How to Cook Outside with Kids

By Andrea Lucy, Experiential Learning Program Lead

Cooking with kids can be chaotic, fun, challenging, exhausting, and rewarding. Not every recipe will turn out perfectly; vegetables will be oddly cut and measurements may be skewed, but that’s okay! It’s the experience that matters. Cooking and eating together allows us to celebrate the joy of food and fosters exploration of new foods and recipes. And we can show kids that veggies are delicious!

Our food messaging is always positive, and we meet kids where they are at. Love veggies? Try a new one, or a new way of preparing it! Don’t like veggies? Try an adventure bite! Really hate veggies? Help prepare them, so you can see what they look and smell like, even if you aren’t ready to taste it today.


Community eats!


What do we cook?

At Fresh Roots, we love veggie-forward snacks and meals. Our meal ideas often start from the kids’ interests. Kids may make their own “farm candies” by wrapping up seeds and petals in a kale leaf wrapper with a stem tie. Other times, kids will request a specific meal, like tacos or pesto.

There are many snacks and meals you can make outside without electricity. We regularly make a big salad with a shaken dressing, or fresh spring rolls with rice paper. Pesto can be made with a mortar and pestle (and elbow grease), or no-bake cookies using pumpkin puree. Some tried and true kid-approved recipes are:

Cooking helps kids build a relationship with food, and with those they are cooking and sharing the meal with. Kids learn to read a recipe, grasp the basics of fractions through measurement, and working together as a team.

Farm fresh tacos


How do we cook outside?

Luckily, it doesn’t take many supplies to cook outside. We have a table or two and a nearby outdoor sink for hand washing (a laundry sink with a hose attached is a simple DIY). Usually the only other tools we need is the food, cutting boards, knives, and serving dishes.

We practice food safety, and the kids love to help! We set-up a dishwashing station with three bins of water: 1 with dish soap, one with plain rinsing water, and the last with a food-safe amount of bleach. The dishes then go to a dishrack or are dried with cloths. Dishwashing in this way is like water play, with soap bubbles! It’s not unusual for the kids to beg for extra dishes to wash.

Dishwasher extraordinaires


How to teach knife skills?

You give kids knives?!?!? Yes, all the time, and they do incredibly well with them even at a young age. When it comes to using knives, we emphasize again and again that they are a tool and safety comes first. So, how can you teach a kid who has never used a knife to chop safely?

  • We love starting off new chefs with plastic cooking knives. They can cut through most soft vegetables, but not through skin. A miracle tool for letting kids figure out how to chop and safely make mistakes. Even though we use plastic knives, we ask kids to pretend they are sharp metal when practicing. Once they feel comfortable and confident using plastic knives, then we graduate up to sharp ones.
  • Go over knife safety with the kids:
    • When cutting, eyes are always on the knife
    • Safety bubble from other people
    • The hand holding the food makes a “bear-claw”. This protects your fingers in case the knife slips.

Chopping vegetables using the “bear claw” method to keep all fingers safe.

Where to get food?

One of the beautiful things about cooking outside is that you can prepare meals right where the food grows — true farm-to-table cooking! We’re fortunate to steward bountiful farms and gardens on school grounds. Oftentimes there is food growing right outside our doors, we just have to look.

Many grocery stores have a rack with produce that is deeply discounted because it’s considered imperfect or over-ripe. Cooking with this food is a great way to naturally bring in discussions about food waste and ways to reduce waste in our food system. There are a number of organizations diverting large amounts of produce from the landfill by connecting it with charities and schools (ex. Food Runners).

Lastly, we’re grateful to receive donations from local food producers and suppliers. Fresh Roots once again received a generous donation from Nature’s Path, a local organic food producer, to support our kids and youth cooking programs.

Pea-camole recipe using Nature Path’s Que Pasa tortilla chips and salsa



CBC’s LunchLAB film highlights Canada’s opportunities and responsibilities to advance student health and wellbeing

CBC’s LunchLAB film highlights Canada’s opportunities and responsibilities to advance student health and wellbeing


  • LunchLAB, an innovative school food program developed by members of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, is featured in a new CBC Vancouver film.
  • Advocates stress that the Government of Canada can advance child and youth health and wellbeing by funding school food in the 2024 federal budget.
  • British Columbia’s new Feeding Futures Funding provides a unique opportunity for school districts to build comprehensive, healthy school food programs.

VANCOUVER, BC, September 13, 2023 –  As students across Canada begin their first full week of classes, CBC Vancouver released a new film which features LunchLAB, an innovative, educational school food program developed in partnership with Growing Chefs and Fresh Roots. Directed by Ben Cox, this film explores Lord Roberts Elementary School’s lunchroom and garden, where LunchLAB is bringing kids into the kitchen!

