Camp staff Puff and Turnip use puppets to share Worm loves Worm with campers. In the background is their group community agreement.

Happy Pride!

Camp staff Puff and Turnip use puppets to share Worm loves Worm with campers. In the background is their group community agreement showing what the group values.

It’s Pride Week in Vancouver, and awkward as it feels to say it, I’m proud of Fresh Roots and our commitment to inclusion of people across the sexuality and gender spectrums. I’m especially proud of how that’s showing up at Camp Fresh Roots and how we’re able to support our gender diverse campers and staff. Where we are today feels so different from the camps I worked at as a youth. As telling our stories and remembering where we’ve come from is an important part of Pride, I hope you’ll indulge a bit of personal history.

As a young queer* woman working at a Girl Scout camp in the Seattle area back in the late 1990’s, being vocally gay was seen as “not camper appropriate.” It was something you could be in the staff house (and there were a lot of us – it’s where I met my spouse!), but not in front of the kids. In other parts of the country, similar camps were firing or not rehiring staff just because of their sexual orientation. Gender diversity wasn’t something I even remember talking  about – trans people existed, but not at camp. (Several of my coworkers from that time have since come out as trans and/or non-binary, because of course they did exist at camp.) The idea that campers might be queer? Well, a trans 8 year old or a pansexual 12 year old wasn’t something we even thought about. This was, for the time, what a supportive camp environment looked like.

When I took on creating Camp Fresh Roots in 2017, I wanted it to be a space where campers and staff thrived and were able to bring their full selves. When we can be our full selves, and when we can see people like us as role models, that is when we thrive, connect, and build relationships. That’s when we live in joy. And Fresh Roots is all about building joyful relationships with food, land, and community.

Despite twenty plus years of social progress, we still live in a heteronormative, cis-centric society, so it’s taken specific intent and actions to realize our goals. The actions we’ve taken to create this space can be done by anyone just about anywhere. Many of them support our campers’ and staff’s other unique identities as well!

  • We recognize that there is no one “standard” family. We talk about “families” and “adults” instead of “mom and dad” or “parents.” Our forms don’t assume the genders or relationships of the most important adults in a camper’s life.
  • We honour people’s chosen names. While we need legal names for some documentation, we ask for preferred names and use those exclusively at camp. All our staff use camp names, which is a decades old camp tradition I wanted to bring to Fresh Roots. It’s also proving a really great way to introduce campers to the idea of respecting people’s chosen names, and the concept that people may use different names in different places or at different times.
  • We honour people’s pronouns. Pronouns can be tricky. For younger campers, the idea of what a pronoun is may be new; older campers may struggle with using pronouns differently than they are used to. So we take a multistep approach to this. All staff are introduced with their pronouns during the All Camp welcome on Monday mornings and have pronoun pins they can wear. Staff are empowered to engage in discussions with their camper groups about their gender identities and pronouns; some of our camper groups have chosen to make their own pronoun buttons. And we have a few books in our collection that help facilitate those conversations, especially around non-binary identities:
  • We have universal washrooms. It can be hard to decide what washroom you should use if your options are “boys” or “girls” and you’re not a boy or a girl. While we’ve always had single stall washrooms available, having to use a different washroom from your peers can feel exclusionary. And once you’re in a stall, does it really matter? So this summer we’ve made our washrooms universal by the high tech solution of art taped over the words “boys” or “girls”. (This also solves the problem of when more kids need to use the bathroom than there are stalls available in the “correct” washroom, or one of them is being cleaned. Inclusivity for the win!)

We are, as always, still learning and growing in how we can create a truly welcoming space, but we’re seeing the rewards of that work in how our staff and campers show up every day. The focus of our camp is growing, cooking, and sharing delicious food, learning about and caring for the natural world that supports that food, and making and deepening friendships and community connections. Knowing that at the same time we are creating a world where everyone is free to be who they are and love who they love, well, that’s definitely something to be proud of.

With ?️‍? Pride and Joy ?️‍⚧️

Kat “Half-Note” Vriesema-Magnuson


*Queer can be a divisive term and has been used derogatorily for over 100 years. It is also a term that queer people have been using to describe themselves for that same length of time. In modern usage, it sometimes serves as an umbrella term for refer broadly to non-straight and/or non-cisgender people. Personally, it’s the label I took for myself as a young adult and is still the one that fits best with who I am and how I move through the world. As always, if you don’t know what words someone would like used for them, it’s always best to ask!


2021 Impact Report

It’s here! Our 2021 Annual Impact Report is now available online. We’re so grateful for everyone that made 2021 a remarkable year for experiential learning and youth empowerment including our donors, community partners, staff, participants, volunteers, supporters – without you, our work would not be possible. Below is an excerpt from the letter from our Executive Director, Alexa Pitoulis, and Board Chair, Matt Breech:

It’s always interesting to decide what factoids and numbers we share in this report to convey the work we do and why it matters. The impact beyond the metrics is what we want you to feel and appreciate. The true effects of Fresh Roots’ work are not found in the number of participants or the number of carrots we grow and sell—they are felt in the lasting experiences and stories of learning that our kids, youth and summer staff carry with them for life. These experiences turn into conversations with their peers and parents, and impact their choices at the grocery store, their career path, or how they engage in their communities. We tell these stories on our website’s blog, often in the voices of the youth themselves as they reflect on what they have learned and value most during their participation in our programs. They speak of their growth in confidence and the ableness they now recognize in themselves. Read more >>

Check out the full report by clicking on the image below!

