Seed Saving is Rad

Seed saving is rad and I mean that in the literal sense of radical, meaning something that relates to the fundamental nature of a thing. Seed saving is the act of collecting seeds, a plant’s reproductive material, directly from the plant as opposed to buying or procuring the seeds elsewhere. Last week I was collecting sweet pea seeds and I was reminded of how seed saving reconnects us to the fundamental nature of plants. It reminds me of the intelligent design of plants and the fact that plants can reproduce without human intervention.

My seed collection including seeds saved by hand, store bought seeds, and farm bought seeds.

Now, I’ll be frank, seed saving is no easy task. There are many steps to the process and oftentimes I find myself wondering if it is worth the the 4$ most packets of seeds cost. The process is different for fruits and for vegetables because one of the defining characteristics of fruits is that the seeds are collected from the fruit itself whereas for vegetables the seeds are collected from the plant from which the vegetable is harvested. For example, for apples the seeds must be taken from the core of the apple and left to dry whereas to harvest kale seeds, the plant from which the kale is cut must be left to flower and then from the flowers of the plant the seeds are collected. Depending on the priorities of the gardener, seed saving may or may not be cost-effective, however the power in seed saving is not necessarily saving money. The power of the act is experiencing the full life cycle of a plant and understand that it occurs independently of us even though we have inserted ourselves in the lifecycle of the plants we consume. This is yet another way we can understand where our food comes from.


Collecting seeds from the plant is an important reminder that like vegetables, seeds do not come from the store, but from the plant itself. The fundamental nature of plants is that they are completely independent. Photosynthesis allows them to produce their own food and sustain themselves from the beginning and although we may help them along the way sometimes by weeding around them or giving them a little extra water, seed-saving is a good reminder of the fundamental independence of plants.

Fireweed Seeds

Suwalkh’s Freshroots Garden At PoCo Farmers Market.

Suwa’lkh students will be at the PoCo Farmers market on August 23rd bringing awareness to our program! We will be selling our produce and native plants set up for the community. Here at Suwalkh we have been focusing on growing fresh produce for the community. We have been Teaching youth healthy eating, life style, learning about native plants and forest restoration. Our goal is to provide fresh food for all and establishing and intertwining communities. Suwa’lkh is an Alternative Indigenous school, with a half acre garden that was started by Freshroots. At Suwa’lkh we have been growing produce and medicinal plant like Tobacco, Thimble berry, Salal berry, White sage and much more!

The PoCo Farmers Market promotes awareness and appreciation for farm fresh produce and local eating, which supports the economy and increases the capacity of small businesses and non-profit organizations in the community. Suwa’lkh is grateful for PoCo Farmers Market for letting us set up a booth. Feel free to come stop buy August 23rd to see what we are all about here at Suwa’lkh.


Suwalkh’s Freshroots Garden

Here at Suwalkh Fresh Roots Gardens, our youth have been working hard to maintain the farm: harvesting vegetables, making beds, and much more. Our little team at Suwalkh has come along way since the beginning of the summer, we are excited to see this Garden thrive! We have been learning lots about healthy eating, gardening, and life styles. As well as forest restoration in our Suwalkh Earth Healing Spirit Forest, pulling out invasive plants. We can’t wait to see how much we have accomplished by the end of the program!

The last month and a half, we have been working in the garden building beds and making spaces to grow more! The youth have also been painting signs for our garden! We have Broccoli, Beets, Swiss chard, Tomatoes, Buk choy, Potatoes, Garlic, Peppers, Lettuce and much more! We’ve recently seeded white sage and big lupin. Carrie Clark also taught us how to harvest tobacco and dry it out for ceremonial purpose.

In the Suwalkh Earth Healing Spirit Forest we have been learning about invasive plants such as Japanese Knot Weed, English Holly, English Ivy and English Laurel. Every day the youths work in the forest pulling out these invasive plants! The Forest is Suwalkh’s outdoor education class room. We will be having science class in the forest and on beautiful days we sit out there to do our school work!


Fred Lee’s Social Network: Rooted in Goodness

Fred Lee’s Social Network: Rooted in Goodness

by Fred Lee

Last year’s Fresh Roots inaugural long table dinner was held inside the hallways of David Thompson Secondary School due to inclement weather. This year, Mother Nature cooperated and the sophomore schoolyard Harvest Party was successfully staged outside on dry land next to its education farm — a school market garden. A fortunate 140 guests snapped up tickets to the sold-out fundraising dinner in support of the non-profit’s effort to grow community through good food.

