You’re invited – Aug 19 Garden Build at Norquay Neighbourhood Food Hub

Get your gardening and snack on!

We are so excited to Grow Norquay’s Garden with our Norquay Neighbourhood Food Hub community partners Collingwood Renfrew Neighbourhood House and the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project.

As part of the Vines Arts Festival on Friday, August 19th, join us from 6-8 pm – learn how to grow Good Food at home and help us build a garden. So get your gardening gloves on, and get hungry – we’ll show you how to start some seeds and share a salad!

Location: North West corner of Norquay Park, 5050 Wales St, Vancouver


Season of Pruning and Trellising

On leaving room and creating space.

On pruning and trellising.

On learning about learning.


“They’re called ‘suckers’ because they suck energy from the plant. Also because they just suck.”

(Gaelan, teaching a friend’s little sister about what he calls “the theory behind why we prune tomatoes”.)


Aaaaand… we’re back!


Well, it’s been awhile, huh, Fresh Roots cyber land? I’ve missed you guys! I’ve been out ‘n’ about since the end of my Schoolyard Farm Internship last season, immersed in the good things of academia, and family, and such. I’ve been back with the Fresh Roots family, in a slightly different role and capacity. This growing season, I’ve been gardening with a group of students at Windermere Secondary School, growing food together and selling it at a weekly summer market stand! (Shameless plug: We’re at Collingwood Neighbourhood House every Tuesday from 11am – 2pm in July and August. Come say hi!)

On paper, I am a garden coordinator. The #Windermeregarden crew is amazing in many ways, of course gardening being one of them! My job is to support them in that. In the beginning days (sometimes now too) I wondered to myself, “What does that even mean?? look like? feel like? taste like?”  “How does one ‘coordinate’?” “Empowerment is a great word and all, but how does one walk in it, practically, in the everyday kinda things that the inspirational speakers don’t have time to talk about?”


In the process of all this new learning, messing up, adapting, and becoming… My hands, they still get to work the soil, plant seeds, and yank out weeds. My head, often is in a buzz and bubble of uncertainty-laden AHHH!-moments, but so too soul-happy Ahhh 🙂 -moments. My heart, oh my heart, is continually being nurtured and challenged to grow into new capacities, to hold onto peace, to allow and embrace processes of pruning.



The very first thing I grew tried growing. I have a pair of handmade earrings (yay for sculpty clay!) that are tomatoes, in honour of that life event. The poor tomato plant weathered a couple bad storms, got bushy beyond recognition, and tried with all its might to have its measly fruit survive. Granted, we got a handful of cherry tomatoes off of it. But, indeed, it was a sad plant.

And then the students at Windermere teach me about pruning. Brave new world.

This season, we’re growing A LOT of tomatoes at Windermere. Tomato pruning has become a regular thing for us. Heart-level, I’ve been reflecting on how this new role as a coordinator/facilitator involves a lot of pruning, but also trellising. There’s the oft-times stressful process of having my mindsets re-adjusted, my words revised, to honour, empower and leave room for student learning and leadership – pruning. But then there’s also the support of a string or a stake that helps hold me up, helps guide my stalks and arms as they reach up higher – trellising. In this role, I am supported, encouraged, and enlivened by the Fresh Roots team, by the neighbours who visit our market stand, by the students who never cease to come up with witty veggie puns, and naturally and effortlessly create a culture of creativity and good times that I love being in.


It’s a season of pruning. It’s a season of trellising.

And I am still learning. So much.

On letting go, on balancing to-do’s and to-play’s, and fostering farming and fun. On letting old perspectives and boxes be pinched and pruned away. Leaves and suckers – endless task lists, overbearing efficiency, perfectly executed plans. Some things can (and should) be held with an open hand, so that we can focus on growing and maturing the fruit – student ownership and leadership, confidence and creativity, skills and silliness, joy!


Well, perhaps some of that had some semblance of sense and logic. I’m not too sure yet what shape this 2nd iteration of “Hands, Head, Heart” will take on, but I hope you will join me in reflecting on the roles that we play in our communities, and in the diligent work of pruning and trellising tomato plants – in our garden beds, and in our minds and hearts and relationships.

Before I sign off, some scribbles from a day back in the spring, when all this first began. Such is the tone of this season, I think… to hit those low notes.


March 15th, 6:40pm. On the bus heading home from the garden.

