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VSB Student Captures SOYL Program

Learning about Food, Sustainability, and Leadership on Schoolyard Farms

by Nichole Bruce, SOYL Graduate

When I accepted the placement at SOYL this summer, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Some of my friends had done it the summer before and said it was a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun. I quickly came to learn that SOYL is more than just working on a farm all summer. To sum it up SOYL is a program for youth run in partnership by the UBC Faculty of Education’s Intergenerational Landed Learning Project, and Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, a non-profit organization that runs two urban farms on high school grounds. SOYL is perfect for anyone who is interested in the food system, sustainability, and leadership. Over the course of the seven weeks we participated in numerous workshops, traveled around Vancouver on our weekly community days, and learned more about food and agriculture than I could’ve imagined. I decided to join the SOYL program because I was, and still am, interested in all the things I mentioned above, the food system, sustainability and leadership. I had my own vegetable garden at home and was curious about how food is grown on a commercial level and all the factors that affect the production. Since there is no course in school that teaches about agriculture or agronomy, I thought SOYL would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about the things I was so interested in.

 

Harvesting garlicEvery morning we (when I say ‘we’ I mean the 24 SOYL participants) would go to one of the schoolyard farms at either Vancouver Technical Secondary or David Thompson Secondary and work in the farms for the mornings and then participate in a workshop to help us build our leadership skills or prepare for market, where we sold all the produce we grew. Each day was a bit different in terms of what we were doing, which only made the program more fun. We were split into crews of six youth and would work together on whatever task we were assigned and one of the farmers – who have the coolest jobs in the world – would guide us and answer any questions we had. My favourite memory from this summer would definitely be the day we made blueberry jam. All of us – the facilitators, youth, and chefs, squished into the Van Tech kitchens on probably the hottest day of the summer and made over 150 jars of jam. It was so much fun, we had music playing and people were laughing and smiling and we were making delicious blueberry jam that we could soon sell to raise money for next year’s SOYL program.

Communal lunch on the farmMy summer with SOYL has taught me so many things and has shaped my future in ways I don’t quite know yet. Before SOYL, agriculture was something I was interested in but I didn’t know anyone else with the same interest, not many high school students go around saying “I really want to be a farmer when I grow up.” For me, the most valuable experience I had this summer was talking to all the farmers who work on the farms year-round and learning about how they got to where they are. There are so many programs more than general sciences and arts, and talking to people who had been a part of these programs really opened my mind to the possibilities I have once I graduate high school. In regards to life-long lessons I learned, the one that stands out to me the most is not taking food for granted. It’s so easy to not even give a thought to the people and industry that puts food on our plates every day. There is so much more that goes into getting food from farms than a truck driving it to the supermarket, and learning about the food system has given me a new appreciation for the food I eat. In more ways than I can count, SOYL has not only taught me about food but has also helped me become a better, more knowledgeable and more responsible person.

Weeding is tough work!

To read more online, click here.

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Learning Food Skills at Norquay Food Hub

The kitchen of the Norquay Park Food Hub was bustling with activity on the evening of Tuesday, August 16th as families from the Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute worked together to make healthy and delicious snacks to share. Although the group whipped up several tasty treats including tuna wraps, no-bake energy balls, banana ice cream, and peanut butter-celery snacks, the homemade hummus really stole the show!

RCFSI is currently hosting the Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program. Participants came together in early July and expressed interest in picking up new recipes that would be good for their children’s lunch boxes. We used lettuce, apples, peppers, carrots, strawberries and garlic from the farmer’s market. The children were more than ready to peel, chop, and mix the ingredients together.

At the beginning of the workshop, families shared their experience in putting together healthy treats for their children after school. Some prefer celery and apples while others enjoy homemade sushi. As a result, it’s important for us to recognize that nutrition can be approached in so many ways by different families. We look forward to learning more about the wide variety of healthy snacks that can be made in different cultures!

– Cassandra Ly, Renfrew-Collingwood Food Security Institute

 
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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

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Season of Pruning and Trellising

On leaving room and creating space.

On pruning and trellising.

On learning about learning.

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“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!

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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?”

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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.

Tomatoes.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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:

Humble.

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

Humble.

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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

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New Volunteer Postings – Support SOYL Youth this Summer

Fresh Roots and UBC Faculty of Education’s Intergenerational Landed Learning program have been excitedly collaborating and planning to produce our most exciting year of SOYL youth programming yet!

The SOYL summer employment and leadership program empowers secondary students to cultivate and steward food gardens on school grounds for learning, community building and growing Good Food for All. Through the program, youth develop skills in growing, cooking and selling food, as well as a greater connection to themselves, their community, and the Vancouver food system. They also receive a stipend, community service hours and work experience credit for their contributions. See our SOYL page for more details.

SOYL includes weekly Community Eats lunches, and we have some special volunteer needs to help make this program a reality.

  1. Volunteer Chefs (4 positions) – applications are due June 12th
  2. Delivery for Community Eats Volunteer (1 position) – applications are due June 26th

Click on the above links for more details, and contact us at volunteer@freshroots.ca if you have any further questions.

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You’re invited – Farm to School BC’s Spring Celebration Event April 27th

Join us for Farm to School BC‘s Spring Celebration Event on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 at Vancouver Technical Secondary School!

This interactive evening includes a chance to network, learn, eat, discuss, and be inspired by local Farm to School programs. This event will include youth from our VanTech Garden Club offering tours of our very own VanTech Schoolyard Market Garden, information on sourcing local food, and contributions from our local Environmental Health Office, Environmental Youth AllianceGrowing Chefs, and Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC)!

Furthermore, there will be delicious produce from Fresh Roots’ Schoolyard Market Gardens to contribute to a healthy and scrumptious dinner!

More details on the agenda can be found here.

Everyone is invited! Make sure to register for this free event by April 21st.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Building a New Community Space at Norquay Park

We’re at it again, looking to grow and make something happen at Norquay Park!

Thanks to the Vancouver Park’s Board, we’re gearing up for our new Food Hub at Norquay Park.

We’ll be hosting gardening, workshops, cooking, and celebrating of Good Food through our new Fresh Roots Food Hub space, so get ready for a good time.  And join our friends too.  We’ll be working with Collingwood Neighbourhood House and Vancouver Fruit Tree Project to help connect and animate the space.

In the meantime, here’s to getting keys!  Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted on what’s happening here at Norquay Park!