DC and Durham Catholic District School Board are cultivating the future with ‘Propagation of Vegetables’ dual credit program

Durham College’s (DC) Barrett Centre of Innovation in Sustainable Urban Agriculture and the Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) have partnered on a unique dual credit program that is giving Ajax high school students a taste of life – and work – on the farm.

This semester, 15 Grade 11 students from Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School have participated in the Propagation of Vegetables dual credit program at the Barrett Centre’s Ajax Urban Farm. The course is a modified version of one from DC’s Horticulture – Food and Farming program, giving students an innovative opportunity to simultaneously earn a high school and college credit.

Funded by the School College Work Initiative, the program allows students to explore potential career paths in agriculture while earning tangible academic credentials. They spent the winter months in the classroom learning about agriculture before rolling up their sleeves for hands-on experience at the nearby farm.

“It’s a really valuable program,” said Jennifer Hoban, the Barrett Centre’s Community Engagement Coordinator and the Professor who works with the Notre Dame students. “Whether or not the kids go on to be farmers, understanding what goes into the production of food and seeing the connection between what they’re eating and where it comes from is incredibly valuable.”

Through a blend of classroom discussions and farm activities, the students have come to embrace the joys of getting their hands dirty – a testament to the program’s transformative power according to Ante Tojcic, a teacher at Notre Dame who also works with the students.

“The dual credit program has allowed students to experience a whole new level of learning, giving them insights into college and beyond,” he said. “They have learned to propagate their own vegetables, and they’re always in awe at the growth of the plants from week to week.”

The program has been a great success to date, with the DCDSB being so impressed that they invested in a pair of safety boots for every one of their students as a gift for their great participation.

“The goal has always been to figure out how we can work with high schools to build a knowledge base and show students that pursuing this career is a viable option,” said Kelly O’Brien, Associate Dean of DC’s Faculty of Hospitality and Horticultural Science.

As the school year winds down, the students have been reflecting on the unique opportunity the program has given them, and they’ll carry their newfound interest in agriculture forward.

“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been very different from what I’m used to,” said one student, Akash Anton, who will utilize his new skills to help his grandmother with her garden.

His fellow student Faith Attigah has embraced the hands-on experience.

“It’s really fulfilling. This has given me a better understanding of agriculture.”