The film also highlights the work of the Coalition for Healthy School Food (the Coalition), Canada’s largest school food network. The Coalition has advocated for public investment in universal healthy school food programs since 2014.

The Coalition is currently celebrating the BC Government’s recent historic investment in school food. “For the first time this 2023-24 school year, all school districts in BC have received dedicated funding for school meal programs in the BC budget, through the Province’s new Feeding Futures funding,” says Samantha Gambling, Coordinator of the BC Chapter of the Coalition for Healthy School Food. “The Coalition and its 58 members across BC encourage school districts to use this opportunity to work with community partners and develop a comprehensive vision for school food programs that align with key guiding principles.” This includes supporting school food programs to be integrated into curriculum – enabling food literacy and experiential food skills education – and encouraging purchasing from  local farmers and food producers. 

LunchLAB demonstrates what is possible when teachers and school communities partner with chefs and community-based non-profit organizations to offer comprehensive programs that support student learning and access to nourishing food at school. Brent Mansfield, Edible Education Teacher and LunchLAB Co-Founder, highlights this opportunity that school districts have to “work with the community that they have to imagine programs that are not just feeding children, but also engaging children.”

“LunchLAB is an integral connecting point for students, staff, parents and teachers: it engages students in the kitchens alongside our chefs; creates a positive eating environment for all students; and involves all aspects of the school community,” explains Amanda Adams, Co-Executive Director, Programs and Operations, Growing Chefs.

In addition to inspiring programs across BC and beyond, advocates hope this film will put pressure on the Federal Government: “The Government of Canada has an opportunity to advance the health and wellbeing of all Canadian children and youth through the 2024 federal budget,” says Adams.

“School food programs have far reaching benefits, including enhancing children’s access to nutritious food; supporting physical and mental health; improving behaviour and school performance; and promoting positive eating habits,” emphasizes Debbie Field, National Coordinator of the Coalition for Healthy School Food. “Yet, Canada is the only country in the G7 without a national school food program. UNICEF’s 2017 report card ranks Canada 37 out of 41 among the world’s richest countries regarding providing healthy food for kids.”

The Coalition is also calling for the Government of Canada to “negotiate independent School Food Policy agreements with First Nation, Inuit and Métis leadership to ensure long-term and sustainable funding for Indigenous school nutritious meal programs.”

“I’ve seen firsthand the tremendous impact of Indigenous-led school food programs and how they serve such a fundamental role in community food systems,” says Sue-Anne Banks, Indigenous Lead of the BC Chapter of the Coalition. “We trust that our governments and Indigenous leaders will drive initiatives needed to progress this meaningful work, ensuring all Indigenous community schools have funding and access to nutritional school food programming.”

The government included this issue in two federal mandate letters which direct the responsible Ministers to “develop a National School Food Policy and to work toward a national school nutritious meal program.” The Coalition and its members are hopeful that the government will honour their commitment to the $1 billion over five years in 2024, as promised in the Liberal electoral platform.


Salsa Verde Recipe

By Tathali Urueta-Ortiz, Youth Empowerment Manager

Last market, we had tomatillos at the ICC market and customers did not know what they were and what to do with them. I am Mexican and in México, we use it to make salsa verse (yum!) This plant has been cultivated in México since pre-Hispanic times it is a native plant belonging to the nightshade family.

Here are the steps with photos to make salsa verde:

1. Peel and wash the tomatillos. Peel one garlic clove. You will need at least 1 Serrano or jalapeño pepper.

2. Place all the ingredients in a pan with no oil or water, roast the ingredients.

3. Once all the ingredients are roasted, put them in a blender and add salt.

Now you have salsa verde. This is the basic recipe for salsa verde. You can add this salsa to sunny side eggs, scrambled eggs, or tacos!

Visit our markets before the end of season to try it out and to support youth and kids on schoolyard farms:

  • Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre Pop Up Market (3075 Slocan St): Wednesdays @ 3 – 7 PM
  • Suwa’lkh School (1432 Brunette Ave in Coquitlam): Thursdays @ 3 – 6 PM

Little house in the park: Vancouver’s fieldhouses bring all kinds of activities to their community

Little house in the park: Vancouver’s fieldhouses bring all kinds of activities to their community

September 9, 2021
Park People

This contribution from Christopher Cheung is part of Park People’s 10 Years Together in City Parks. The series has been edited by Dylan Reid with illustrations from Park People’s own Jake Tobin Garrett.

Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the year.



If you strolled past Elm Park during “League,” you might have scratched your head. Are those people really fencing with pool noodles? Playing bocce with a can of Campbell’s soup? Attacking a couch with bean bags?

