By Breanna Taylor
Rakes and shovels were at the ready at Picnic Point in Longwarry North on Wednesday 22 May with a number of Pakenham Secondary College students coming alongside members of the United Africa Farm Collective to plant garlic crops.
Some $200,000 received through the State Government’s ‘pick my project’ grants was allocated to the secondary school last year. The agricultural project increases excitement around growing fresh food and encourages vocational pathways for students giving them the opportunity to practice hands on learning in a real world environment.
Students spent their morning harvesting rows of garlic which once ready will be sold with profits going back into the school for future programs.
Allison Barrie, an environmental science teacher at the college, came up with the idea to get engaged with students outside the classroom.
“The great thing about the farm is it with engage many different departments including VCAL numeracy, science and food-tech.”
She says the opportunity for kids to work and learn from the African famers is a treasured experience and believes that the values around farming and agriculture are slowly becoming lost with increasing urbanisation.
“There’s a real disconnect, kids don’t really understand or appreciate the effort that goes into producing food, especially fresh healthy food.”
While the growth of crops will be a rewarding and tangible experience for students, Allison also hopes that a message of healthy eating will be instilled as the program progresses.
“Unfortunately kids are eating so much highly processed and bad food so it will be a good way to introduce them to healthy and clean eating. A recent survey conducted with 20 thousand residents in Cardinia show that people are eating one per cent of the recommended fruit and vegetable intake.”
Students have had the opportunity to learn farming procedures through the guidance of the United Africa Farm Collective.
“I am really thrilled with the way we are progressing especially with the African community,” farming leader Queyea Tuazama said.
“We are very happy to be working with the Pakenham Secondary College, we are happy to help and encourage young people to eat good food. Learning to farm is very important.”
The agricultural program will see students planting more crops and visiting the farm on a monthly basis to harvest them.