If I were to describe what I’m learning in one word, it’d be this:


Be humble—always ready and attentive to learn, change, shift your mindset. Quick to listen, and slow to speak (or instruct, or suggest). Know and be ok with knowing that you know not everything, that you do need help, that you need encouragement, and support, and a community to grow in. And know that it’s a good thing, this not-knowing-it-all-from-leaf-tip-to-root-end, that you need not burden yourself with aspiring for perfection and clear lines in all that you do, in all that it feels others depend on you to do, and do well.

“It’s important not to let perfect take away space for just okay.” (- quoted loosely from Marc Shutzbank)

Sometimes just okay is okay.

Sometimes it’s better than perfect.

Because in those spaces there’s then room to grow, nuggets to dig up, and reason to reflect, and think, and enjoy the loopy jaddegness of swirly lines.

On paper and in planting rows.

Through the avenues in my mind that new neurons fire through,

Excited by novelty.


When I feel that I’m a hopeless bumble, it’s really just good times to practice being


The SOYL Experience (so far)

This is the second week of SOYL and I’ve been having an excellent time! Throughout the program so far, I’ve made new friends and also got to learn more about gardening and farming. I hope further in the program I’ll be able to enhance friendships and create new ones that will hopefully continue once the summer is over. It’s going by so quick! One of my favourite parts of SOYL right now would probably be the harvesting days at the Fresh Roots farms at David Thompson & at Van Tech. So far I’ve been able to harvest some Swiss chard, some arugula flowers, and white icicle radishes. At David Thompson, I find their garden exceptionally beautiful. The Swiss chard, patty pan squash, the chocolate mint make me extremely happy because it’s so awesome to see an urban farm at a school in action and of course seeing the delicious fresh produce that’s organic as well!

My commute to David Thompson is around 40 minutes and I find myself actually enjoying it. I find waking up early and taking the bus puts me in a better mood and makes me excited for the day. As for Van Tech, I do love the space there. Since I’m part of the garden and sustainability club at Van Tech, I feel accomplished when SOYL helps out with the VT Garden Club’s beds because they’re so much better with our help! We’ve been clearing out the intense amount of weeds lately in our bush bean beds and it already looks incredibly better than before SOYL had started! I can’t wait to see what we can do to improve the garden out there this summer. I’m sure members of the club will be happy to see their garden when school starts back in September. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure that they know that the SOYL crew helped out with it. 😉

A somewhat gloomy day but that doesn't mean harvesting wasn't fun!

A somewhat gloomy day but that doesn’t mean harvesting wasn’t fun! Group B harvesting swiss chard.

A challenge I find myself being caught in would be my sleep schedule. I become motivated when I am refreshed and about to start the day but I find myself not getting the right amount of sleep. I would say that I’m both a light sleeper and will wake up to any little noise, but I can become a deep sleeper when I’ve had a long day. The problem of my sleep schedule would be that after a long, semi exhausting day at the garden & farms, I always take a nap right after because I really can’t help myself! I know now that all I have to do is find something to do during that specific time so I can save it for a nice deep sleep that will for sure benefit me in the morning. I will definitely try to work on that in the following week.

I remember on one of the mornings I woke up extremely close to 9:00 and was really tired to the point of my eyes wanting to shut. Though when I got there to the farm, I felt more energized and ready to take on the long day. I think it was because of the atmosphere and how everyone was happy and excited but also seeing the positive attitude from the Fresh Roots workers and interns. I also really enjoy having beds and beds of fresh produce surrounding me because it feels organic. (haha get it?) I personally think mornings are the best times to do farm work. There’s something about being surrounded by farm land and blossoming fresh produce that makes you feel so much better! Another activity I feed off of, literally, is weeding! I find weeding a good activity to start off the day because it can be quite relaxing, unless you’re doing it for a heapless amount of time. I think weeding brings people together since it’s a good time to chat to fellow peers about life and such while of course clearing out the unwanted plants. I learned that some weeds are edible like purslane and to me it tastes like a slimier spinach but to each their own. What does purslane taste like to you?

Besides that, I’ve had a great time helping out with community eats. My crew (B) made a delicious and filling meal last week and I enjoyed it very much. We had made a stir fry, using the vegetable of the week, KOHLRABI! That stuff is honestly delicious in a stir fry with quinoa and fluffy brown rice. Community Eats is a fun way to connect with all the other FreshRoots Crew because we get to talk and share stories about the day or generally everything. One of my favourite things about community eats is probably guessing what they’re making that day. I have guessed one dish right but the rest not so close. I always guess what food they’re making on community eats days according to a) what the veggie of the week was and b) I find secret loopholes from some other fresh Roots crew who either have the scoop on what they’re making or saw them carry a certain ingredient. Shoutout to you who have given me hints! 😉

To conclude this blog post, I would like to say that SOYL has genuinely been the highlight of my summer. First because it’s basically taken over my summer but also because I haven’t had this much fun in the garden in awhile! I’ve met great people and I really hope we stay in touch afterwards. I’ve been able to take care of the school garden (at Van Tech) and I’ve also been able to see the process behind growing local and organic food on an urban farm. All the Fresh Roots crew have been so excited and it really makes you have a stronger momentum and a genuinely splendid, beautiful day. Here’s to all the SOYL days to come!