Everyone who lives in Kerrisdale on Vancouver’s west side knows Elm Park as a home for baseball, soccer and tennis. But where did these strange new sports come from?

Artist Germaine Koh is the games master who moved into the park to generate these new ways to play. The park’s humble fieldhouse, once home to a caretaker, became her studio.

In 2011, the city’s park board came up with a new way to use these old buildings to benefit the communities they’re in, inviting artists to pitch residencies in exchange for use of the space rent-free. Koh’s proposal: work with the public to create brand-new sports and games.

Koh, who had played competitive badminton, volleyball and roller derby, wanted to explore the similarities between art and sport. Her artsy friends would always say they’re not jocks, and her sporty friends would always say that they’re not creative. She disagreed about this divide.

“In sports, you practice certain techniques over and over again. In that way, you gain mastery, but you also gain an ability to improvise, strategize and negotiate,” says Koh. “All of those are totally abilities and skills central to the creative process.”

The park board approved her residency for 2012 to 2014. Elm Park was a “tough nut to crack,” says Koh, “because people were used to organized recreation.” But the wacky ways that balls, discs, ropes, planks and trees were used caught the curiosity of passersby, with turnouts of a few dozen on the most crowded days.


Credit photo: Fieldhouse Sonic Pick-Up Sticks, courtesy of Germaine Koh


The fieldhouses themselves are humble places. They’re single-storey, beige or grey and often attached to the park’s public washrooms. But for artists like Koh, they’re precious spaces in an expensive city.

“The interior décor was taupe coloured, not my choice,” says Koh with a laugh. “But I felt so privileged to be able to sit in a park and work.”

“Eyes and ears”


Vancouver’s fieldhouses have a long history, but Koh and others are moving in during a new life stage for the buildings.

The city started building fieldhouses in the 1920s. About 70 of the city’s 230 parks have one. They were the living quarters for the park caretakers, Hagrids and Groundskeeper Willies who tidied up and kept a round-the-clock watch. Living rent-free in the park was a special perk of the job, something no other major Canadian city offered. Caretakers settled in for long tenures, typically two to four decades.

David and Normande Waine were caretakers in the most prized fieldhouse residence of all – the one in the city’s massive Stanley Park, steps from the ocean. To get it took 14 years on a waiting list “as thick as the Bible.”

“We never looked back,” David Waine once told the National Post. “It’s a privilege to be here.”

But 2005 would bring the beginning of the end of what the Waines called “eyes and ears” in public parks. The city decided that it would no longer install new caretakers to live in fieldhouses when the previous ones retired. Services were being consolidated, and the city was considering new uses for these buildings — though it took some time to determine what that would be.

When caretakers moved out, many of the fieldhouses were left empty or used for an unimaginative purpose: storage for sports equipment. One experiment turned the Grandview Park fieldhouse on the city’s east side into a community policing centre, but locals were displeased with the increased surveillance, and the police eventually left.

In Vancouver, a park board of seven elected commissioners oversees and determines the policy direction of the city’s parks. In 2011, the commissioners directed staff to come up with an idea for the future of park fieldhouses.



Credit photo: Fieldhouse Bean Race, courtesy of Germaine Koh


Staff returned with a solution that also addressed a growing Vancouver problem. Fieldhouses were valuable real estate in public hands; meanwhile, creative people were struggling with the cost of studio space in the expensive city. Why not invite them in?


Creative caretakers


Artists like Koh were invited to pitch residencies to the park board. Those who were approved got to use the fieldhouses as studio spaces rent-free for three years, with an option to reapply (though, unlike the park caretakers, the artists did not actually live in the fieldhouses). The park board welcomed an initial cohort of eight residencies.

But there was a key condition. Artists were required to do 350 hours of public programming as part of their residency.

“We would not do a closed art studio, where you’re a jeweller just working on your jewelry practice,” says Marie Lopes, who coordinates arts, culture and engagement at the city. “You have to have some interest in working with the community.”

Composer Mark Haney seized the opportunity to do neighbourhood storytelling through music. He held a residency at Falaise Park, in the middle of the Renfrew Heights Veterans Housing Project, built to house soldiers who had returned from the Second World War. Haney and a partner researched the lives of 11 veterans who had a connection to the area, interviewing relatives and digging through archives. On Remembrance Day 2014, he debuted a piece inspired by the veterans called “11”, with musical cues that nodded to their lives. It was performed by eleven musicians on the hillside park, each playing a brass instrument chosen to fit a veteran’s personality.

The park board has since expanded the program to welcome a variety of disciplines: athletes, ecologists, chefs, cultural groups and more. It is currently in place in 23 parks, and now provides office space for non-profit groups, as well as studios.

One residency at Adanac Park teaches locals how to fight the “alien invasion” taking over public parks and private gardens: the fieldhouse is home to the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver, battling everything from knotweed to the European fire ant.

