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And That’s a Wrap for 2021!

Thank you so much for your ongoing support. As we reflect on the past year, we’re proud of the community we are growing with you. We see so much hope for the future in the kids and youth we get to work with. Experiencing what is possible through engaging youth and the community in growing food on schoolyard farms is incredibly energizing. 

 The hope we see and feel is because YOU are part of the progress we are making. Fresh Roots is fortunate to be part of an interconnected and supportive community of individuals, businesses and organizations who are re-imagining food education and community-based learning. Through deepening our relationships with you all and with the land upon which we are privileged to work, we are learning and innovating. We’d like to share some highlights from the past year and some of the ways we engaged with kids, youth and the community:

  • SOYL (Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership) we welcomed 65 high school youth in Vancouver, Delta and Coquitlam for 6 weeks of contributing to farm work, learning from local knowledge keepers about the land upon which our programs take place, cooking and sharing meals with each other and the community and co-running our weekly farm markets.
  • LunchLAB Community Eats was one of the biggest highlights of the 2021 season. Getting to cook and share food again after a pause last summer due to COVID-19 restrictions meant so much to everyone at Fresh Roots where harvesting food and preparing and sharing meals is a foundational part of our programming and an extra special treat for little and big kids alike. With our partners at Growing Chefs, we adapted our educational, in-school meal program, LunchLAB, to be included as part of the summer SOYL program. We hired 3 Chef Educators who worked with rotating cook teams of 5 SOYL youth two times per week to prepare lunch for 40 of their peers. Lucky Fresh Roots staff and community guests! Along with Growing Chefs, we were also able to restart our LunchLAB program at Total Education Secondary Program this fall, serving delicious and nutritious chef and student prepared meals to students and staff in school!
  • Summer Camp and Experiential Learning programs engaged learners from grades pre-K through 12 in 11,000 hours of learning on the farms and in the community! We expanded to 9 weeks of summer camps doubling the number of kids from 125 to 286. We hosted field trips for over 60 classes from local elementary and secondary schools on the farms and brought our Farm 2 You workshop program to over 30 classes and day camp groups.
    • Gatherings cautiously returned this fall and we were thrilled to support Vancouver Technical Secondary School in preparing food for both the Grade 8 Welcome Orientation Lunch (350 parents and students) and the Indigenous Family Gathering (100 community members). For both events, SOYL Alumni and youth volunteers pitched in to prepare and serve food to their community.
  • Farms and Markets were bustling this 2021 season! We grew over 150 types of plants using organic practices which made their way into the community through 4 weekly markets in Vancouver, Coquitlam and Delta, 65 CSA Veggie Box shares, events and gatherings and donations to local neighbourhood houses.  

 

Lastly, we’ll share a few last words from some of the folks who speak to our programs from their own lived experiences:

SOYL made me realize that whatever I end up doing needs to have some way of connecting it to the Earth and the land we are coming from because you can’t really accomplish any sort of justice without including ecosystems because everything is connected.

SOYL Youth 2021, Vancouver

Kudos to the Delta SOYL Team and all the SOYL staff! Cam has absolutely loved this experience. We so appreciate that this opportunity is available to him. He has become more confident, independent, met new friends and his anxiety has become way less! He has learned great responsibility and skills that will serve him well in the workforce. He also loves to cook and having exposure to a chef and vegan recipes has been awesome. This has been amazing for him as a person. Thank you to you and all of the leaders. Your hard work has really paid off!!!

Josie Zhan, Parent of Cameron SOYL 2021 Delta Mentor

With the state of the world today, specifically climate change, we need to find ways to be resourceful and knowledgeable of our food sources.  Students need to learn how to treat our earth so that we may reap the rewards of its gifts.  This program inspires students to learn and enjoy all aspects of where their food comes from and the delight of tasting it. 

Gaye Dalla-Zanna, Grade 7 Teacher, Farm Observers Program

 

We’re closing out this year with ever-present natural disasters and crises dominating news threads. Messages tell us to be worried, scared, sad, and that we need to act now. And while there is no doubt urgent work is needed, Fresh Roots is growing the next generations to be best equipped to navigate the changes to come. We do this by supporting the self-determination of kids and youth to build lasting relationships with people, places, and food. We see them growing their confidence in discovering more about themselves and their role in the community. 

So, thank you. Thank you for believing in Fresh Roots and our vision for Good Food For All. We are incredibly grateful for you, our community and your continued support.

