From teaching school to teaching gardening

It was an amazing leap for Stephen (Steve) White and his family

Steve White turns compost into the soil of his organic vegetable garden near Little Fort during the fall.

It was an amazing leap for Stephen (Steve) White and his family when they decided to leave their home and city life in Birmingham, England, to immigrate to British Columbia, Canada.

Teaching had been Steve’s calling in life, so they began the process of finding a teaching job in their new home, Canada. When all the necessary information had been gathered, it was decided to apply for a job in Birch Island, but instead Steve was offered a position in Little Fort’s one room school. Taking the position proved a good decision as Steve moved up into the principal’s position in 1968, and is wife, Sheena, taught there as well.

The Whites made their home on Lemieux Creek Road, a rural area close to the village of Little Fort.  From here, Steve was later able to commute to his work as teacher in several area schools.  Steve says the family’s home was on land ideal for gardening, something he had been involved with for a long time.

Unfortunately, an illness later in life caused him to make the decision of returning to his work in education.  He says it was not long before he became restless without the routine of teaching.

“I missed teaching, what could I do?” said Steve, “I had to do something, something I was interested in. After some consideration and discussions with Sheena, I decided to find out what I could about ‘gardening naturally’, and hoped a group of people would be interested in taking courses with me.  I thought if this worked out, I would be pursuing two of my life’s interests, teaching and gardening.”

“I had gardened for a very long time, and as soon as I had a plot created, I was ready to get ‘growing.’  Always vegetables, not flowers, only those that could be eaten,” said Steve, noting he was lucky to get the last subscription of ‘Mother Earth News’ helpful access to information about natural gardening.  “I did not call it ‘organic gardening’, but it actually was.”

Steve then worked on his gardening course outline, which meant he had to do research; and after that, develop a complete teaching plan that would spread over an eight sessions. The sessions included soil fertility and structure, cultivation methods, planting – companion planting, succession planting, with the addition of mulching and composting which was a separate detailed lecture by itself.

Sheena says she had the idea of building a mini-greenhouse without measuring, saying, “Just to go home and do something.”

The mini-greenhouse was a successful small venture, a place to start seedlings and keep plants until the weather was suitable for transplanting in the spring.

“We continuously gathered more knowledge through practicing what we had researched by various means, and we were eager to pass it on to our course participants,” said Steve.

The White’s ‘Vegetable Gardening Naturally’ drew more than 10 people at each course.

“I was surprised that our course drew so many participants, one couple participated several times, they were keen to learn as much as possible,” said Steve, “I was to give a talk about gardening in Barriere at the Garden Club meeting there, which was scheduled to last about half-an-hour, but instead I was actually there for an hour-and-a-half.”

Asked what their objectives in were in teaching Vegetable Gardening Naturally, Steve answered, “Food is getting increasingly more expensive. We can recycle at home, especially what comes from the garden, and homegrown organic food tastes so much better than purchased food.”

 

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