Mr. Fire-Man at Maclean Park teaches locals how to harvest wood and make their own musical instruments. Night Hoops, which helps out at-risk youth, runs a free basketball program and connects young people with mentors on and off the court. The Iris Film Collective at Burrard View Park shares the love of celluloid; if you prefer a different visual medium, there’s the Cloudscape Comics Collective at Memorial Park.

With each round of residencies, the park board publishes which fieldhouses are available and a recommended focus for each. A fieldhouse in a park near a diverse ecosystem, for example, could be targeted for environmental stewardship. Applicants can indicate which park fieldhouse they prefer, but, ultimately, the park board makes the decision. For example, the Strathcona Park fieldhouse hosts a residency by the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty. It’s a significant match, as the park is near where many Indigenous residents live and is a rare green space in that part of the inner city.

The park board provides each residency with a staff liaison to connect them with people and programs at the nearby community centre. That way, residencies get a sense of who locals are and what they might be interested in.

Some fieldhouses were ready to go, some needed renovations, but for the most part, “they just needed a coat of paint,” says Lopes. “With a little spit and polish, we were able to turn them into active spaces again.”


A league of its own


Not every artist is interested in spending 350 hours with the public, even if rent is covered. But it was perfect for Koh because League, as she named her residency, was not an art project she could have done on her own. She needed players to try out, refine, even invent the games with her and was able to emerge from the residency with a batch of tested and crowdsourced games.

Koh was pleased to see people of different athletic abilities get in on the action, whether as players or as “Bossypants” who direct play.

“It’s an interesting thing: some games are more cerebral, others are more physical,” she says.

In “Scrumble,” players wear t-shirts with a letter on the front and back and attempt to spell words by rearranging themselves. In “Petri,” players score by throwing balls into different-sized “Petri dishes” – circles drawn on the field. The balls each have different bacterial qualities and can multiply points, so the exponential growth might suddenly rocket someone into first place. (Perhaps a good post-COVID game? Koh now wonders.)


Credit photo: Fieldhouse Petri, courtesy of Germaine Koh


Players also improvised with the park itself, not just the field. The fieldhouse had a yard, and teams competed to build the best structure for growing beans. It was a summer-long race to see whose beans would grow the tallest, a game of patience and engineering. Koh describes it as a “slow race to new heights.”

An old couch lent to the fieldhouse wouldn’t fit through the door, and so it was placed outside for games of “Couchie,” which was introduced to the League crowd by two friends who had invented it during their university days as roommates. Players throw beanbags to try and lodge them into the couch’s cracks for points.

Some games took players outside of the park’s boundaries. The Arbutus Corridor was nearby, a disused Canadian Pacific rail track that ran north from the Fraser River, through the park’s neighbourhood of Kerrisdale, and up to False Creek. It would eventually be purchased by the city in 2016 and converted into the 8.5-kilometre Arbutus Greenway for recreational use.

Even back when it was a disused track, Koh saw its potential. Similar to fieldhouses, the track was an underused urban space waiting for reinvention. She encouraged players to walk the length of the track and turn the experience into some kind of game. One player found a bunch of lost pages from a book and read them during the walk. Koh herself scooped a glass of water from the river and carried it all the way to the creek, where she deposited it.

Koh muses a lot about the theoretical question of what play is, but her simple hope for League’s participants was that they would learn to adopt a playful attitude in their lives.

“One of the intentions was to expand the notion of where play begins and where the play ends, and stop thinking that play is just a thing for kids or something that just happens on a sports field,” she says. “Play is a way of developing useful problem-solving skills, an attitude of everyday creativity.”


A new lease on the land


Before Fresh Roots moved into its fieldhouse, the urban farming non-profit was already getting creative with underused urban land. The organization was founded in 2009, and partners with schools to turn their yards into edible gardens and to educate young people on how to grow fresh food.

When the opportunity came up for a fieldhouse, Fresh Roots applied and settled into the one at Norquay Park. It has just been approved for a second term.

Norquay Park is right on the city’s busy thoroughfare of Kingsway, and the fieldhouse is beside the playground and spray park. It’s a high-traffic spot in a high-traffic park, and Fresh Roots has grown a sharing garden that passersby can’t miss, tended by staff and volunteers.


Photo credit: Fieldhouse Sharing Garden, courtesy of Fresh Roots


“It takes a lot of labour, and the weeds are taking over!” sighs Caroline Manuel, the communications and engagement manager, who works out of the fieldhouse office. The pandemic’s dip in volunteers has made maintaining the sharing garden a challenge. Still, the crop is plentiful this year. There are green beans, beet greens, rhubarb, raspberry canes, red-flowering currant, sage, thyme and more — and the public is welcome to take from any of them.

