Kasey Budgell, 14, is helping to bring an earth-sheltered greenhouse to King’s Point, Canada. Growing has been a family passion for generations, she said, recalling that as a tot she’d trail her grandfather around his garden. “I’d always want to be able to cut the turnip tops off, and be hands-on with it, but I was so little I wasn’t allowed to,” she said.
Now Kasey is fully hands-on, learning to operate an excavator and loader to help till the family’s veggie fields. Beyond those plots that feed her family, Kasey has secured the first steps toward bringing an earth-sheltered greenhouse to King’s Point.
An earth-sheltered greenhouse places the glazing to the south, with the rest of it sunk into the ground or a hill to help moderate interior temperatures. Kasey learned they can extend the growing season well into December.
The Food Producers Forum, a non-profit group that aims to help improve food security in the province through agricultural initiatives, is building an earth-sheltered greenhouse at O’Brien’s Farm in St. John’s in conjunction with Memorial University. As it enters its final stages of construction, the Food Producers Forum issued a call across Newfoundland and Labrador for people to build more.
Kasey came across that proposal and she and another student asked the town council for support, and — impressed with their gusto — the politicians jumped on board. “It was really amazing to see a junior high school student, for goodness’ sake, come in and present to a table of community councilors with the level of confidence that she did,” said Perry Blanchard, a King’s Point town councilor.
The town pledged in-kind support: the labor to build it, a hookup to town water, and a location. Add in about $10,000 raised, and Kasey’s application was in the mail. “We looked at this letter … and went, ‘Holy moly! This project’s being led by a 14-year-old!'” said Dan Rubin of the Food Producers Forum.
Not long after, Kasey found out King’s Point had been selected as one of the seven successful applications out of 26 total greenhouse entries. “I was so excited the day that I actually got picked, I started, like, jumping up and down in my classroom, just screaming. I was so happy,” said Kasey.
Kasey envisions a vegetable-filled future in King’s Point, with the greenhouse open to the entire community, “to let the people that may not have the land or the means to actually have a place of their own, to go up there and use it as if it was their own,” she said. Kasey’s family has a root cellar to store their veggies, and she hopes to add a community version to the greenhouse, where people will be able to trade taters, turnips and more. “Hopefully by the end of this, a few years’ time, our community could be like sustainable, all by themselves,” she said.
Talking to Kasey about her overall plan was “a total inspiration,” said Rubin. “It just lifted my spirits. It made me realize that this work that we’re doing, as gardeners, really is about community. and she’s leading the pack.”
Kasey had school support with her greenhouse idea, even though she might not have needed it. “One of the things that our school always stood by was that it takes a village to raise a child. But we’re soon realizing and learning that it takes a child to lead a community,” principal Ryan Kelley said.
That addresses two vital needs in rural parts of the province at once: a way to stop the demographic drain overall, and in particular the agricultural scene. Newfoundland and Labrador’s farming sector, already the smallest in Canada, is shrinking. “We see this in a bit of our vision, as a way to sustain King’s Point,” he said. “So it’s the ability to infuse new ideas, to get the exchange of information from youth like Kasey in our community from the existing population of experienced agriculturalists … and maybe one day revive agriculture, bring new people into the region.”
The King’s Point greenhouse is expected to be built next year.
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