Oct. 27, 2013 – Many people on SAIT campus walk by the Jackson Henry Henuset Memorial Garden (Jackson’s Garden) without realizing what lies beyond the wooden fence and attractive shrubbery at its border.

While passing by, most would not acknowledge how meticulously planted the plot is, what its name represents, and why the face of a young boy is etched into a stone at the entrance. Many do not see that it is a garden at all.

Chelsea Budd, first-year student in graphic communication and print technology at SAIT, has traveled the path that runs alongside the garden every day since the beginning of September without knowing that fresh herbs and vegetables flourish behind the fence.

“I just like walking here because it’s so beautiful,” Budd said.

“I thought there was just a yard on the other side of the fence or something.”

Budd was shocked to hear that there is a fully functional garden on campus, which is used by faculty and students in culinary arts programs at SAIT.

“That’s a really well-kept secret,” Budd said.

Jackson’s Garden was an initiative of Chef Andrew Hewson, instructor of culinary arts programs at SAIT. He began the process in 2006, inspired by Alice Waters, head chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.

“She was really the leader in organic, regional, and local food,” Hewson said.

“In the late eighties she worked with a middle school in her neighbourhood to create what she called ‘the edible schoolyard project.’”

Hewson decided that every school could benefit from a garden, and was determined to see one added to the landscape of SAIT.

“I did a proposal for the dean and he took it up the channels to get approval at the executive level,” Hewson said.

Consent to build the garden on the proposed site outside the John Ware building came 18 months later. After months of design, landscape architecture, and planning, the garden opened in the fall of 2009.

Constructing the garden took not only a significant amount of time, but also a substantial monetary investment. SAIT received a significant sponsorship to finance the building of Jackson’s Garden.

“Wayne Henuset at Willow Park donated $100,000 to build [the garden],” Hewson said.

According to the 2011 Donor Report on the SAIT alumni website, Henuset originally sponsored the outdoor classroom with the intent to name it Willow Park Garden. But just months after he donated the funds, tragedy struck the Henuset family.

The donor report explains that Jackson, two-year-old grandson of Henuset, drowned in November 2009. Henuset decided that the garden at SAIT would be a fitting memorial for his young grandson.

Thus the name Jackson’s Garden came to life, and the boy’s face was etched in stone to create the commemorative plaque that rests outside the entrance to the garden.

“It was such a sad story,” Hewson said.

“And it makes us all a little more humble every time we walk into that space.”

Hewson notes that his students have benefited significantly from the addition of Jackson’s Garden to the SAIT campus.

“So many students want to be cooks, but they have no idea what raw foods and ingredients looked like or where they came from without their handy labels and packaging,” Hewson said.

Students are involved in the planning process and grow the food themselves, pick herbs and vegetables as needed, and learn to identify the various plants grown in Jackson’s Garden.

The garden does more for the students than yield fresh produce. “It gets them inspired and thinking about food and new ways to put ingredients together,” Hewson said.

 

Each spring, volunteers join work parties to help start and prepare seeds. These groups join the students and faculty at SAIT to plant the garden in late spring and early summer.

 

“There’s a community about the space and those around it have a real passion for the project,” Hewson said.

 

Hewson has detected a slowly-increasing awareness and interest of the garden among students and faculty in other programs at SAIT as well. He has met people from all backgrounds in the garden, learning about and appreciating the plants.

 

“And with the forno oven we’ve installed, there is often outdoor cooking happening and people tend to follow their nose to us,” Hewson said with a laugh.

 

“We can usually offer them up a little snack to satisfy their curiosity.”