Planted in this part of the east side, Fresh Roots partners with other groups nearby, such as summer camps and seniors groups

“We tested the waters and there’s lots and lots of interest to have hands in the dirt, direct access to a space to tend to,” says Manuel.

Fresh Roots also runs “Art in the Park” events. The art that they did with summer camps — crafts like seed bombs — proved to be so popular that they offered them to the public.

The fieldhouse has helped give the non-profit a physical presence in the community with which to make wider connections. That contact is especially helpful because 40 percent of the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood exclusively speaks a language other than English at home.

“Not everyone’s on social media,” says Manuel. “We’re putting signs in as many languages as we can, chatting with people chatting with people as they come by, basically just trying to be here so people do start to feel comfortable to ask questions.”


Credit photo: Fieldhouse Norquay Park, courtesy of Fresh Roots


Lopes is pleased the park board can help by situating artists and cultural groups in the middle of the communities they serve.

“In a city where rents are what they are, [the program] relieves that pressure for an artist studio or a non-profit office,” she says.


Your friendly neighbourhood fieldhouse


Marie Lopes can’t stress enough that it’s the “open door” that’s key to the program’s success.

By bringing art and engagement into everyday parks, the fieldhouse program removes some of the barriers that stand in the way of accessing art and other activities through museums or formal programs. And that engagement can be as casual or as collaborative as locals like. They might stop by a nearby park to enjoy music put on by the residency for half an hour. Or they might work closely with the fieldhouse residency for the full three years as a collaborator.

She says the park board occasionally gets calls from other cities curious about the fieldhouses, as they’ve become a “flagship” program.

Nearby, North Vancouver runs residencies out of the Blue Cabin, a remodelled 1927 float home. Richmond runs residencies out of the heritage Branscombe House, one of the first settler homes in what was the village of Steveston.

Lopes has this advice for cities looking to start similar programs, whether it’s out of fieldhouses or other unused buildings.

“Look at your assets really carefully,” she says. “Stop thinking about your unused spaces as problematic. They’re opportunities. Look for collaborators where everybody wins. The community benefit is just boundless.”





About Christopher Cheung

Christopher Cheung is a Vancouver journalist. He is interested in the power and politics behind urban change, and how Vancouver’s many diasporas strive to make a home in a city with colonial legacies. He is a staff reporter at The Tyee.



This contribution from Christopher Cheung is part of Park People’s 10 Years Together in City Parks.  The series has been edited by Dylan Reid with illustrations from Park People’s own Jake Tobin Garrett.

Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the year.


Link to original article:


Back to Our Roots: Jessica

By Vivian Cheung, Operations & Digital Engagement Specialist

As you may know, 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the partnership between Fresh Roots and the Vancouver School Board, the creation and the stewardship of the schoolyard farm at Vancouver Technical Secondary School. For this important year, we look forward to exciting special events to celebrate this milestone with the community. We also wanted to use this year to reflect and return back to our roots by bringing folks throughout these ten growing seasons who have helped shaped Fresh Roots to be where we are today, as staff, teachers, participants, while also taking the chance to celebrate who they are today since Fresh Roots. As a former 2016 intern, my name is Vivian and I’m on a journey to reconnect with these rad members in our Fresh Roots community and bring us all on a blast from the past in this new 10th Anniversary blog interview series called ‘Back to Our Roots’.

If you missed my previous interview with Jenny, check it out here. This time, I’m excited to connect with Jessica Jones, who was our stellar market lead in 2019 now growing agriculture business owner, helping fellow gardeners grow with their business, Gather Gardeners. We had the pleasure to reconnect with Jessica thanks to the pop-up market at the ICC this summer. From figuring out their career to empowering others in gardening – check out their story below!

In classic Fresh Roots tradition, what vegetable/fruit do you feel like today?

A tomato! It’s tomato season in Vancouver right now; therefore, I feel vibrant and abundant. My days are filled with tomato sandwiches, salads and anything I can add a sweet tomato freshly harvested from my garden to. My favourite tomato varieties are Sungolds and Brandywine, although I am excited to be growing a Seeds of Diversity dwarf tomato variety this year!

Tell us a bit about you and how you came to be connected with Fresh Roots?

My life changed in the summer of 2016. I was a University of Waterloo co-op student who had no idea where their life would take them. I had worked as a co-op student at a couple of government offices and knew that although they had great peaks and lovely co-workers, it was not for me. I decided to spend my summer co-op term as a Farm Apprentice to “escape the rat race”. I moved to Vancouver Island and worked on Salt & Harrow Farm for the summer, but then August rolled around and I decided to take a leave of absence to commit to finishing the season to the end. I could not imagine leaving without harvesting the winter squash, melons, onions, and more! The following two years, as I finished university, I also embarked on co-founding and co-operating my own vegetable and oyster mushroom farm. As a young, first-generation farmer who needed to lease farmland, I struggled with the complex relationship between landowner and farmer. I made the difficult decision to close the farm at the end of the 2018 season to pursue an agricultural career in the city!