With gratitude,

Alexa, Executive Director

To DONATE and receive 2021 tax receipt visit: freshroots.ca/donate/

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Winter Celebrations Bingo

Tis the season for celebration! Many holidays are celebrated with unique symbols decorations, foods, and even plants!  You see them, and you immediately think of the holiday. For example, you will spot many Christmas trees, poinsettias (cuetlaxochitl), holly, and wreaths around this time of year.

Take a walk around your neighbourhood and search for these plants and other holiday decorations. My family and I had a great time doing this last year, and it encouraged us to get outside even in the cold! Feel free to share this and add your own squares to search for.

Which plants are part of your traditions? Think about the festive food and decor that remind you of this time of year. You can add them to this bingo sheet.

Plant fact: Poinsettias are one of the most popular purchased plants in Canada, especially around the cold Christmas season, but they are native to sunny Mexico. There’s a movement to reclaim its Aztec name “cuetlaxochitl” and Mexican heritage, long before U.S. Ambassador Joel Poinsett brought this plant north and gave it an English name. For more on the cultural history of poinsettias read Mike Kohfeld’s blog or watch a tour with a horticulturist at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.

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Rethinking Weeds

The farm is bursting with growth and food right now, but when visitors look around they tell me all they see is weeds.

What is a weed? It’s a plant…just in the wrong place at the wrong time. On the farm, we spend a lot of time pulling out these weeds because they crowd out our tenderly loved and cared-for crops. Weeds compete with our veggies for space, sunlight, nutrients, and water we were hoping would make our kale big and leafy and carrots long and sweet. But amongst the weeds, there is food and medicine, flowers for pollinators, and homes for critters. Do you think weeds are friends or foes?

Forage for edible weeds

Weeds are surprisingly delicious and nutritious! Our Edible Weeds Field Guide can help you identify some common weeds you might find in your neighbourhood in Greater Vancouver, including plantain, dandelions, chickweed, and more! The guide is just a starting point. It includes sustainable foraging guidelines and an Edible Weeds Bingo card you can bring as you go looking for snacks. Bring a plant ID guide, phone app, or mentor, such as a farmer or gardener, to help you start recognizing local weeds. iNaturalist is a good, free ID app to identify unknown plants and contribute to citizen science research. Please forage responsibly!

Edible Weeds Field Guide

 

Make a Transect Map

 

Get up-close with a weed. Explore how it’s connected with other living and non-living things around it. Using string, mark out an area to observe, called a “transect”. Like a field biologist, record and map out your observations within the transect. What do you notice? Try observing multiple different locations, from a field to a crack in the sidewalk.

Transect Mapping Activity Guide

 

Wanted Weed Poster

Weeds wanted! Create a “wanted poster” for a species of weed. Draw and label characteristics of the plant at different life stages to help other people identify it. Your wanted poster may be alerting people that this weed is bad and should be pulled out. Or, you may want to alert the public about how great this weed is for food and medicine! BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation’s (BCAITC) lesson plan has great background information, a field guide of more common weeds, and suggestions for creating your poster.

Gardening’s Most Wanted Activity bt BCAITC 

Invasive Aliens

Some introduced plants are so good at damaging our native plants and ecosystems that they are called “invasive aliens”. They often are quick at reproducing, have few predators, and are great at living in their new home. These are plants to fear! In Suwa’lkh forest, we spend a lot of time with youth every summer removing Japanese Knotweed, English Holly, Himalayan Blackberry and English Ivy. By the next summer, they’re all back again. Himalayan Blackerry’s fruit is delicious and flowers great for pollination, but this plant takes over large fields and stream banks, and is nearly impossible to remove.

There are lots of great interactive games and fun books to learn about invasive alien plants and animals in British Columbia. Or, if you’re looking for experiential learning about invasives, look for a local ecological restoration volunteer program near you.

Invasive Species Games & Activities by Invasive Species Council of BC
Book “Aliens Among Us” by Alex Van Tol 

Rainbow Rolls and more recipes!

What’s for lunch? There is lots of meal inspiration in and amongst our sidewalks and yards. Try adding weeds to create a delicious rainbow roll. Children at our summer camps love this version of a fresh spring roll! They also love dandelion fritters with honey for dessert. Do you have other favourite ways to eat or drink weeds? Share them in the comments section!

Rainbow Rolls Recipe Card
Dandelion Fritters Recipe Card

Do you think a weed is always a weed? What do you do with weeds?