After attending the Seventeenth National Congress on Rural Education in Saskatoon, Coronach School Community Council members Amanda Gent and Angela Gent are excited about a fundraising opportunity for the Coronach School, now they just need some help.
The first thing on their wish list, is 70-80 acres of land that they could use to plant a crop with the proceeds going to the school. “We are hoping be getting the word out there, someone will step up and give us their land. We are just asking for one year.” said Amanda. The group has already begun talks with farm-input companies for donations of seed, fertilizer and spray.
The idea came to them when they attended a presentation by Doug English, Principal of Unity School, and were intrigued with their fundraising project “”Farming for the Future with Northwest Terminal.”
According to English, the project began in 2005, after Brad Sperle, then chairman of their school community council, came up with the idea.
Sperle had heard of a health district using farm land to raise money and thought they could do the same.
The local grain terminal, Northwest Terminal, donated the use of land that they have ear-marked for future expansion, and the group started looking for further assistance.
“Reps are more than happy to donate seed and they talk to fertilizer reps who donate the fertilizer,” said English.
English said their profits each year fluctuate like any farmer, with profits as low as $9000 and as high as $30,000 last year. The group compensates the farmers who do the work for their gas and they sometimes have to pay some storage fees, but basically, they farm expense free.
The project’s proceeds were, for the first few years, going entirely to the Unity Public School, but they have since partnered with the high school and Catholic elementary schools in the community to share the proceeds. “It just makes sense with area farmers with children in all three schools,” said English.
“To me its amazing that (the idea) hasn’t been stolen from us and done better!” said English, “There are people out there looking for ways to contribute to education. . . you can sit and whine about (your lack of funding) or go out and do something about it.”
Besides the financial benefits that come with the farming, English reports that they use the farming an educational tool as well. He says, although their community is a “farming community”, many children aren’t that familiar with the actual process.
“We load them up in buses and take them out during seeding and harvesting.” said English. He also reported the feeling of ownership the students have over “their crop”.
Amanda sees many opportunities for learning with the farming project. She envisions students discussing marketing options in class, helping to make production decisions and more. Although the Coronach School doesn’t currently offer an Agriculture class, she sees many opportunities for learning in science, math and even art.
Angela agrees, “There is so much learning potential there, at all age levels.” She talked about some of the things Unity did such as the younger students planting unsprouted pea seeds from the field and watching them grow in the classroom, to older students getting hands on in the equipment.
Amanda is hoping the farming project can replace the other fundraisers that are done at the school. She listed a number of places where funds could be used such as playground equipment that is in constant need of upgrades, school sound system, stage lighting upgrades, further landscaping, such as underground sprinklers, technological equipment and upgrades to the Kindergarten room entrance. Another program that Amanda says requires ongoing funding is the Nutrition program, which the school is currently trying to think of ways to fund the program that sees healthy snacks provided to the students throughout the day.
Angela said, “It’s a really neat way to raise some big money for our school! It’s an awesome opportunity if someone will give up a little bit of land.”
Angela added that the project could work with more than one farmer from the same area donating smaller amounts. The group plans to thank everyone involved with plenty of signage and media coverage.
In our April edition of Southern Life, Kathy Gudnason tells us about Pangman Charity Farms, a similar project which sees the profits from two rented quarters of land going to the Pangman Community Kitchen and the Pangman School.