The SOYL Program — Much more than simply farm work

What did you first think when you heard about the SOYL Program?

I first heard about it attending the VSB’s 2016 Sustainability Conference.

During the conference’s opportunities fair, Fresh Roots had a small booth in the very corner with a little orange poster. I think I nearly missed it, but fate would have me approaching the Fresh Roots booth while I was waiting for people to clear up around the, quite honestly, much more exciting-looking booth beside it.

There, I was greeted by a friendly girl who gave me the rundown of the program. As she spoke, I began to think: would I be willing to spend my entire summer working on a schoolyard farm? Performing all the laborious tasks needed to grow vegetables? Outside, in the hot summer heat?

Heck yeah I would.

You see, while most sixteen-year-olds would be turned off by the idea of working on a farm, I was in love with it. I started getting involved in environmentally-focused volunteer work in grade 9, and over time I ended up developing a huge passion for environmentalism. Before SOYL, I was an avid volunteer for nature day camps at the Surrey Nature Centre. I was also, at one point, part of something called the Salmon Habitat Restoration Program, which allowed me to spend my last summer removing invasive species and doing industrial education work around the city.

Growing and maintaining a garden was something I had absolutely no knowledge about at the time, and it’s because of Fresh Roots that I’ve been able to learn how to do that. Thank you Fresh Roots.

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Negative Food Stories: Opportunities for Relationship

Food is nourishment.  Food is connection.  

Good days, bad days, celebrations, mourning.  Food is there.  It can be a burden, an obligation met by busybody, overstressed workers, parents, caregivers.  It can be a relief, a comfort, a joy; a refuge to hide away, to spend all the time one’s heart desires to craft the shapes, and flavours, and undertones of a remembered but distant dish–of remembered people, places, experiences.  

And of new ones.

Food can be the poverty of an empty table.  It can be the extravagance of waste and excess.

