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School Farms Around the World: CitySprouts in Cambridge, MA

This post contributed by recent UBC Land & Food Systems graduate, Tania Leon

Many cities have jumped on board with school gardens and we believe in sharing great ideas and success stories. CitySprouts in Cambridge, MA is one of them.

CitySprouts started in 2000 through a partnership with the Cambridge Public School District and has since expanded to deliver projects across eastern Massachusetts in Boston, Lynn, and Gloucester. It is a garden-based education program that now involves more than 6000 students in public schools and is highly integrated into the school curriculum.

Like FreshRoots, the CitySprouts program uses hands-on workshops to provide students with valuable skills that connect them to the environment and how the food cycle really works. Students experience the farm-to-table process from actively maintaining and harvesting these gardens to preparing (and eating!) healthy food.

We’ve noticed that many teachers have embraced these learning gardens and are using them for more than you might think! Math students learn about measuring and charting the growth of pea plants. Arts students create natural sculptures in the gardens and watch them transform and become part of the garden landscape. Science students learn the physics of apple cider pressing. There are so many possibilities and creative reasons to use these learning gardens that it’s hard not to go outside for class!

I asked CitySprouts how they keep busy during the winter and found out that a lot of planning and fundraising work happens during this time of year. In the schools, staff continue to work with teachers and classes on activities such as creating worm bins, developing their ancient grains project, linking to social studies classes and other connections to the wintertime curriculum.

CitySprouts has also compiled and shared an Essential Plant List on their website that identifies plants suited to school gardens and their particular climate. This is a great starting point for any school garden to develop their own list of ideal plants that would thrive locally and please the students too!

Visit CitySprouts at http://citysprouts.org

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Confessions of a Fresh Roots Volunteer

This is a guest post from Yael Haar, one of Fresh Roots’ star volunteers. 

As a volunteer for Fresh Roots, I have experienced what happens behind the scenes of the non-profit sector. When I started volunteering, I assisted with farm work. Moving compost from one space to another was not my definition of fun, but at the end of my volunteer shift I felt accomplished. Knowing that food would later be grown in the beds I helped shape was a rewarding feeling. While working on the farm I also got to know the other volunteers. It was refreshing to socialize with people who shared my interest in urban farming and local food.

Over the course of the season, I transitioned into volunteering with the weekly Good Food Markets at David Thompson Secondary. I have enjoyed my experience working at the markets, as I learned what really goes into a farmers’ market and what different factors play a part. Over the summer, there were many beautiful days on which markets were held and many veggies were to be bought. I enjoyed sharing recipes and being able to form relationships with people in the community. Although sometimes I did not wish to drive in Vancouver traffic all the way to David Thompson school, once I was there I felt good about being outside with people and making a contribution to the community.

Every week, I would see familiar faces come by and spread the word to keen new customers. This was particularly exciting, as I watched the network of Fresh Roots grow. Overtime, markets became more routine and I was able to connect more with the other volunteers and staff. Most importantly, I have been able to eat fresh, local and organic vegetables each week, which is a huge benefit! It is also exciting to see new events happen, like the South Vancouver Harvest festival which just took place. As I continue to volunteer with Fresh Roots, it is gratifying to be part of a team which focuses on connecting people back to food and watching the community grow.

To learn more about current volunteer opportunities, check out freshroots.ca/volunteer. See you in the fields soon!