The 2013 Harvest Dinner marks the end of the fourth growing season of Jackson’s Memorial Garden at SAIT Polytechnic.
While production of the crop is consistently on-par, its impact on staff and students has become increasingly more bountiful every year.
Andrew Hewson, SAIT chef and founding father of Jackson’s Garden, proposed the idea of the garden as a way to better connect the students with the food they’re cooking. What Hewson didn’t anticipate, was the profound effect the garden had on faculty as well.
“For the students it had the impact I was expecting, but it was the impact on the faculty that surprised me.
“It’s like they have a whole new philosophy towards food,” said Hewson.
Hewson said before the garden was around some students had no idea what certain ingredients looked like. Now that’s changing.
“Whatever they’re cooking in the kitchen, the chefs can send them out to the garden to find something to go with it.
“It’s a very hands-on learning experience that most culinary students don’t get to benefit from,” Hewson stated.
Some new technology has provided the garden with the ability to grow year-round via a high-tech greenhouse.
It consists of three components which allow it to maintain temperature and humidity, while keeping cost of operation extremely low.
The building has double wall construction with a cavity between the two walls that fills with soap bubbles.
The bubbles tumble down from tubes in the ceiling and fill the cavity, acting as insulation to keep the internal temperature warm.
The greenhouse also contains solar panels that power a biodiesel heater, which heats a glycol tank to supply the radiant floor and soil with heat.
All of the biodiesel comes from kitchen waste, which would otherwise be disposed of. The greenhouse is so unique that it doesn’t even have an official name.
“Everyone has come to know it as the soap bubble greenhouse, that’s kind of the cool part of the technology.
“It’s definitely unique,” said Hewson.
“I don’t think there’s one around that combines all of these components in one building.”
Last summer, Olds College agriculture graduate and gardener Allyse Gluting was on her own to take care of the 4200 square foot garden.
Gluting feels her time in the garden was a good opportunity to put her skills to use and further her knowledge of gardening.
“I will continue to apply all the knowledge I have gained from SAIT in my future positions within horticulture,” said Gluting.
The Harvest Dinner is a fundraiser for Jackson’s Garden, with some of the proceeds going towards purchasing seeds and supplies to keep the garden going. The majority of the proceeds go toward hiring a gardener to maintain the garden throughout the summer.
“Attending the Harvest Dinner where my hard work was set in front of me in such an exquisite manner brought me to tears of joy,” said Gluting.
“The past four years we’ve brought in an Olds student to maintain the garden.
“It just makes sense to bring in an agriculture student who knows what they’re doing,” said Hewson.
Another new feature in the garden is the Mugnaini wood-burning oven, which is in its second year of operation. The oven is mainly used for workshops and special events, but Hewson feels it is a very useful tool to bring students closer with food.
“It’s just so cool to stand out here in the garden and cook like this and connect with the food,” said Hewson.
The garden is often host to workshops where students go through and pick ingredients to be used for a pizza cooked right there in the garden.
This winter will be the greenhouse’s first test, and Hewson thinks it will perform just fine.
Hewson plans on seeing how the greenhouse does over the winter and maintaining the plants he has in there. He will then prepare to start the outdoor gardening season all over again.
“When I pick the seeds in the spring, I’m kind of thinking about the dinner in the fall.
Attending the Harvest Dinner, where my hard work was set in front of me in such an exquisite manner, brought me to tears of joy. – Allyse Gluting
“Us chefs will get together and start off by figuring out a protein we want to use, and then kind of plan the garden around that,” said Hewson.
With over 175 varieties of plants in the ground last season, Hewson and his colleagues have their work cut out for them.
Anyone looking for more information can visit the garden’s blog.