James Ruse Agricultural High School is located in Carlingford, NSW. Agriculture is a compulsory subject for all junior classes. It is also a Selective High School and draws some of the most brilliant minds. The 6.5ha farm in suburbia is both an outdoor learning space and peaceful area for students to unwind between their studies. Every Ag student is given their own plot to grow seasonal vegetables throughout the year. Enterprises include free range eggs, peach and orange orchards, honey, prime lambs, hydroponic greens, and a registered Angus cattle stud.
It’s not the first place you would expect to hear “Lights, Camera, Action” but during the April holidays our own school farm played host to Maggie Beer’s film crew. The farm classroom became the hub for make-up and food prep behind the scenes, all before sunrise. Altura Learning and the Maggie Beer Foundation combined forces to film one of their modules ‘Keep It Fresh: Utilising the Kitchen Garden’ for the upcoming series, Aged Care Skills for Cooks and Chefs. The module is designed to outline the nutritional and sensory benefits of kitchen gardens in age care facilities. Our BBQ area became an outdoor kitchen for one of Maggie’s own chefs, Amanda, to create a strawberry and rhubarb dessert and the most delicious baked sweet potato dishes I’ve ever tasted.
It was humbling to have Maggie wander through our herb garden and orange orchard, gathering produce, as she created a colourful salad with edible borage and marigolds amongst the arrangement of greens. Student’s took pride working in their vegie gardens full of squash, zucchini, carrots, and brassica crops, knowing that Maggie was coming to visit.
Classes have utilised the garden since the filming to produce spinach slice (my grandmother’s recipe) and rhubarb crumble. We used one of Maggie’s own recipes for the crumble, from the foundation website of course, combing our school grown oranges and honey from our apiary.
Furthermore, when students transitioned to home learning due to the pandemic in term three, we utilised the food established in the garden and from the student’s vegie plots to donate to a few of our local charities. The House of Welcome, who support refugees and Parramatta Missions Meals Plus program, who provide hundreds of meals each week to locals in need.
It was a great privilege for James Ruse Agricultural High School to be given the opportunity to combine with the Maggie Beer Foundation and Altura Learning in promoting the many wonderful benefits of kitchen gardens for all.
Agriculture Teacher and Farm Manager
James Ruse Agricultural High School