Five acre farm for Chilliwack students

Tania Toth and Joe Massie in the greenhouse they modernized on Sardis secondary
Tania Toth and Joe Massie in the greenhouse they modernized on Sardis secondary's grounds. Their program will expand to a five-acre plot after a ground breaking ceremony next Thursday.
— image credit: Greg Laychak/TIMES

Ground breaking is nothing new to Sardis secondary school (SSS) teachers Tania Toth and Joe Massie.

By the time they hold their literal ground breaking ceremony next week, the pair will have already broken an important eight years worth of educational ground at the school.

On April 23, the two science and agriculture teachers will be showcasing the people who have made possible their latest expansion of the Sardis agricultural program: a five-acre farm on Richardson Avenue.

Previously limited to the greenhouse on school grounds, the program will be repotted to the new space, giving it more room to grow in the future.

And there’s no more fitting way to kick off the new beginning than to start digging the well that will provide the water for the farm’s irrigation system, while the sponsors, school district personnel and key community members are honoured for their contributions.

The land, along with a variety of other endowments, will make it possible for the agriculture instructors to take the 29-year-running annual plant sale held at the school and reinforce it with a community supported agriculture (CSA) model.

Until now, the main stage for the program has been the modernized greenhouse on campus, but with the new property agriculture students will have an even greater opportunity to learn about food.

“It’s a chance for students to understand more about food production and where food comes from and understand the world of agriculture a little bit more, because there are so many career opportunities in agriculture,” said Massie, who comes from a line of dairy farmers himself.

Toth sees it as a way of educating differently, digging deeper into the soil with their signature Sardis hands-on approach.

“I think that’s something a lot of people don’t get to do anymore,” she said. “So it offers a lot of people growing up in suburbia a chance to get outside, plant, see the cycle, and make the connection.”

Toth’s family still has a large farm in Saskatchewan and is no stranger to that interconnection with the land.

And they are also intent on cultivating another link: the relationship with the community.

Already during past years of the plant sale, well over a thousand community members have gone to show their support for the program.

“Seeing our students interact with them, seeing their parents and grandparents and other community members all interacting in a positive way—I think it’s something that is somewhat rare these days,” Massie said.

When the program gets into full swing they say there will be more partnerships: with UFV and the Pacific Berry Resource Centre using some of the land and sharing knowledge; with the school itself, providing food for a variety of programs in-house; and with the CSA program which will start off modestly but with plans to grow in the future.

“It’s a really big project that could not exist if just Joe or myself were working on it,” said Toth.

That’s why next Thursday when ground is broken on the farm land, it’s the community that will be recognized.


>This year’s Sardis Mother’s Day plant sale will be on May 9, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the school outside the greenhouse.

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