Sprouted in 2009, Fresh Roots founders Ilana Labow, Gray Oron and Marc Schutzbank greeted attendees to the multi-course family-style feast curated by chefs Karima Chellouf and Kym Nguyen, incorporating ingredients sourced from schoolyard farms. Fresh Roots manages four edible educational gardens on school property in the Vancouver, Delta and Coquitlam School Districts. Through experiential learning, students get to appreciate the full cycle of how their food arrives on their table and gain an appreciation of good food.

This year’s al fresco dinner benefited Fresh Roots SOYL initiative, an innovative seven-week summer leadership and empowerment program. High school students tend to and cultivate the ½ acre schoolyard farm; develop skills in growing, cooking and selling the fruits of their labour at farmers markets. Through their time with SOYL, students develop a greater connection to themselves, their community and their local food system, says Schutzbank. Proceeds from the outdoor garden party will employ fifty summer students in the SOYL program next year.

Fresh Roots co-founder Marc Schutzbank and youth empowerment manager Rosalind Sadowski fronted the second annual Schoolyard Harvest Party. Fred Lee / PNG

David Thompson Secondary alumni Winnie Kwan, former SOYL student participant turned program coordinator, and Ilana Labow, co-founder of Fresh Roots, welcomed 140 guests to the schoolyard long table fundraising dinner. Fred Lee / PNG

Christine Weston, farm manager, and Gray Oron, Fresh Roots co-founder, has seen their year-round program grow. Fresh Roots now manages four edible educational gardens on school property in the Vancouver, Delta and Coquitlam School Districts. Fred Lee / PNG

UBC Land Food Systems Dean Ricky Yada and Assistant Dean Tracey London took in the alfresco family style dinner at David Thompson Secondary School in East Vancouver. Fred Lee / PNG

Scotiabank’s senior brass Sandra Boyce and Larry Clements came out to the schoolyard farm to enjoy a memorable meal and learn more of the Fresh Roots program. Fred Lee / PNG

For the full article:


It’s a Pizza Party!

There’s nothing like freshly rolled pizza doughs topped with fresh veg from the fields straight out of the oven! The SOYL youth at Farm Roots make a mean pizza, and all the leftover veg went into pasta sauce.

We have been so busy growing, learning, and sharing our love grown produce with the community! This summer has gone by in a blink of the eye, and it is hard to beleive there is only a week left in the program. The students have worked so very hard and we are so very proud 🙂

Fruit vs. Vegetable: Summer Botany Edition

Originally, I was going to write a long, detailed article about a new type of squash I encountered in the garden, however in the midst of telling a friend about this idea we got into a discussion about the technical differences between fruits and vegetables. The answer surprised me. Sure, we’ve all heard about how a tomato is technically a fruit, usually from some know-it-all kid in elementary school who posed the question in such a way to embarrass anyone who didn’t know the answer. What this kid in elementary school probably didn’t tell you was why a tomato is a fruit.

Fruits develop from the flower of any plant, whereas vegetables are any other part of the plant; this usually means the leaves, stems or root. Working in the garden certainly helps with understanding how each plant grows, but just from shopping in the super market one can discern what is a fruit and what is a vegetable. Anything with a stem is probably a fruit. For example: peppers, both bell and hot, are fruits because they develop out of the flower of the plant, same goes for tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers, beans, and peas. Don’t worry; potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, and broccoli are still vegetables. Rhubarb, although generally paired with fruits like strawberries, is technically a vegetable because the useful part of the plant is the stems.

These may seem like trivial botanical facts for plant nerds like myself, but thinking about which vegetables are botanically fruits forces us to reexamine our relationship to food. It mends the gap between our thinking about food and plants that plagues those of us that get the majority of our food from grocery stores. When you ask yourself whether what you are eating is a fruit or a vegetable, you’re asking about the plant it stems from (pun intended). This gets us thinking about our food in new and exciting ways.