I was introduced to Fresh Roots by a friend in the spring of 2019 after spending the previous winter pursuing my teacher’s college application. I found myself at a fork in the road. Pursuing teacher’s college or moving to Vancouver to work at Fresh Roots? My heart knew that my work within agriculture was far from over! I moved to Vancouver May of 2019 to start my season at Fresh Roots!

What was your role at Fresh Roots and what was that like?

I was the Market Lead at Fresh Roots in 2019. My core responsibilities were helping the farm team during the week with seeding, weeding, and harvesting then lead the farmer’s market booth once or twice a week. I really enjoyed how the role was spent producing the food with like-minded folks on the farm team. I developed life-long friendships at Fresh Roots! I was also a mentor to many youth on the farmer’s market days to provide an opportunity to learn how to grow their own food and leadership skills that running a market booth entailed. I felt as though I was the connection between the farm team and Fresh Roots’ customers and community members with a key component being that I was of the farmers who grew the food!

Any memorable stories or team/community members that stand out?

The first market in downtown Vancouver! This was my first month living in Vancouver and my first memory at Fresh Roots! This market was used as an annual opportunity for people living in apartments downtown to grow plants native to British Columbia such as salal! This memory sticks out for me, because it was such a surreal experience to be in the middle of one of Canada’s largest cities and be offering education and plants in such a plant-less region. I remember the excitement of sharing my passion of plants with Vancouverites that day! And I will also never forget this incredible carrot harvest at David Thompson Secondary School:

What impact have you seen Fresh Roots in the community? What impact has Fresh Roots had on you?

I have seen the impact of Fresh Roots in the community through the youth. I was honoured to spend every market during the summer of 2019 with many amazing youth. I observed how Fresh Roots created a safe space for them to be themselves when they may not have felt welcome to be themselves at home or school or a space to learn a new skill. Many of them were so enthusiastic to start their SOYL program and felt such devastation when the program ended, because of the rich friendships that were built during the summer. My favourite part of my time at Fresh Roots was the privilege of watching these young people develop confidence within themselves.

The impact Fresh Roots has had on me is the friendships I continue to have. Although we do not live near each other, one of the farmers during my time there continues to be one of my dearest friends. We developed a deep friendship during our short time together at Fresh Roots that I continue to be grateful for. We most recently travelled together this year to Colombia, where we learned about coffee production on a 200 year old family-run coffee farm in the mountains of Medellin.

Another impact Fresh Roots has had on me is the relationships I built with the youth. There are fewer and fewer opportunities I have had in life that connect different generations together. I really valued my time each week with them. I appreciated their energy, creativity, and loyalty to the market booth. They worked very hard to set-up and take-down the market booth and I could not have done it without them! They always brought a new, fresh perspective on the booth as well as discussions that would happen during the slower moments at markets.

What was your journey from Fresh Roots to Gather Gardeners?

After Fresh Roots, I spent the winter working for a charity that provides sustainability education in schools across Metro Vancouver until their program closed when COVID-19 spread in Canada. In June of 2020, I embarked on my next adventure at a Vancouver-based Agri Tech start-up for the next 2.5 years. The company focuses on helping apartment-dwellers grow their own food. They designed and developed a smart hydroponic garden to grow food on your countertop even if you are a complete beginner. The founders of this company created such an empowering atmosphere for women to gain leadership skills and therefore, I was promoted several times during my time there until I was developing a product roadmap and managing a team. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the team was laid off. I had to say goodbye to several projects that I poured my heart and soul into; however, I gained a great friendship during my time here. This leads me to Gather Gardeners. My friend, Kirsten, and I discovered that although growing your own food is essential, many have not had the opportunity or privilege to learn about the science and art of being self-sufficient. With a shared love of food and a perfect pairing of agricultural experience (Jess) with business brains (Kirsten), Gather Gardeners’ story began.

Tell me more about Gather Gardeners! What do you do, what is your mission, how has that been?

We grow gardeners! We grow food through the ups and downs with an emphasis on community and making mistakes – together. We empower communities to deepen their connection with food. We are here to cultivate your confidence as gardeners, whether you have a spacious backyard, a tiny windowsill, or something in between! We currently offer garden workshops to large groups, an engaging method of education on growing edible plants and a more tailored 1:1 consulting through garden coaching. Learn more about these services here:

We are on a mission to build a community of badass gardeners! We are here to inspire all the “I kill all of my plants” folks to kill more plants! We believe that each plant killed holds a lesson to remember for next time. Our hope is to empower others with these skills until every backyard, patio, rooftop, and kitchen counter in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and Coastal Vancouver Island regions grow their own food! We have several projects in the works to be launched for spring and summer of 2024 that include: in-person garden co-hort and garden sitting services so stay tuned!