Food can be dreaded.  It can be hoped for.

~~~~~

I attended a [food-]storytelling workshop yesterday.  Parts of the words above came from my scribbled thoughts to the free-write prompt: What does food mean to you?

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Food is fundamental and vital for life.  We need it (and we need to grow/gather/cultivate it) to survive, to live, to thrive.  Food can be a source of nourishment not only physically or biologically, but also for the soul.  Traditional foodways and meals can bring back good memories and warm fuzzy feelings.  We like to eat.

These things we know.  And often we hold them as universally applicable to all.  After all, everyone eats, right?

Enjoying a potluck lunch with the crew

Enjoying a potluck picnic lunch with the crew

Talking with a friend at the storytelling workshop about our personal stories of food and “food stories” in general, the topic emerged of Hey, wait a minute.  Not everyone has a positive relationship or association with food.  

Read More

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Professional Development October 20th

Are you interested in starting or using a school garden as a year-round learning ground, but don’t know how to get started? Do you need tips for working with groundskeepers and administrators? Would you like to meet like-minded teachers with whom to network and share ideas? Join us for the first of a series of courses connecting you to the soil and to one another.

Spend a delightful day at UBC’s Botanical Gardens:
We’ll spend the morning reviewing the VSB’s new garden education guide, Rooted in Place, that details how to establish and use school gardens as year-round learning grounds to cultivate inquiry. You’ll learn the basics of garden care, connect garden learning to curriculum standards, consider seasonal rhythms of the school garden, and connect to helpful resources and local experts.

After enjoying a long-table lunch together, we’ll spend the afternoon immersed in an active experience in Vancouver’s oldest demonstration Food Garden and Greenheart TreeWalk canopy walkway. Our Sustainable Field School experience promotes teamwork, creativity and fun through activities such as exploring the aerial trail system perched in the canopy of the temperate rainforest and tasting food fresh from the garden. We will explore important themes such as interconnection, communication, collaboration, leadership, innovation and mindfulness through:
• Connecting and networking with like-minded educators
• Experiential learning in our 80 acre outdoor classroom
• Enhancing capacity and skillsets for food garden education with experts

To enrol in the course: http://www2.vsb.bc.ca/vsbprograms/Prod/register.htm?page=workshopdetails&workshopid=2872

Jam, jam, jam

Jam is delicious. What I’m saying is, I really like jam. I also really like blueberries. So what could be better than a nice jar of blueberry jam? Making blueberry jam, of course!  Canning the jars of Blueberry Honey Lavender Jam was an extremely fun and surprisingly tiring experience. We spent all day measuring, boiling, mixing, pouring, wiping, washing, and canning. Not to mention that there were constantly at least three pots of water boiling water and the sun was shining through the windows!

 

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Marc Schutzbank named BC Business 30 Under 30

Check out what BC Business has to say about Executive Director Marc Schutzbank. (Photo Credit Evaan Kheraj)

Marc Schutzbank, 29
by Marcie Good

Life Story: Marc Schutzbank completed two bachelor’s degrees at the University of Pittsburgh, one in politics and philosophy and one in finance, before he won a Fulbright scholarship to UBC in 2011. The American was studying the economics of urban farming as part of his graduate work in the university’s land and food systems program when he connected with Ilana Labow, a member of a group called Fresh Roots, which grew food in backyards. After an elementary-school principal invited Fresh Roots to start a garden, the project expanded to other schools. Putting his knowledge of finance to work, Schutzbank helped turn Fresh Roots into a non-profit.

In 2013, after completing his M.Sc., he negotiated a working agreement with the Vancouver School Board to establish and manage educational farms at two schools. Food grown is sold to school cafeterias and to local families that sign up for a weekly box of produce. In the summer, Fresh Roots employs high-school students to garden, sell the food at farmers’ markets, and prepare and sell jams and chutneys. “It’s a ridiculous miracle that this tiny little seed can grow into this gigantic plant,” says Schutzbank, now a permanent resident of Canada. “What the students see is that from small actions come significant change.”

The Bottom Line: With an annual budget of $280,000 (which includes grants and revenue), Fresh Roots grows 3,600 kilograms of food and employs 30 students. About 3,340 students visit its gardens annually.

Read the online version here.

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at van tech 2016

Small Magic in Late Autumn

The Pineapple Express breezes through Vancouver, bringing a day full of sunshine and a tease of spring weather.

After spending lunch with the Aboriginal Youth Program at Van Tech, I was feeling very soft and charmed by the warm air. So I went outside to our Fresh Roots farms to just notice. To notice what activity, small or large, was taking place on the farm. The Kale was upright and loving the sunshine. The hoop houses looked secure. The remnants of garlic planting were visible.

Unseasonably warm, I was able to be in my t-shirt. Charlotte, our head farmer rolled up in the Fresh Roots truck, I was excited to see her because it meant I could help on the farm a little and also because I was hoping to have some company on such a warming day. And little did I know, my favourite task was the garden task of the afternoon- mulching the garlic beds.

From the truck, we unloaded free barrels of straw collected from Halloween houses (thank the spirits for craigslist!). Charlotte saw my excitement and let me have the honour of tucking the garlic babies into bed for the winter. A thick layer of straw blanketing over, in my opinion, one of the most rewarding plants. The warm golden sun illuminated the straw blanket. Charlotte and I looked at how far the straw stretched as a blanket over the garden beds, and visually estimated how many more Halloween houses we needed to contact. As we observed quietly, the aspen tree just south of the garden shed its leaves as the warm breeze blew in. A shower of amber confetti aspen leaves bumbled over the garden through the golden sun. The earth bringing us in for a warm embrace. We couldn’t help but laugh at the magic we were witnessing.

Taking time to be present, to receive the gifts the natural world is constantly offering us, to just feel the changes, can lead to pure magic.

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East Van Press Fest

I’m impressed to suggest that this year’s fall fest, is just around the bend.
It’s hardly a jest, I must confess, we have so many apples it almost offends
But not quite. It’ll be all right – if only you bring us your bottle.
We’ll fill it up quick, with cider that fits, you’ll have to carry it home with a waddle.

What: A Free apple pressing extravaganza. Join your neighbours in celebrating the harvest. Try your hand at pressing local apples into sweet cider and take some home!

Where: Vancouver Technical Secondary School (at the farm near the tennis courts) at Slocan and Broadway. Here’s a map.

When: Sunday, October 16, 2016 from 11-3

Who: All are invited. Bring your family, bring your friends and BYOJ Bring your own jar to help take home the cider.

RSVP

Brought to you by Mother Nature and a few simple machines

Thanks to: The Vancouver Foundation & Neighbourhood Houses of Vancouver (Small Neighbourhood Grants) Duncan’s Backyard Henhouses, Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, Homesteader’s Emporium, and all our wonderful volunteers