Student Bloggers Spotlight – Annika

Harvesting Some Veggies

By Annika

There has been a lot of harvesting recently. I think it is mainly because there are a lot of markets and senior centers coming up. My market and senior center days are in August so I will be the last one to go to a market or senior center. Today I harvested broccoli. We couldn’t find the shears so we had to cut the broccoli using scissors which was next to impossible. Every time I pass the broccoli I am always intrigued on how it is grown. I find it so cool how it grows in the middle of the plant and it looks so funny. We collected so much broccoli! They were all huge too which is great for the market.


We also collected carrots. They are so cute and tiny. They are like tiny, little baby carrots. Some of them were this pretty purple color too. I wonder why? Either way I cant really eat carrots because of my braces but that is okay cause I never really liked them that much anyways.


What is your favorite type of veggie and why?


To Weed or Not to Weed

Having never worked on a farm in such a rainy and temperate climate, I was amazed at the amount of weeds the earth could produce in just a matter of days! Between the cultivated vegetables, our farms are overflowing with chickweed, dandelion, sheep sorrel, horsetail, self seeded strawberries, lettuce and cilantro. These weeds are simply wild plants that were not cultivated by farmers, and often compete – and outcompete the plants we grow to sell. And while weeds may not be what we want to send to market, their medicinal benefits are numerous and the lessons they can teach us are invaluable.

Horsetail is notorious at Fresh Roots for its tenacious root system and its ability to reproduce beneath the soil. These tall, hollow stalks are ringed with spindly long leaves and are connected underground via a long root called the rhizome. The rhizome produces new shoots that grow upwards towards the light. While above ground, a patch of horsetail appears to be a collection of individual plants, each with their own root system – below ground we see that they are all connected. If you only remove the visible shoots while weeding a patch of horsetail, it will continue to grow and thrive, a plant hydra that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Earlier this summer, folks from the Vancouver Telus branch came out to the Van Tech Farm to work as part of their ‘Days of Giving’ campaign. My team tackled the horsetail with vigor, working together to dig up the rhizome and remove the weed from our farm. From a farmer’s perspective, the horsetail is a beast. From an evolutionary standpoint it is pure genius. The beauty of the horsetail reflects the beauty of my time working with Fresh Roots. The collaboration between players is what makes us stronger – it is the rhizome that connects us and promotes both innovation and creativity. I’ve learned that it is impossible to plan a strong lesson or run a good field trip alone, and that working with my Experiential Learning team fosters the same synergy that we see with the horsetail – we thrive together. Our weedy beds are certainly a labour of love, but if we listen to what the plants are trying to teach, we too will learn their lessons.



Horsetail is an antioxidant, anti inflammatory and antimicrobial. It is high in silica, an essential mineral for human health, and helps promote the growth of healthy bones and connective tissues such as collagen. Silica declines with age, so it is important to maintain the body’s silica levels to support strong bones, hair and fingernails. Topically, horsetail salve can be used to treat burns and wounds.






Red clover flowers are sweet to eat fresh and can also be dried for tea. As a topical treatment, red clover soothes eczema, sores and burns due to its anti-inflammatory compounds – eugenol, myricetin and salicylic acid. Red clover is a blood thinner, and its concentration of phytoestrogens daidzein and genistein mimic estrogen in the body. For this reason, red clover can alleviate menopause related discomfort such as hot flashes.





Chickweed is a small leafed viney ground cover that is delicious in salads. Taken orally, chickweed can remedy a variety of conditions including asthma, blood disorders, conjunctivitis, constipation, inflammation, and other skin ailments. It also aids in digestion. Topically, chickweed salve can treat rashes and sores.






The entire Dandelion plant can be used medicinally. The long taproot is dried and ground as a coffee replacement and natural diuretic. The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw (dandelion and lettuce are in the same plant family) and due to its richness in Zinc and Magnesium, the plant promotes detoxification and healthy skin.






Sheep sorrel is a tangy tasting groundcover with thick, arrow-shaped, tender but flavourful leaves. It tastes delicious in salads, or on its own – the kids refer to it as nature’s sour candy! Sheep sorrel is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, B and beta-carotene. Popularized by Rene Caisse’s cancer curing Essiac tea, Sheep Sorrel has the ability to destroy cancer cells in the body and inhibit metastasis (the spreading of cancer cells outward from the tumour site). Sheep sorrel is a blood purifier, aiding in the disposal of dead tissues within the body.



Keep your eyes peeled for these weeds growing at Fresh Roots Farms and around Vancouver and make use of their medicinal benefits!