Sprouted in 2009, Fresh Roots was founded by Gray Oron and Ilana Labow. Together, they were looking to root agriculture in East Vancouver: just how much food could they grow for their friends and neighbours? It turns out – a lot! With a handful of seeds, a whole lot of rain and sun, wheelbarrows full of passion, and a backyard full of vegetables, Fresh Roots grew.
In 2010 one of Fresh Roots’ backyards shared a fence with a local elementary school garden that had grown fallow and fallen into disrepair. The school asked if Fresh Roots might be able to help them out. As a community, Fresh Roots and the school transformed the grounds into an edible schoolyard.
Many hands made the work fun and the project grew. Fresh Roots hosted professional development workshops district and province-wide, helping elementary and secondary school teachers learn how to use gardens to achieve core curricular objectives outside.
Produce grown in the garden was deliciously prepared by a secondary school’s Culinary Arts program, and then served at the elementary school’s salad bar program. Teachers, parents, and administrators began calling Fresh Roots to share their dreams for their school community. Inspired by the visions and potential, we transitioned into a non-profit community organization.
In 2013 Fresh Roots forged a working agreement with the Vancouver School Board. Together we established first-of-their-kind Schoolyard Market Gardens: thriving places where multicultural and intergenerational knowledge sharing abounds! These are productive educational farms on school grounds. The food grown goes into school cafeterias, local neighbourhood house food security initiatives, and a weekly Salad Box program for East Vancouver families. The schoolyard farms are utilized for onsite programming that fosters leadership, self confidence, and employment skills training for youth. In the summertime we employ youth through our SOYL program that provides access to Community Eats, a weekly meal grown and prepared by youth, offered for free to our community.
Today, Fresh Roots helps schools and school districts across Metro Vancouver grow community through growing food. We work with a variety of partners and clients, utilizing school gardens to provide opportunities for inquiry-based and cross-curricular learning, volunteering, leadership development, and job skills training, animating school communities across the lower mainland!