Lacombe Composite High School’s Ecovision Club was forced to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, creating an online store to sell the produce they normally would grow for their school and local farmers markets.
Launched in April, the Ecovision Microbusiness sells a variety of vegetables and potted plants that Lacombe residents would recognize from the summer markets.
Ecovision instructor Steve Schultz said the microbusiness began three years ago when David Jeffrey from Burman University began teaching LCHS students about creating business plans and business accounting.
“We then connected with Alberta Online, which is business promotion company. They came in and taught my agriculture and beekeeping students how to implement a business plan and put it online. I didn’t fully understand how important that was until COVID-19 hit,” Schultz said.
From there, students in the Ecovision club began hosting beekeeping workshops and selling their product at local farmers markets. That lead to interest from Cilantro and Chive, who began purchasing herbs and honey from Ecovision.
Once COVID-19, the closure of business throughout town and the LCHS foods courses meant Ecovision also lost their market for their products.
“Our Ecovision students came together and said what are we going to do? We decided to reach out and see if there was a desire for an online store. At the beginning of April we launched our store and we are now approaching 25 individuals who have used that store,” Schultz said.
Part of Ecovision’s mandate is to also support the community that supports them. In the past, students have made donations to local food banks and set aside 10 per cent of their product to be donated. With this project, a portion of everything sold is being donated to the Lacombe and District Food Ban.
“We had always taught our students that there had to be an element of our business that gives back. That came from our learning from Burman University,” Schultz said.
Schultz said the store will continue as long as their is produce to sell and this year, produce production has more than tripled due to the efforts of community volunteers who stepped in to plant the garden that normally would have been planted by students in class.
Despite not being able to be hands-on, Schultz said their projects continue to be student-led.
“Number one is the design and implementation of the online store,” he said. “That was done by students with my assistance. The second way is where we continue to have weekly virtual meetings where our students meet and make decisions.
The third way is through our community volunteer group that went through sanitation training and agreed to volunteer to take care of the gardens with social distancing policies in place. Some students families were interested to be involved, with the understanding that it is not a school initiative and it does not have curricular expectations.”
Schultz thanked those who have logged on to the online store and also the businesses like Peavey Mart, Busy Beaver Sewing, Cilantro and Chive, Nowco Home Hardware and Healthfitters who have support the club.
He added, “Without our community volunteers, this would be impossible. If someone has something they want to sell and would like to have a partnership — give us a call and we will look to see how we can promote your project”