Who needs gloves? You have to touch soil to be in SOYL!


Julie To


SOYL  has been a really fun experience thus far ( re: this is only my THIRD DAY doing SOYL ), and I’m so happy I took this great opportunity. There’s been a lot of gardening–weeding–and cooking, sharing stories and having laughs. It’s feeling really tight-knit already and the first day, I barely knew any names at all. I’ve been feeling very connected to my crew already though I’ve only know all of them for three days.

My crew and I were the first to do Community Eats, and it was so much fun. I love cooking so it was a very fun time for me. We spent all of the morning preparing lunch, which were tacos! Who doesn’t love tacos? Especially with the excellent BBQ jam we received generously from a local chef who came to cook with us.  The entire meal was vegan/vegetarian which I really appreciated because am a vegetarian.

At first, I was slightly anxious of the meal, because I wasn’t sure if it was vegetarian, or if it would be conscious of some dietary needs or concerns ( not only for me but other people as well ). But I was pleased to discover that not only will every meal SOYL will make with Community Eats is vegan/vegetarian but also income-conscious or barrier-conscious. Not only that, but the tacos were filled with veggies for good health. It was so delicious too! I’ve had some not-so-great experiences with doing a cooking program that would try to implement vegetarian or vegan dishes but it not turning out well because it would try to mimic dishes that usually used animal products or meat. Also, we had a vegetable of the week ( how awesome is that? ), which was kohlrabi.

Rosalind commented that it looked like an alien head.


As for the farming part of the program, I feel like I’ve really learned a lot there past couple of days. It’s been a bit of labor but also so much learning through that labor. Types of weeds, how to use gardening tools, some history input here and there about the Fresh Roots program, when to pick the leafs off a kale plant. It’s all been a very enriched education. Like the enriched so(y)l in the urban farms. 

SOYL feels so different from summer formal education, like summer school. I dread the boring, I’m-half-asleep, this-classroom-is-so-hot classes you take in summer school! Granted, maybe this isn’t everyone, but it certainly is for me! I almost make it a point not to take summer school when I don’t need to. It just feels like a waste of the summer, where I could be enjoying the outside, soaking in the couple of weeks when Vancouver has sun. SOYL is really educational and enjoyable at the same time, plus we’re outside almost all day. Getting the fresh air, the sun, and bonding with people that share a lot of the same interests. Another plus, there’s no homework and it’s very engaging. You’ll never find a moment when you aren’t doing something.

I really look forward to the coming weeks of this program.

SOYL Crew Member – Rebecca 


Alive! Magazine

June 1, 2016


If you ate today, you can thank Canada’s farmers. Unfortunately, our farming is in peril as aging farmers retire. Meanwhile, experts warn that a lack of appreciation for where our food comes from is contributing to unhealthy eating and obesity. Thankfully, several organizations are working to reverse this trend, starting with kids.

The grass is older on the other side

Most farmers in BC are in their sixties, and less than 5 percent are in their mid-thirties or younger. We see similar trends in other Canadian provinces: more and more farmers are reaching retirement, and fewer young people are stepping into the gap.

When this happens, farmland is often sold for non-agricultural purposes such as residential neighbourhoods. Or, the farms are consolidated into sprawling corporate farms. Farm industry insiders in Europe, Asia, and the US report that this leads to more food insecurity, less biodiversity, and fewer local commodities. Big corporate farms tend to import supplies and sell their products outside of their local community.

Inspiring Canada’s children to get their hands dirty in community gardens and farms can strengthen our local agriculture and provide distinct health benefits to the kids involved. Community groups devoted to this are sprouting up across the country.

A fresh idea takes root

Fresh Roots, a nonprofit in Vancouver, celebrates ecological stewardship. It sees access to healthy land and fresh food as key to community health.

When asked about Canada’s aging farm population, director Marc Schutzbank compares the situation to learning a difficult classical music piece. “An expert pianist may practise a million times before a concert,” says Schutzbank. “In contrast, a Canadian farmer may only plant her crop 60 times in her lifetime.”

