So it was neat to get to show that to him out here,” she said.

Darnell said the project’s importance was made that much clearer to him because this year he’s planted his very first garden at home.

“I was saying to my daughter, ‘Why aren’t we learning these things in school?’ And so when I walked through the school in Lake Cowichan yesterday, they’re doing just that and then some,” he said.