Creating the conditions for plants to grow

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Ms Cooper’s grade 4/5 class were treated to tour through the fields of Cartwheel Farm, a small family farm at the heart of the Creston Valley.  Cartwheel Farm grows certified organic vegetables and herbs for the community.  As the class toured the farm, Laura and Nigel shared their perspective on farming:

“We don’t grow vegetables, we create the conditions for vegetables to grow.”

This perspective was a revelation for the students.  Ms Cooper’s class has been working in their school garden, planting seeds inside the classroom, building cold frames and were primed for this new learning.  Laura and Nigel had all kinds of different ‘magic tricks’ that they use on the farm create the conditions for plants to grow.

We started out in the greenhouse, where millions of seeds are planted every year from February to September.  Students peaked inside the germination chambers which are modified chest freezers where they warm up temperatures to sprout seeds in the early spring or cool them down in August to start fall veggies. The students also observed all the ‘teenage’ plants hardening off outside the greenhouse before they get planted in the fields.

In the fields, there were knee high peas that were started in February in high tunnels.  The tunnels were then moved to a different location to be planted with warm loving crops like tomatoes for the summer.  In the cooler we caught a glimpse at artichoke plants being tricked into thinking it was winter so when they are planted outside they will produce their flower head.

Laura explained how they plant a lot of different kinds of plants every year so that they can provide 150 households with weekly veggie deliveries. It’s very difficult to predict weather and so sometimes they have to speed up the growth of some things, or slow them down by putting on shade cloth. Farming is a rich and wonderful way to keep your brain active with all the planning!  Ms. Cooper said:

“Wow, who thinks farming can be at times like solving a puzzle?”

The students also got a chance to taste some delicious spinach and salad turnips. Aiden exclaimed, “This is the best spinach ever!” They also tasted turnips, which Ms Cooper said, “I would never have expected to see 26 people sitting here eating turnips.”And not only eating turnips, devouring them and asking for more because they were so juicy and sweet!

The students left with all kinds of new thoughts about food, growing, taste and the ways that we are in relationship with all the beings around us. Thanks to Cartwheel Farm for taking the time our of their busy farming schedule to host us!