How can folks get connected to you and your awesome work at Gather Gardeners?

If you’d like to or know someone who would like to host a garden workshop, the best way to connect with me is through email:

If you are interested in investing in yourself and learning how to develop your gardening skills, then visit our website to book a free 15 minute call with Jess. This time will be spent to discuss your experience and the type of coaching that is best suited for you and your gardening journey.

If you’d like to stay updated on upcoming markets, workshops, and 2024 launch dates for some big projects, visit our website or Instagram / Facebook account @gathergardeners / Gather Gardeners.

Any advice that you have for new farmers and gardeners?

Farm and garden in community! Growing food ain’t easy. No one should struggle alone. Some topics the pandemic brought to the surface was the importance of how few people can grow their own food (when it’s not accessible at the grocery store) and how isolating one can feel without community. Growing food is an essential life skill currently not in mandatory education. We need to ensure these skills are passed down to the next generation as well as enjoyed in the community. Furthermore, the isolation during the pandemic that many felt was a feeling that

I was used to as a previous farmer in a rural area. Many farmers work in isolation while they provide for their communities. Our farmers make many sacrifices and endure many hardships, let’s make sure they do not feel alone!

Jess and her friend Kathleen share a beautiful garden together in East Vancouver!

Our mission at Gather Gardeners is to build a community of bad ass gardeners! We are here to inspire all the “I kill all of my plants” folks to kill more plants! We believe that each plant killed, holds a lesson to remember for next time.

Anything else to add?

Want to just nerd out on plants or have an idea for a new project? Jess loves connecting with anyone with a passion for plants, food, and agriculture! Reach out at Let’s deepen our connection with food – together.


2023 SOYL Suwa’lkh Field Guides

By Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Lead

During the summer the SOYL participants worked on making some field guides for their legacy projects. In their crews they worked on making 3 different field guides. They were for the farm, orchard and forest. We also had a work experience student create a catalog for the native plant nursery. 

Over the 6 weeks of the program the youth were looking for weeds, native plants and invasive species to learn about and document those learnings into field guides that we can share with others who may be interested to learn more about our spaces. 

While I was working from home with a badly sprained ankle they did amazing at completing these projects with very little instruction from me. I was very impressed with the work that they were able to complete in just a few weeks.

Thank you SOYL Suwa’lkh youth for your awesome work. We’re excited to share their Suwa’lkh farm and Healing Forest field guides for the community to use next time you stop by – check it out below:

Suwa’lkh Healing Forest Field Guide

Suwa’lkh Schoolyard Farm Field Guide

Suwa’lkh Orchard Field Guide – coming soon!


Salmon at Suwa’lkh – 2023 Update!

By Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Lead

Throwback to the salmon release by the Suwa’lkh School students in 2021

In November of 2022, we had 4 salmon return and spawn. These returning salmon would have been from the first or second year of the newly re-established salmon release program. With this program students are able to learn the life cycle of the salmon and also help to take care of them in the classroom. Having them in a fish tank in the class, is then easily accessible to watch them through the stages. They start out as eggs and need complete darkness. They are what the students would call boring at that point. Once they hatch and become alevin they are a little more fun to look at. They still have the egg sack attached, my coworker called it their food backpack and I love that. When they start to swim up in the tank they are ready for us to start feeding them. We are feeding them 4 times a day. They are hungry little guys. Once salmon release day comes along it is exciting and sad for me. I love that we are getting them back into our stream but I am sad that I will not be able to see them all every morning. This year we released 47 salmon.

Salmon eggs at Suwa’lkh School, January 2023

Salmon life cycle drawings by the students!

Salmon at Suwa’lkh School, February 2023

Salmon at Suwa’lkh School, February 2023 

For months I was waiting to see if those spawners were successful.Once May came around, I started to notice that there were multiple sizes of baby salmon in the stream, and that there were way more than only 47 salmon in there. Letting us know that our efforts of bringing back the salmon to our stream is working! I check on them every day, and I say hello to them. I have spotted clusters of them in multiple parts of the stream. From different spots it is easier to see them. I love to show the salmon to anyone who comes for a visit or a tour of the site. People have called me the salmon whisperer because I am able to spot them whenever I get to the stream. I have a feeling they will leave the comforts of our stream soon and head to the river, then make their way to the ocean. There is a blue heron that I often see, when I do see it I always tell him to not eat all of my salmon babies. I think it has been listening because we still have so many hanging around. 

