Opinion: Another Project Pickle school year comes to a close

Well, it’s a wrap. Another Project Pickle school year has come to a close.

The last few weeks in my farming sessions with the kids are spent enjoying various vegetables from the back of my truck in “tailgate parties.”

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A 1,000-plus young farmers have been chowing down on spinach, arugula, radish, peas and other goodies, including a special treat of watermelon the last two weeks. They happily devoured 45 watermelon while I sprayed them with the hose….a yearly tradition and highlight of the year for them and for me!

They each took a cucumber seedling home to care for the next several weeks. They have been tasked with keeping a journal to monitor the progress of their plants to show me upon their return in September. They have also been given instructions as to what they can harvest from their school farms when they are out and about on vacation.

My small crew and I will be maintaining their crops during the summer for fall harvest.

It was another successful year by many measures and it has been particularly rewarding to see the continued growth and popularity of the program.

The children very much enjoy their farming sessions and hundreds of kids have tasted vegetables that they have never had before. I love hearing the stories from them and their teachers about what happens at home during the course of the year.

There is the story of a parent asking a teacher what the deal is with arugula?

“Travis insists on having arugula in a salad every day. I’ve never even had it before but it is now a regular on our dinner table,” said one of the parents.

I encourage the kids to snack on things other than chips when they are playing games or watching TV. A little Grade 3 dude proudly told me that he and his sister snack on radishes and snap peas now and that his mom puts cucumber slices in his lunch.

These little anecdotes tell me that the children are learning things about farming and nutrition and that is what it is all about.

Sadly, there are other stories that are heartbreaking like the ones where kids quietly and politely ask me if they can take some more home for their families. I try to oblige whenever I can and discreetly provide so that they are not embarrassed in front of their classmates.

I thank the Delta School District for supporting Project Pickle.

I would also like to thank the British Columbia Youth in Agriculture Foundation and board member and MLA Ian Paton for their support and to the Delta Agricultural Society and Ken and Jack Bates for a recent grant. Several DAS board members are also my colleagues on Delta’s Agriculture Advisory Committee and I would like to thank Peter Guichon, Brent Kelly, Cory Gerrard and Jerry Keulen for their support.

Project Pickle will continue its growth trend thanks to engaged supporters who realize that the future of farming depends on nurturing the interest of younger generations in the hopes that some of them will continue to pursue a career in the noblest of professions.

Mike Schneider is founder of Project Pickle and likes to write about growing, cooking and eating food. He is a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution ambassador.

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