School Farms Around the World: CitySprouts in Cambridge, MA

This post contributed by recent UBC Land & Food Systems graduate, Tania Leon

Many cities have jumped on board with school gardens and we believe in sharing great ideas and success stories. CitySprouts in Cambridge, MA is one of them.

CitySprouts started in 2000 through a partnership with the Cambridge Public School District and has since expanded to deliver projects across eastern Massachusetts in Boston, Lynn, and Gloucester. It is a garden-based education program that now involves more than 6000 students in public schools and is highly integrated into the school curriculum.

Like FreshRoots, the CitySprouts program uses hands-on workshops to provide students with valuable skills that connect them to the environment and how the food cycle really works. Students experience the farm-to-table process from actively maintaining and harvesting these gardens to preparing (and eating!) healthy food.

We’ve noticed that many teachers have embraced these learning gardens and are using them for more than you might think! Math students learn about measuring and charting the growth of pea plants. Arts students create natural sculptures in the gardens and watch them transform and become part of the garden landscape. Science students learn the physics of apple cider pressing. There are so many possibilities and creative reasons to use these learning gardens that it’s hard not to go outside for class!

I asked CitySprouts how they keep busy during the winter and found out that a lot of planning and fundraising work happens during this time of year. In the schools, staff continue to work with teachers and classes on activities such as creating worm bins, developing their ancient grains project, linking to social studies classes and other connections to the wintertime curriculum.

CitySprouts has also compiled and shared an Essential Plant List on their website that identifies plants suited to school gardens and their particular climate. This is a great starting point for any school garden to develop their own list of ideal plants that would thrive locally and please the students too!

Visit CitySprouts at


Confessions of a Fresh Roots Volunteer

This is a guest post from Yael Haar, one of Fresh Roots’ star volunteers. 

As a volunteer for Fresh Roots, I have experienced what happens behind the scenes of the non-profit sector. When I started volunteering, I assisted with farm work. Moving compost from one space to another was not my definition of fun, but at the end of my volunteer shift I felt accomplished. Knowing that food would later be grown in the beds I helped shape was a rewarding feeling. While working on the farm I also got to know the other volunteers. It was refreshing to socialize with people who shared my interest in urban farming and local food.

Over the course of the season, I transitioned into volunteering with the weekly Good Food Markets at David Thompson Secondary. I have enjoyed my experience working at the markets, as I learned what really goes into a farmers’ market and what different factors play a part. Over the summer, there were many beautiful days on which markets were held and many veggies were to be bought. I enjoyed sharing recipes and being able to form relationships with people in the community. Although sometimes I did not wish to drive in Vancouver traffic all the way to David Thompson school, once I was there I felt good about being outside with people and making a contribution to the community.

Every week, I would see familiar faces come by and spread the word to keen new customers. This was particularly exciting, as I watched the network of Fresh Roots grow. Overtime, markets became more routine and I was able to connect more with the other volunteers and staff. Most importantly, I have been able to eat fresh, local and organic vegetables each week, which is a huge benefit! It is also exciting to see new events happen, like the South Vancouver Harvest festival which just took place. As I continue to volunteer with Fresh Roots, it is gratifying to be part of a team which focuses on connecting people back to food and watching the community grow.

To learn more about current volunteer opportunities, check out See you in the fields soon!



Third Annual Press Fest!

Come one, come all to the 3rd annual Apple Press Festival!

Participants try their hand at crushing, grinding, and pressing apples. In addition, there are activities like an apple home-run derby, a pressing competition, and old-time games like corn-hole and juggling.The festival aims to bring the community together not only to celebrate the harvest, but to roll up their sleeves and actively participate in it. The Press Fest raises awareness of the great potential of local apples as a readily-available nutrient source, sweetener, fermenting ingredient, and all-around fantastic fruit. In doing so, we support local orchardists who utilize integrated pest management (IPM) and organic farming practices. Many apple varieties, which may not store well as fruit, are normally left to rot in the orchard. By processing them, we are creating value for both the community and the farmers.

It’s a BYOJ sort of event, so bring your own jug, because participants can fill up a mason jar or their own container with the sweet sweet juice!

Where: VanTech’s Schoolyard Market Garden (Map)
When:  October 26th; 12-4 pm
RSVP: @ facebook

Huge thanks to the tremendous sponsors: Duncan Martin with; Rick Havlack with Homesteader’s Empourium; and Fresh Roots!


Farmer’s Log – October 14, 2014

With school back in session there is a buzz of activity around the farms, reanimating the space and offering new opportunities to engage with our community. We only have a few weeks left of new seeds going into the ground this year. As the days get shorter the crops keep growing but sllllllooooowwww down. This means if we want to see a harvest from anything we plant in the next few months it needs to start growing soon! We are happy to have all our winter kale in the ground, brussel sprouts starting to bulge and lots of sweet cool-season spinach starting to roll in. Soon we’ll be tucking the tender crops under plastic to protect them from the cold so you can enjoy mid-winter, green delicacies.

Farmer Scott

South Vancouver Harvest Festival

With great excitement we’re announcing our South Vancouver Harvest Festival! Taking place at the Schoolyard Market Garden at David Thompson Secondary on October 18th, 2014, the event is part of Vancouver’s Sustenance Festival, a city-wide celebration of local food culture and sustainability. Together with the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House – we will be throwing an all-ages farm party to celebrate our community’s bounty.

Join us for an afternoon of harvest exuberance and a celebration of food and community! Activities will start at the farm at 3pm and include pumpkin carving, apple pressing, and lantern making. Celebrate the season with a bowl of hearty harvest stew, and cast your vote in a multicultural dessert contest (or enter your own!), or simply bring a blanket and watch the action unfold.

Let us know that you’re coming by getting your tickets here.  There is no charge for this event but there will be opportunities to contribute ‘by donation’ to help cover costs. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Bring your family, bring your favourite friend, or just bring yourself!

Stay tuned at @freshroots (Twitter & Instagram), our Facebook page, and our website as the full party plan unfolds. Start sharing your #SouthVanLove pictures with us!


Dish Up the Cilantro Roots

Thai food is delicious – and easy to make at home. It starts, however, with the right ingredients – which in our case, means a spice paste; it is the basic building block for all of our thai food escapades. Enjoy!

2 teaspoons black peppercorns
5 to 6 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro roots (or stems)
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon fish sauce

Place the peppercorns in a mortar with the garlic and pound to a paste. Add the cilantro roots and salt and pound to a paste. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you have a small blender or other food grinder that can produce a smooth paste, you can use it instead. (We tend to toss in a few cilantro stems along with the roots when we make this paste—just for good measure.) Stir in the fish sauce. Use the paste immediately or store in a well-sealed glass jar. This keeps for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.