Tatamagouche Foodland made a significant contribution to Tatamagouche Regional Academy over the summer - $30,000 for the new community garden. Through weekly 50/50 draws, the grocery store raised the funds, and is continuing the draws to benefit other local organizations. From left, store owner Darren Schriver, principal Brian Holmes, store owner Sherry Schriver, and store manager Sarah Huston. Raissa Tetanish photo

What started as a small project for students has grown into a larger one the community can benefit from, in more ways than one.

Brian Holmes, the principal of the newly-opened Tatamagouche Regional Academy, has long had a vision for students of bringing seed to the table. The idea, he said, incorporates different aspects, such as health, science, and entrepreneurship.

Now, that idea is about to come to fruition thanks to support from the Tatamagouche Foodland in the tune of $30,000.

“Initially, the conversation was about how Foodland could be involved in having a healthy school,” said Holmes. “I had a vision of a greenhouse, with some raised beds. But that grew into a walkway and trail, benches, and being fenced off. It could be used for educational purposes during the day, and used for the community in the evenings and weekends.”
Holmes said students and the public can take time working out in the community garden, which is expected to be constructed beginning next spring behind the school.

“It’s very therapeutic,” he said of gardening.

Darren Schriver, who owns Foodland with his wife, Sherry, said they were on board with the idea because of the store-food relationship.

“We felt there was a connection on that,” said Schriver. “This is about giving the students the experience. We’re funding our younger generations. Being in business, we’ve seen youth don’t have as much as experience, and this will give them that hands-on.”

Schriver said the retail landscape has been changing quickly, but the community garden will give local youth a bit of an advantage.

“It’s putting out awareness of food,” said store manager Sarah Huston.

Schriver said when Holmes first approached them, the idea was smaller, but quickly grew. The new price tag was out of the corporation’s reach themselves, so they turned to the community.

“We wouldn’t be able to help without the community. They fully backed us on this,” said Schriver.

The business came up with the idea of a weekly 50/50 draw, and sold almost all their tickets they had printed over the 40-week period. They raised $25,000 through the 50/50, with the corporation kicking in the rest.

“It’s amazing how it all came together,” said Schriver.

“It was a win-win for both the community, and the school,” added Sherry.

Holmes said the garden is a continuation of what began at the Tatamagouche Elementary School. Moving to the new facility, he said they’re constantly thinking of ways to involve the community more.

“We want to capture the past and honour the past, but get excited for the future,” he said.

Along with the community garden, the grocery store has assisted other events and organizations raise money through the 50/50 draws. TATAFEST benefited, as did the Tatamagouche Fire Department.

For the next three months, the recipient organization is the North Shore Recreation Centre, for upkeep of the John K. Memorial Sports Field located in behind the centre and next to the new school.

“Different organizations can apply to participate in the 50/50,” said Huston.