Fresh Roots – UPDATED 2021 Impact Report


Make It SOW Fundraising Campaign is BACK!

Summer has finally arrived and our programs are up and running and buzzing along! Our SOYL (Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership) program is back in action in Vancouver, Coquitlam and Delta while Camp Fresh Roots is welcoming new and returning campers to the David Thompson farm. The little kids and big kids are all learning, leading and growing, AND cooking and eating loads of veggies grown right on the farms.We’d like to invite you to join our Make It SOW 2022 Fundraising Campaign: Help us ensure youth have opportunities to GROW!

Fresh Roots is aiming to raise $75,000 by the first week of school, September 6th and we are already 46% of the way toward our goal. We need your help to GROW Fresh Roots, NURTURE our schoolyard-farm-based programs for kids and youth and DEEPEN our roots and relationships. Help us to ensure kids and youth have the tools to grow, learn and lead in safe outdoor spaces right in their own communities.

In order to make all the goodness happen throughout the summer and all year round, we rely on donors like you for support. For as little as $10 you can provide seeds to grow a row of carrots for youth to plant, harvest, and take to market. $50 provides lumber, tools and woodchips for building projects on the farms. And if donating funds isn’t possible we’d appreciate your valuable support in sharing our fundraiser with your networks!

How Can You Help?

How does your donation support our kids and youth programs?

  • $10 – Provides seeds to grow a row of carrots for youth to harvest and take to market
  • $25 – Provides one day of paid work experience and programming for a SOYL youth
  • $50 – Provides lumber and tools for building projects on the farms
  • $100 – Provides a subsidy for one kid to attend Camp Fresh Roots
  • $250 – Allows us to invite a knowledge holder from the community to teach youth about topics ranging from native and medicinal plants to diversity, equity and inclusion to Afro-Indigenous farming
  • $1000 – Supports two SOYL youth for a week of learning, growing and leading on the schoolyard farms

“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

Thank you from all of us at Fresh Roots and from the kids, youth, and families who benefit from our programs!



WOW, welcome to the busiest moment at Fresh Roots. The week of July 4th is when all of our summer youth programming starts up – SOYL Internships in Vancouver, Delta & Coquitlam – and the EL Summer Camp at David Thompson. It’s also the week of our epic, annual fundraiser, where we haul together to fund our humongous programs, farm, and community work. Even though the sun is only mildly sticking his head out, we are sweating!

Speaking of the weather, wasn’t that nice to get some vitamin D over a handful of days this past month? The dramatic shift between constant, cool moisture and then a high of 34C meant all our daikons bolted, resulting in a pitiful 30lb harvest from 65 feet of plants. That said, our lettuces, brassica greens, and salad radishes have been absolutely radiant, and peas are coming in a rather late but epic wave of sweet, verdant pods. Rubicon Napa Cabbages were excellent, too.

While it’s been wonderful to swim in greens and tender radishes, we are so ready to reap the fruit of our labour. Many of our fruiting veggies are still a month behind, and aren’t showing signs of speeding up much. In an effort to try to stimulate faster growth, we planted most of our hot crops into black landscape fabric and installed low tunnels to mimic greenhouse conditions. Summer Squash looks like it might be ready for CSA in a couple of weeks but tomatoes definitely won’t hit the market until August. And peppers & eggplant  — eek — maybe not until September. 

Our markets have been going very smoothly. It’s been wonderful to stock it brimming with tasty plumage and come back with very little that didn’t find a home. However, did you know that every single morsel that comes back to our cooler is recovered either within the organization through our community eats program, or shared with South Van Neighbourhood House or Collingwood Neighbourhood house? Literally nothing is wasted. Being in an urban setting, connected with many food security organizations means that it’s easy to revert our market returns to mouths, and I’m so thankful for it. 

The farm team is finally complete with our newest member, Freshta. That reminds me – I ought to introduce the amazing folks that make up this season’s high-functioning, incredibly talented and hilarious team. 

Elina Blomley


Market Lead

Elina is studying food/agriculture at SFU and brings a whimsical and hilarious slang to the team. They are highly organized, have a keen eye for detail, and are just a delight to work with. 

Nicole Burton


David Thompson Field Lead

Nicole hails from the farms of Ontario, where the roads are wide and the summers are hot. She’s got an expertise in growing crops for seed as well as managing a market garden. Her cool-as-a-cucumber approach puts us at ease when things feel tight. 

Sam Tuck


Van Tech Field Lead

Sam braved the desert heat at Solstedt Farm in Lillooet last summer. He’s passionate about Indigenous Uprising and teaching the team a lot with his sharp anti-racist lens. 

Freshta Mohibi


Market Assistant

We are blessed by this SOYL alum and ray of sunshine. Freshta is the newest member of our team and comes from a large, loving family that grew up tending to an apricot orchard. 

Stay tuned for updates next month on how our fundraiser went, and what’s new and in season on the farm. 

– Farmer Camille