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Shuswap Youth Garden competition has families learning and growing together

Project Grow had 36 youths create and maintain their own gardens

It all started when big floods hit the Fraser Valley, giving a wake-up call to B.C. residents on the importance of food security.

Project Grow is a Shuswap initiative what will encompass many different projects over the coming years, all with the goal of teaching about the joys and benefits of growing your own food.

The first project under the banner is the Project Grow Youth Garden, a competition where youth from all over the region designed and built their own gardens.

With the Shuswap being known for agriculture, it seemed like a no-brainer to try to try to do the same, according to Jim McEwan, Salmon Arm Fair manager.

“It kind of looked at a model that has been quite successful down at the Summerland Fair. And we decided, well, let’s follow that kind of model. But we changed it up a little bit and, and, you know, instead of just grade five, we opened it up to age 9 to 12,” McEwan said.

They ended up having 36 youths join the project, which exceeded expectations.

“We didn’t expect that somewhere in around 15 to 20 would have been fabulous but to have to have 36 was amazing,” said McEwan.

All 36 youths had to submit garden plans to the judges. This was one of the favourite parts for the Shuswap Food Action Network’s Melanie Bennett, one of the judges.

“It’s been watching the progression through the pictures, drawing their own garden plan because that was one of the points of criteria, draw your garden plan and those were very sweet,” Bennett said.

The competition had a Facebook page where gardeners could post their progress along with seeing others in the involved.

This project was not just for the youths, with entire families working together while learning and growing as a family.

“I think what else was really, impactful was the fact that it seemed to really engage the whole family, and that is what we need. If you can get kids excited about something, parents will follow suit,” Bennett said.

The judging has taken place over the past couple of weeks and the three winners will be announced at the grand opening of the fair on the main stage at 6 p.m. on the Friday of the fair, which runs Sept. 8-9.

“It will be very hard to actually choose winners, but they all get a seminar and fair pass, and the kids get a free meal. So, we definitely wanna make sure that they all feel like that this was worthwhile,” Bennett said.

Read more: ‘There is truly something for everyone’: Salmon Arm Fair features fun
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