Guest Blog: Kate Gardner
Reel Gardening Head of Development
In everything we do, Reel Gardening strives to make the process of growing your own food as simple, quick and fun as possible. We work through many avenues to make the growing experience accessible to everyone. We sell Gardens in a Box of various sizes, we have The Planting Revolution Mobile Application that teaches you everything you need to know to maintain a vegetable garden and we have worked in hundreds of schools and communities across the country to help them get a vegetable garden up and running.
For the past few years Reel Gardening has focused its community upliftment efforts on large 200 – 400m2 school gardens. For most of these gardens, the primary intention has been to produce a sufficient amount of food to meaningfully contribute towards the school feeding scheme.
These large gardens have experienced a number of challenges. Even a 200m2 vegetable garden is not going to fully cater to the school feeding scheme’s needs. And once the school calculates the time and effort required to look after the garden, it is often decided that simply purchasing fresh produce from an industrial farmer through a retailer is the cheaper, easier option.
A garden of this size requires 1 – 2 people working full-time to care for it. The teachers and groundstaff are already over-worked and often cannot take on the responsibility of such a large garden.
In order to overcome this, the school will often turn to the young, unemployed members of the community who are looking for income-generating opportunities. They can maintain the garden and keep a portion of the produce for themselves to sell or consume at home. However schools often battle to identify young people willing to work in a garden.
Unfortunately, gardening is simply not seen as cool. Growing is something old people or farmers do. A career in agriculture is not aspirational. With this perception of vegetable gardening, many young people are missing out on an opportunity to learn valuable life skills.
After trying many different approaches to overcome these challenges and make these large school gardens a success, we turned to the teachers for suggestions. We wanted to inspire the youth to give vegetable gardening a try. We sought to create an opportunity for them to learn how to grow food. We further aspired to make a garden a feature of every school. We also aimed for our young people to have a good understanding of a healthy diet and how that food is accessible to them. And we wanted to do this all in a way that was not overwhelming for the school or the teachers.
The teachers suggested that they needed gardens that could be set up around their classrooms and used as teaching tools. These gardens needed to be small enough that they were easily maintained by the learners. And they wanted help linking the garden to work they were already doing with the learners and not something separate that would take a lot of extra time and effort to incorporate.
We received an opportunity to fulfil this vision earlier this year through the Pick n Pay School Club and Hdi Youth Marketeers. Reel Gardening, in partnership with Unilever, was able to work with Rozaan and Mokebe from Hdi Youth Marketeers and curriculum writer, Trevor Hall, to develop a Primary School Workbook that links a vegetable garden, directly to the Primary School CAPS curriculum. In addition to this workbook, we were able to donate a Reel Gardening Grow Pod to each of 2315 Pick n Pay School Club Schools.
This Grow Pod includes a 1m diameter grow bag, weed guard, seasonal seeds and Soil Food, as well as an organic fertilizer, that enables a school to start a small teaching garden anywhere on the school property. All they need is some soil, water and sunshine.
The workbook acts as a teachers guide to assist teachers in linking a vegetable garden directly to what they are already doing in the classroom. The workbook incorporates subjects such as Life Skills, Natural Sciences and Languages. There are a number of lesson plans and worksheets spanning grades 1 -7. All activities are designed to incorporate the Reel Gardening Grow Pod and make caring for a vegetable garden, a normal part of school activities.
We have received fantastic feedback from the teachers who received this donation. The learners have loved the gardens and the teachers have easily been able to incorporate growing into their everyday classroom activities. By reaching more and more schools, and enabling them to make a vegetable garden a yearly activity for every grade, Reel Gardening believes that the next generation will have a better respect for their food, an understanding of where their food comes from and the importance of healthy eating and the knowledge and will to grow this food for themselves.
We’d like to thank everyone who made this process so easy and enjoyable! We have loved working with this team to develop the workbook material and get growing in all 2315 schools.