We are pleased to welcome Kohl Kuntz, in a new role as Lead Farmer for Lakefield College School. Kohl is joining our community to help create (and maintain) a ½ acre vegetable garden at our Northcote Campus.
At LCS, we are committed to inspiring students to become leaders who care, connect, and contribute – in their community and more broadly, to the environment by creating a school garden on our campus. Ultimately, our goal is to provide food directly to our Dining Hall with the hope that our students will learn to connect nature and environmental stewardship practices to food production and regenerative principles.
We spoke to Kohl to learn more about his background and the ten steps he’s taking to breathe new life into Northcote with the inauguration of the school garden.
Tell us about your background and how you came to LCS.
I grew up in North Bay, Ontario. My path to LCS began with a variety of farm experiences beginning with a stint in Europe where I volunteered on farms, followed by an internship at a medium scale mixed farm in Copetown, Ontario and working as a field hand at other farms. I attended Trent University for sustainable agriculture and food systems where I revived and managed the Trent market garden for two years. When I learned that LCS was starting a garden, I was excited to respond to the Request for Proposals and now, here I am!
The 10 Steps Kohl is Taking to Prepare the Garden at Northcote:
- Create a garden plan. In consultation with a new farm team at LCS, we created a plan for the land and for the materials needed. We also determined that I would need a Farming Assistant to aid in the implementation and maintenance of the garden. Another important planning piece, I created a garden map to guide everyone with a visual layout prior to planting.
- Make a crop plan. I designed a crop plan that allows for flexibility to meet students’ learning needs as well as the needs of the dining hall. In the first year, I plan to grow a variety of vegetables to offer the Chefs at LCS a cornucopia of options in the kitchen. After the first year, we can identify what produce the students enjoyed eating and what they’d like to add.
- Order materials. To create the garden, I will need different materials, including fruit and vegetable seeds, soils, tools, a row cover, a drip line, a sprinkler, and a few more items. We needed to ensure all the materials were available to begin the planting process.
- Make organizational/learning systems. Since this is a pilot project and we’re in the first year of growth, it’s always great to have a “measuring stick” to determine what is and isn’t working. I created a calendar to track planting dates and quantities so I can monitor the speed at which different crops grow in addition to the yield to ensure that the dining hall has the ingredients they’ll need at the right time. It’s important that the crops are ready to be harvested when students are in session during the school year so they can be involved in the gardening process and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
- Hire a Farming Assistant. In the planning stages, I suggested hiring a Farming Assistant to help maintain the school garden. I am very pleased that we were able to hire Ashley Garland who will be helping ensure the garden flourishes by weeding, planting, hoeing, watering, harvesting, and washing. I am looking forward to collaborating with Ashley who comes with related farming experience and together we can test ideas and work through future plans for the garden.
- Plant seedlings for the hoop house. It’s great that I have access to the facilities at Trent U, and I have already begun planting seedlings that will eventually be transported to the hoop house at Northcote to continue growing. So far, I have planted onions, lavender, sage, parsley, lettuce, romaine, kale, and bok choy.
- Plan garden space. It’s important to plan a gardening space in advance to ensure that the placement of the plants is such that they will thrive in the soil, with the sunlight, and in the company of the surrounding crops. I plan to position the whole plot where it will get the most sunshine; it is set back from the treeline so there’s a minimal amount of shade from the morning sun.
- Till the plot. Once the garden space has been planned and space has been designated, I will begin tilling the soil to prepare the ground for planting. Tilling helps loosen up the earth to create a hospitable environment for the new plants to thrive.
- Make beds and start planting. The final and most exciting step is to start planting!
- Start planting!
What types of crops can students expect to help grow this year? Next year?
This year, we will plant all kinds of vegetables, including arugula, beets, beans, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, carrots, corn, cucumbers, green onion, ground cherry, radish, turnip, tomatoes, lettuce, pumpkin, peas, mouse melon, kale, and zucchini. Since this is a pilot project, I can’t say what next year has in store. We’ll have to see how the crops thrive this year. My plan is to change the crops based on the needs of the dining hall. For example, we’re growing collard greens this year but if those aren’t a student favourite, we’ll swap in something else next year!
We asked Kohl why he’s so passionate about farming and working in the natural environment. “For me, I love the magic of it. Seeing how the garden and all of this food changes over the year is incredible. Just pulling a carrot out of the ground is magical but seeing it through the process [from seed to vegetable] is pretty awe inspiring. Gardening is one of those experiences that takes you out of your normal day.”
Kohl also shared his perspective on engaging with the environment. “I see agriculture as the intersection between people and nature. It’s the place where we’re all connected. Gardening is a direct interaction with nature. You see how plants change based on how you interact with them over the course of the season and that is pretty magical.”