Grass to Greenery at Bluenose Academy

The Sun is Coming Out: Ne’ata’q, The Food Forest at Bluenose Academy

Ne’ata’q, The Food Forest at Bluenose Academy, is getting ready to grow. This community-school collaboration will officially launch in May with initial plantings and an opening ceremony, followed by a community celebration on Saturday, June 24.

There are many ways to get involved, including donating plants to the nursery and volunteering for a work crew or “worker bee” to help with a variety of tasks.

As we wait for the soil to warm up, we’d like to offer some background on food forests – and a glimpse into the future!

Prior to development, the areas around Bluenose Academy, like many areas around Lunenburg and the municipality, were mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland, as well as wetland.

A food forest – also called forest garden – retains or restores some elements of the natural ecosystem but includes additional food plants: a bit of wildness, a bit of tending.

This can be done on a range of scales. A single apple tree, for example, might be surrounded by black currant bushes, lupins, wild strawberry, and herbs like dill or borage.

Together, this “guild” or “polyculture” helps to attract pollinators, repel pests, provide mulch, fertilize the soil and many other functions.

Indigenous peoples worldwide have tended food forests on very large scales, integrating multi-level food systems into great swathes of native forest. In terms of size, Ne’ata’q, the Food Forest at Bluenose Academy, will lie somewhere in between.

Our food forest is planned for two sites on the school grounds. A “junior forest” in one corner of the fenced playground where Primary-Grade 6 students play and a “senior forest” on the small hill in the bus loop where Grades 7-9 spend time.

These two sites were chosen over many months and in consultation with the school, the Regional Centre for Education, gardening and landscape professionals, and the Town of Lunenburg.

We learned that the two sites are currently hard-packed ground covered with grass, mud, or ice, depending on the time of year.

Teachers and students told us the areas are not used as much as other parts of the school grounds; they are often simply traversed to get somewhere else.

We listened to custodians’ advice about year-round maintenance and asked SSRCE operations and accessibility experts about pathways, drainage, safety and many other issues.

We considered the easements beneath the areas, sun and wind exposure, and the deer already eyeing us from nearby hills.

In other words, we have spoken with many people and considered many factors. And we’re still at the beginning!

The planting scheduled for this spring will take place on two smaller sections of the larger areas: a fruit orchard in the senior forest and a shade forest surrounding the existing outdoor classrooms in the junior forest. We’re calling this “phase one”!

Our progress might seem slow and complex and it is—in the very best way. Like a forest, this is a generative process. We are learning as we go. We are constantly welcoming new people into the project. And we’re sharing what we learn in the hope that similar food forests sprout up at schools and communities around the province and beyond.

For more information and to get involved, please see the food forest website and our social media.


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