By March 2023, we see a few salmon babies swimming around!

I am going to be on the lookout for any more returning salmon this fall. Fingers crossed we have more than 4 come home!

April 2023 update, fully hatched salmon babies at Suwa’lkh School, ready to be released in the Healing Forest in hopes to find their way home next season


Behind-the-Scenes of the Garlic Fundraiser

By Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Lead

As our current Raise the Roof fundraiser is underway, we reflect on the fundraiser we had earlier in the year to celebrate National Garlic Day, where the Suwa’lkh SOYL youth made jars of garlic powder from scratch. Learn more about the behind-the-scenes process, and tips and tricks if you ever wanted to make your own garlic powder at home!

Made by our SOYL Suwa’lkh youth, including this amazing logo on ever jar!

How did it start?

Lately, I have been thinking of ways to preserve our harvests. I was in a Zoom meeting with participants from all over the country, when one of the members had mentioned that they had just made garlic powder with their leftover garlic. That sparked my interest and I went into looking for ways to make garlic powder.

I had access to a dehydrator, so I got to work slicing garlic by hand as thinly as I could. Putting it all in the dehydrator, I learned very quickly that consistency in the slices is very important for the dehydration time. I found a garlic slicer online and that made the process so much easier. I also found it was difficult to put the garlic on the trays; the garlic clove selection for slicing had to be very specific. I then looked online and found some dehydrator mats that made it so I could use even the small pieces and the smaller garlic cloves. It also makes it so that removing the dried garlic chips can be done in a couple of seconds. 

Freshly grown and harvested from the schoolyard farm!

Every garlic clove skin is hand-peel with love!

The constant aroma of garlic filled Suwa’lkh School thanks to the hours of dehydration

Making Garlic Powder (SOYL Spring Break)

During SOYL spring break this year, this was a task that the youth had a lot of time to help out with. They were able to be a part of the whole process. There are many steps that you learn things from. Peeling garlic, slicing garlic, laying out the garlic to grinding it up. We quickly learned that garlic is very sticky and makes your fingers stick together, which makes it difficult to lay out the slices without them touching each other.

The Suwa’lkh SOYL youth in action working together

So much garlic!

Way to go, SOYL! Thank you for all of your care and effort that you put into every jar of garlic powder

All in all, it was a meticulous but rewarding process. Thank you everybody that participated in the fundraiser to support our youth. Enjoy the garlic powder!

Stay tuned for jars of picked garlic made this year’s SOYL youth in Vancouver and Suwa’lkh – coming soon to market! Check out our current RAISE THE ROOF fundraiser:


Announcing our ‘Raise The Roof’ Fundraiser

We need your help to raise money for new tent covers for all of our harvest stations & more! Donate here:

Why are we fundraising?

This past year has especially been tough for Fresh Roots. From fundraiser cancellations to ongoing theft, our schoolyard farms have been especially hit by all of the elements, causing unforeseen serious damage that falls short of our insurance coverage. Tents are an essential item when working and running programs outside, all day, everyday. They provide shelter from rain, sun and everything in between! 

Part of the impact of wind at the harvest station at the Van Tech schoolyard farm.

The aftermath of the snow that brought down the Suwa’lkh harvest hut.

The melted harvest station and tote containers after the sudden fire outside of David Thompson Secondary School.

What are fundraising for?

  • At the start of the year, the heavy weight of the snow tore down our Suwa’lkh harvest station. By spring, the strong winds ripped through our Van Tech harvest station.
  • Most recently, our David Thompson schoolyard farm was deeply impacted by an unexplained fire that was started outside of the school after hours. Although we are grateful that nobody was hurt in the incident, the fire left our harvest hut and supplies in unrepairable damage including several melted totes.
  • After many seasons, our market tent has also become seriously leaky and our programming tent is limping along but beyond good repair.

Throwback to our Purposely Team Build where organizations came together on Earth Day to harness the power of community!

Thanks to community donors like Dayhu Group of Companies for supplying our kids and youth with new tools and gloves to keep up the learning opportunities.

HELP US RAISE THE ROOF! Our goal is to raise $6000 for new farm supplies:

  • 3 x $1500 to replace large harvest covers = $4500
  • 2 x $400 to replace broken tents = $800
  • 15 x $20 to replace melted tote containers = $300
  • Additional losses = $400

Your Impact

Our harvest stations are an integral part for our farm-based learning. They provide cover from weather for our farm team and youth participants to safely and comfortably process harvested food. We are hopeful that with the help of the community, we can RAISE THE ROOF for our schoolyard farms to get the extra repairs they need.

Raise the roof for kids & youth!