“That’s why the knowledge that gets passed down through a farmer is super significant,” explains Schutzbank. “How does the soil work? What happens in the particular contours of this piece of land? We need to ask: what can we do so that the knowledge that exists—that’s embedded in the DNA of these farmers—gets passed on?”

Fresh Roots’s specific focus is sharing the importance of Canadian farmers with youth by telling the story of where our food comes from. “Our role is to get people in an urban setting to say, ‘Hey, this is important, and as a result I choose to support our local farmers,’” says Schutzbank.

Without connecting these dots and building a relationship between the generations, we break the crucial chain of knowledge transfer from old to new farmers. “If we don’t have that knowledge, it’s like pulling the plug on a pianist,” says Schutzbank. “We just won’t have the knowledge or experience to play our piece.”

Extreme school makeover

In 2010, Fresh Roots built its first edible schoolyard at an elementary school. A few years later, the organization partnered with the Vancouver School Board to create Schoolyard Market Gardens.

These gardens were the first such project in Canada. Think of them as outdoor classrooms. Instead of school desks, students sink their hands and feet into the soil and learn about farming, cooking, and eating local produce. Workers and volunteers plant seeds of inspiration in students’ minds about the importance of sustainable, healthy food.

“Our farms are large-scale advertisements for kale and broccoli,” laughs Schutzbank. “Our goal (and what comes out in the research) is that when we spend time engaged in gardening, we eat more vegetables. We’re familiar with them. Our role at Fresh Roots—and at a lot of the organizations like ours—is to remind people that healthy food is easy.”

Growing health benefits

In just the past three decades, the rate of childhood obesity in Canada has gone up by 300 percent. Most of these kids will not outgrow the weight gain. This can lead to self-esteem issues, a higher risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and even poor school performance.

Multiple factors influence childhood health, weight, and nutrition. Sometimes, it’s a lack of food education. Other times, it’s food insecurity, no access to healthy food, or not enough exposure to gardens and farms that would build an actual appreciation for healthy food.

Organizations such as Fresh Roots sit at this important crossroad of influences. “People don’t have a connection to our food system anymore,” says Schutzbank, “so we’re not choosing the right things to eat. And that has a huge impact on both physical and mental health.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada agrees: children who garden are healthier. In its recommendations for tackling childhood health and obesity, the agency recommends we increase our communities’ capacities for local food production and community gardens. This would expose more kids to agriculture. Fresh Roots and similar groups have seen first-hand how their projects positively benefit kids’ food choices, such as increased interest in eating vegetables.

“We just need a relationship with our vegetables,” says Schutzbank. “At one of the elementary schools, we had two little boys in grade 3 who’d never tried broccoli. [By the end of the year,] they were wrestling over who could have the purple broccoli.”

In addition to its school partnership, Fresh Roots runs a summer program where youth are hired to work on different farms and make healthy food for themselves and the community. “Some of these students have never really had vegetables at their table,” says Schutzbank. “They didn’t have the experience of owning their diet and well-being.”

Last summer, one such student discovered an affinity for local zucchini. She started making zucchini fritters and pastas to incorporate the veggie into her life.

A greener tomorrow

It’s not just the schools and children that benefit. Vegetables cultivated in Fresh Roots’s schoolyard gardens get served in BC restaurants and beyond.

“We often forget that farmers don’t sell just the food that you see at the grocery store,” says Schutzbank. He points to local jams and similar products that use Canadian ingredients. “A huge amount of stuff goes into the secondary cottage industry. How can we revitalize our food system and all the pieces that come with it? It starts with supporting our farmers.”

From a holistic perspective, Fresh Roots helps create green-collar jobs, promotes the significance of local food security, enhances community health, and makes school curriculums more engaging for kids. In the long term, experiential learning may one day help change Canada’s aging agricultural trajectory as more and more of our youth are exposed to the practicalities of what it takes to grow food.

Cultivating the future

As we discover the benefits of introducing children—and even ourselves—to gardening and growing fresh food, more of us want to get involved. “The first thing I would do is go outside and plant a seed,” suggests Schutzbank. “Try it for yourself and engage in your own food story.”

If that sprouts a passion within you, Schutzbank recommends connecting with one of the many like-minded organizations across the country. All of them appreciate volunteer time, donations, and other support.

Finally, buy local. “When you’re at the grocery store, think about supporting your local farmer,” says Schutzbank. None of this would be possible without Canadian farmers. Look for labels that designate locally produced products and try to shop at farmers’ markets.

“Let’s grow good food for all,” says Schutzbank. “That’s the big takeaway.”

