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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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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.  

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Being at Rest

It’s a Pro-D (professional development) Day at David Thompson today.  Oh, how calm it is.

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Guess what?  I got my rainbow carrots photo!

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These past two weeks, we’ve had a bounty of these colourful root veggies.  I can’t help but be in awe of their beauty.

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The Constancy of Change

“I hate change.”  Hanne and I are wheeling back from the compost bin just before lunch.

“I LOVE change!”  Hanne exclaims.  Sometimes I wish that I, too, had a slightly stronger predilection for change and transition.

I remember this brief conversation that we had a few weeks back, with a smile and touch of nostalgia.  

~~~~~

Harvest News

Remember those rainbow carrots we’d been waiting on?  The first harvest of those guys happened last week!  Sadly, it was also the week that school started, so I missed that glorious harvest day.  But the important thing is… RAINBOW CARROTS!

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This week, we harvested some pretty handsome komatsuna, green onions, and a big batch of beautiful beets!  Amongst other fresh goodness.

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Heart in my hands

Well, school has officially started, and that means that I’ll be at the farms less.

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Revenge is sweet like beets

Rain Kissed

It’s on cold, wet days like these that I am thankful for the standing water in my tub that drains at the speed of a drunken tortoise.  I am thankful for the extra moments of lapping warmth that my numb feet get to soak in.  I stop, and I stand for a minute to enjoy it.  Wiggle my toes in it.  Ahh.

~~~~~

Harvest News

The spinach is back!

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We were suppose to be offering it as “baby spinach”, but… after the crazy storm this past weekend, it kinda wasn’t really baby anymore.  More like humungous spinach.  “The spinach got drunk on water,” Gerson said.

Spinach bed post-harvest. This is pretty much how big the spinach was last week, before the deluge...

Spinach bed, post-harvest. The spinach wasn’t much bigger than this last week, and then the deluge poured down over the weekend…

Harvesting spinach this week had a touch of poignancy for me.  Spinach was the very first crop we as interns learned to harvest–pick each leaf one by one near the base of the stem, check underside for ickiness, check for yellowing on the leaf edge, practice a two-handed motion, leave the tiny leaves for regrowth… I remember feeling so sore in my shoulders and back from bending over the beds so much to pluck spinach.  Over the season, my body has gradually gotten used to it.

Dennis and Scott harvest parsley in the sea of green and rain

Dennis and Scott harvest parsley in the sea of green and rain

Big beautiful beets are back, too!

Big beautiful beets are back, too!

Hanne, Gerson, Cass and I reminisced about another wet day early in the season when we harvested spinach.  We took turns going inside the school to run our hands under warm water, and ended up bringing a tote full of it outside.  From March spinach, to September spinach.  The leaves taste of the same heartiness, only rain kissed.  Seasons do come full circle, they do.

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Cass stands triumphantly with our expatriated weeds and retired bean plants

Deep Roots Draw Up: An Epic.

I’ve just returned from a week-long family road trip to Alberta.  

The land of wild roses, giant dandelion-like globes that I am mystified by, and glacial waters that call my heart to calm and new breath.

Returning

The body – in need of a readjusting to the rhythms of the farm.  

To lifting, and bending, and yanking.

The soul – inspired once more by weeds.

They kinda are my thing.

~~~~~

Kingdom of My Heart

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9 o’clock.

Wheelbarrow filled with buckets hungry for expatriated weeds, hands ready to hit the soil,

I plop to the ground beside the bed of rainbow carrots,

Knees up against the damp alleyway strewn with grass-suppressing burlap.

Ready to weed, I am!

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Big and Small

Big and small.  

Small and Big.  

Never one-size-fits all.

~~~~~

Harvest News

A smaller harvest this week meant enjoying the unfamiliar feeling of being unrushed.  ‘Twas much appreciated!

Getting ready to swish-swish frisee

Javi and Cass – getting ready to swish-swish frisee

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Harvest blades

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A Green Bean Story

“Look!  A four-leaf clover!”  Alicia finds a rare gem hidden in the bean bush.

“You should keep it!”  

“No, I’ll leave it here so that its gene pool can remain… maybe there’ll be more four-leaf clovers.”

~~~~~

Harvest News

Many of the usual culprits were arrested from the field this week: carrots, kale, chard, lettuce, parsley, spring mix, mustards, turnips, radishes.  So guilty are they, each week, of being beautiful and yummy.

Raxe

 

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Scott and Ilana harvest some human-sized chard!

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