How one special school started growing their own food – the story of the 1st Victory Garden!

Victory Gardens Logo_original

A few months ago my husband started sharing this idea about starting Victory Gardens in Barbados to move our country away from being consumers to producers. In times past our foreparents grew what they ate but slowly as a small nation, we have become importers with a hefty food import bill. Many countries during the world wars grew Victory Gardens when times got tight and Barbados in a sense is fighting its own economic war.

One lady who caught the vision early was Lee Carter, a teacher at Erdiston Special School. She rallied other teachers and got the first Victory Garden started. Today I am pleased to share this interview with Lee.

VG sign

Can you describe the school for those who are not familiar with your work?

The Erdiston Special School caters to the special educational needs of a range of exceptional students who have been diagnosed with Autism, ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Noonan Syndrome, Speech and Communication Disorders, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, Global Developmental Delays, Hydrocephalus, Dysmorphia, Microcephaly and Specific Learning Disabilities. Within this environment, we seek to develop their cognitive, social and emotional development and psychomotor skills. We also aim to foster a passion for learning through practical and engaging methods such as the school’s Victory Garden.

What prompted you to start a Victory Garden; what were you hoping it would achieve?

Victory Gardens 3

At the beginning of the school’s year within our meetings, we decided that the topic “I Can Change the World with my Hands” would be the basis of our thematic unit for instruction. Around that time my husband had started the ‘In Light of Jesus Christ’ sessions which were being facilitated by Adrian Reid. I found that when he shared, particularly about how it was necessary to transition from being a consumer to a producer, it really resonated with me and made me think about how I can use this information to not only empower myself but my students.

As a teacher in the area of Special Needs, I believe that one of my primary responsibilities is to equip my students with skills for survival. These do not only relate to academics. In our society, it is particularly challenging for persons with Special Needs to find meaningful options for employment. This affects their independence and livelihood. With choices such as those presented through learning about and growing crops they can not only help themselves but their families and perhaps others in their communities. It is for this reason that I believe the name the Erdiston Special School’s Victory Garden is quite fitting.

What work did it take to get started and what support did you receive?

Initially, I began the project with my class, Reception B, who interestingly enough are some of the younger students in the school at ages 5-8 years. My husband helped me one weekend to set up the half cans, acquire the soil and the seedlings and we were off. From the start, the students were excited about the entire process of planting and caring for our garden. The teachers’ aide, our parent volunteer, principal, senior teacher and other teachers were extremely helpful as they offered advice and contributed seedlings.

During the Christmas holiday, however, we had some challenges with monkeys in the area and so again my husband helped me to transfer the cans and crops to a greenhouse at the school. The greenhouse had been constructed for some while but was not being utilized. From that point, I believe it became more of a school project, particularly after Mr. James Paul from the Barbados Agricultural Society visited our garden and encouraged us to enter the Schools’ Garden Competition for Agro Fest 2019.

Everyone at the school- the students, principal, senior teacher, teachers, ancillary staff, parents and even persons who were working around the compound began to assist with the development of our garden. This really helped our students to have a more authentic experience of how food gets from the garden to our plates.

What did you plant in your Victory Garden? 

  • Marjoram
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Shadow beni
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • Passion fruit
  • Pawpaw

 

What challenges have you encountered since starting the garden and how have you overcome them?

When I think about it, the areas which may have been considered challenges were really opportunities for learning. We had to figure out how to deal with pests and how to ensure that we were providing the best environment for growth. We also had to figure out what methods worked best with our crops. In this regard, we had lots of help from Mr. Jason Craig from Massy Ltd. regarding sourcing organic options, where we should plant different plants and what materials could be used to extend our greenhouse and garden.

What has been the greatest benefit you have experienced as a result of starting the garden? 

If there is one thing that I have observed in this entire process of developing our Victory Garden, it is its potential to actively build community and relationships through persons working together and sharing ideas towards a common goal. This attribute was seen on countless occasions as students, staff, parents, family members, friends and individuals within our immediate surroundings and our community willingly contributed to creating a more meaningful experience for our students. As a result of this school project, we also had at least two parents that started their own gardens at home.

What do you want to say to people who are considering starting a Victory Garden?

This entire experience has made me appreciate the wisdom of God. We are to be producers, actively involved in the process of growing our food and feeding ourselves. In this way, we not only save money, but we have a better idea of what we are putting into our bodies and more opportunities to connect with each other in practical and meaningful ways. I would therefore certainly encourage anyone, any school or institution who is considering starting a Victory Garden to do so because in its simplicity it represents and holds much potential for victory at the personal, community and national level.

Thank you Lee for being an inspiration and pioneer of the first-ever Victory Garden!

Lee
Lee, with her husband Sean

Victory Gardens Logo_original

 

 

 

For more information about Victory Gardens, contact Adrian Reid at 261-8408 or at iljc.caribbean@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s