– See more at:


Gnome More Gnome!

Garden gnomes might eat your crops
But no worries, I’ve got something that stops
those pesky hands from digging in
It’s mustard greens, spicy as sin
When those gnomes eat mustard greens
It blows them into smithereens.

May 2016 Newsletter

Fresh From Fresh Roots

Over the past two weeks, Fresh Roots has been invited to speak with teachersfunders and industry membersthought leaders and professors from across British Columbia to explore what we can do to support a sustainable food and education system that focuses on ensuring that everyone has access to healthy, good, and local food. Here are some of my takeaway moments:

1.  Teachers are incredible force for innovation. Check out what’s happening in Chilliwack or Delta, for new farms on school grounds.  We’re excited to support these projects as we can.

2.  The new BC curriculum creates so many opportunities for teachers and students to use experiential learning through the farms – let’s take that opportunity to explore math, science, literature through a lens of indigeneity and sustainability. We had an incredible field trip exploring these themes just this past month. Come and plant with us! 

3.  SOYL (our summer internship program) focuses on providing job skills training, food literacy, and self-confidence.  And it’s in high demand  We had twice the number of applications as we had spots for youth. We’re excited to help provide healthy food for all youth during the summer. Learn more here.

4.  Almost 1/3 of food produced globally is thrown away.  THAT’S A LOT – Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.  Learn more through the FAO.

5.  We grow healthy food – and, we help help support an urban connection with food and food systems to remind youth of the intimate connection we all have with land, food, and community. Come and eat with us and with rural farmers who are getting more food to the plate than we ever could.  Cheers to them.

6.  Singing feels good – so come and join Rhythm and Roots Choir for a show where the proceeds are going right back into Fresh Roots.  Get your tickets now.

With a fistful of sunshine,

Marc – feeling like a nice summer kale salad with fresh salmon, and crumbled feta with a mustard vinaigrette – Schutzbank

Chief Poet and Executive Director


Salad Rainbow

Farmer’s Log

Thanks to the incredible weather, fertile soil and a little elbow grease, the fields are producing the most beautiful greens and roots in such great abundance we can hardly keep up!  Thankfully, we have some extra help from our new-hires, Allie, our new Good Food Distribution Coordinator and Cody our Schoolyard Farm Worker. With these two on the team we’ll be growing and selling more food than ever before.

– Farmer Charlotte


Fresh Roots in Metro

The city’s farms offer a diverse range of locally grown food and opportunities.

Vancouver is experiencing an urban farming renaissance of sorts.

“There’s an enthusiasm, a sense of resilience and civic engagement,” said Marcela Crowe, Executive Director of the Vancouver Urban Farming Society (VUFS).

The city recently adopted a two-year urban farming pilot. The goal of the project is to “help legitimize urban farming from a land use perspective, and create a consistent approach to urban farming inquiries,” according to the City’s Urban Farming Policy Report.

Besides Vancouver’s long growing season and focus on sustainability, the city’s efforts to promote local agriculture may account for a boom in urban farming. Vancouver aims to increase citywide and neighbourhood food assets by 50 per cent above 2010 levels.

Vancouver has a wide range of farms, the largest being Sole Food at four acres.

There’s also the UBC Farm, which boasts a heritage orchard, a variety of crops, free-range chickens and honeybees as well as a farmers market.

Hannah Wittman, Academic Director for Sustainable Food Systems, pointed out that the farm is launching a participatory seed breeding trial this summer.

“Learning to grow food is one way to expand food literacy in the city,” she said.

Marc Schutzbank, Director of Fresh Roots, believes that urban farming is catching on because “Vancouverites want to be engaged with each other, and gardening is a great way to connect with neighbours.”

Fresh Roots aims to help schools grow community through the process of growing food.

According to Schutzbank, the organization works toward their vision by developing programs that “catalyze ecological stewardship, healthy eating and community celebration.”

Their summer program SOYL, for instance, teaches youth to grow and cook healthy meals for themselves and those in need. With the motto “good food for all,” Fresh Roots “cultivates productive, half-acre educational farms where they grow good food for the school, community, cafeteria and neighbours,” said Schutzbank.

Students also sell the food at local farmers’ markets. Through gardening, they learn traditional subjects experientially, including science lessons about the nitrogen cycle and math lessons involving modelling garden growth.

One of Fresh Roots’ former participants, the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants “hardly spoke” at the beginning of the program, but now she is aware of the importance of healthy and whole foods, said Schutzbank.

Read the article online:

Amy Logan For Metro Published on Fri May 20 2016