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Year-round produce to be grown at Oilfields High School

Oilfields High School aims to grow produce year-round and hopes to start work on its vertical garden greenhouse by spring.
Vice-Principal Mike Horembala and Learning Commons Facilitator Cindy Watts at Oilfields High School in Black Diamond on Nov. 18.

Oilfields High School is aiming to grow produce year-round. 

With the donation a 40-foot sea can from a community member, the school hopes to start work on its vertical greenhouse by spring. 

The sea can is equipped with a water containment system, lighting and shelving but will need some work to set up, once it is delivered, said Oilfields vice-principal Mike Horembala. 

“He (the donor) wanted us to have it and work with it, in conjunction with our community garden,” Horembala said.  

The school wants to tie the vertical garden into its curriculum and provide career skills to students through participation in its sustainability project. 

Produce grown in the vertical garden will be used in the school's foods program and sold at farm markets, with money raised being used to support the garden’s operating costs. Excess produce will be donated to the Oilfields Food Bank. 

Volunteerism, marketing, agriculture, horticulture and industrial arts are some of the areas students would gain skills by working on the vertical garden.

The sustainability program includes the Yellow Fish Road Program, Leave No Trace and the garden, and students have already been able to share knowledge with the community and other area schools.

“We want to be a template for people,” Horembala said. 

Cindy Watts, the learning commons facilitator at Oilfields, said the vertical garden would provide many benefits to students and to the wider community. 

It would make it possible to grow produce that is not usually grown in this climate, Watts said.

“Being able to grow locally saves so much cost for businesses around us,” she said. 

Partnerships with Olds College and St. Mary’s University are also in the works.

Start-up costs for the vertical garden are expected to be $50,000, including installation and ground prep, materials, and electrical and utility tie-ins.

About $7,000 has been raised by students so far, Watts said, and the Town of Black Diamond recently donated $3,500 to the project.

Students are also organizing a silent auction to be held during the school's Winter Market on Dec. 15.

Watts credits the administration of the Foothills School Division for their support. 

“We are gifted to have those people here,” Watts said. 

Robert Korotyszyn

About the Author: Robert Korotyszyn

Robert Korotyszyn covers Okotoks and Foothills County news for and the Western Wheel newspaper. For story tips contact [email protected]
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