Hello from Norquay – The Life Cycle of the Norquay Fieldhouse

By Vivian Cheung, Operations & Digital Engagement Specialist

And just like that, another growing season has passed by at Fresh Roots. If you missed my pre-season Norquay fieldhouse reflections, you can read them HERE. Although many associate the life of Fresh Roots with our schoolyard farms, for our neighbours in Norquay Park, it is the fieldhouse that grows food and community. Come on a journey through memory lane with me on what the life cycle of our fieldhouse looked like this year!

Stage 1: Seeds

  • This year in particular, we connected with Pacific Immigrant Resources Society, a fellow nonprofit organization that supports immigrant and refugee women and their children to integrate into life in Canada, especially around the Norquay Park. We worked together with their families, parents and kids alike, to sow seeds into the Norquay Sharing Garden at the beginning of the season that ended up growing and feeding curious and hungry neighbours that came across their planted radishes and carrots, and sow seeds of learning and empowerment as we shared a potluck meal and community, weaved beautifully together through the diversity of cultures that were represented, while teaching the families how to grow their food through take-home West Coast Seeds and DIY seed starting pots.
  • As always, the Norquay fieldhouse draws curiosity to our neighbours year-round. With our weekly open office hours at the fieldhouse, this year in particular, I met more neighbours than I ever have since first stepping foot into the fieldhouse as an Fresh Roots intern in 2016, speaking on the importance and growing longing for community that the Norquay Park residents have. As the artist in resident for Norquay Park, there is a comforting liveliness to the park that words fail to express that I invited everyone to experience one day. With the blasted electronic music at the stroke of 10am from the giant circle of seniors having a morning workout, to the giggles of young kids from neighbouring daycares and youth groups that venture to Norquay Park for its playground and waterpark, to the competitive dribbles of groups of friends playing at the basketball hoops, hopefully my planted seeds of ‘hello’ will continue to deepen the impact we have with the Norquay Park community in the remaining time we have at fieldhouse.

Photo credit: Together We Can

Stage 2: Germination

  • A special community seed that serendipitously grew after the long winter of the pandemic was Together We Can. Together We Can is a charity providing alcohol & drug treatment programs to recovering addicts and their families. As our neighbours TWC are also based literally across the street from Norquay Park along Kingsway, pre-COVID, they would work together with Fresh Roots to care for the Norquay Sharing Garden. After spontaneously reconnecting ironically (but also non-ironically) when I was watering the sharing garden, the relationship was renewed and Together We Can returned to the sharing garden after 3+ years. Working together with their residents in recovery through weekly drop-in sessions to plant and weed the garden, these men embodied dedication and care for their neighbours in Norquay Park through growing food and volunteering. More highlights with TWC was working together to do a neighbourhood cleanup of Norquay Park with Vancouver-Kingsway MP Don Davies, and supporting and giving away veggies from our schoolyard farms to neighbours at their annual International Overdose Awareness Day Community Gathering.
  • In addition to opening up the fieldhouse to the Norquay Park community, the fieldhouse is a crucial place for our staff to germinate ideas year-round. The fieldhouse provides our team, who is usually out in the schoolyard farm fields to grow food and engage in programs, a safe refuge away from the elements of rain and extreme heat to plan, strategize, catch up on online communications, and lots of printing of educational resources through collaborative laptops and lots of sticky notes. If you ever have participated in one of our summer camps or our SOYL youth program, know that every year, the camp and SOYL facilitators spent many hours here to nurture those fun, educational lesson plans, so that it can grow on our schoolyard farms! As summer is our ‘go-time’ at Fresh Roots, we can’t imagine life without our fieldhouse to gather together in-person to prepare for the intense growing season ahead. The fieldhouse is also a place of training. Every year, new seasonal staff are trained, but as with previous years, our staff First Aid training happens to be at the fieldhouse as well. A fun and odd site that parkgoers may remember is seeing is our team do CPR to practice dummies in perfect unison to the song ‘Staying Alive’!

Photo credit: Together We Can

Stage 3: Seedlings

  • My most memorable encounter was getting to know one of our neighbours more personally through my weekly tending of the garden. Since starting to grow sunchokes in the sharing garden, I’ve always wondered who is the skilled farmer that meticulously harvests them each year, and I got that answer when an elderly man approached me after a weekly session with Together We Can. Through speaking with him in Chinese, to both of our delights, we learned that our families can from the same region, and quickly began to bond over our heritage and farming, an interaction that resembles nostalgically to lively “uncles and aunties” I’ve had growing up, family friends of my parents not associated by blood, but associated by family-like interactions and respect as my elders. He proudly showed me his harvest of sunchokes, gently reminding me to water them, which he proceeded to do whenever he saw me in at Norquay Park (in a kind way of course!). It was a delight to be schooled constantly in our farming practices by him as he shovelled perfectly raised beds at the beginning of the season before we planted seeds and seedlings, and helping us water the garden on hot summer days to ensure his sunchoke babies were properly tended to. I always knew neighbours were engaging in the sharing garden, but often, these interactions are missed by our paths never crossing with these neighbours. Hence, I was grateful to see the fruition of the spark in one of them this year, with someone I now proudly call uncle and friend.
  • As I mentioned, the fieldhouse is crucial for keeping humans (and laptops) at Fresh Roots protected in the midst of rain, heat, and any weather. It also happens to be the hub for our farm team to sort, store, and even sometimes start seeds. As the primary person on the Fresh Roots team in the fieldhouse, I often experience the hustle and bustle of the schoolyard farms through pictures and videos posted on Slack. The seeds and seedlings that come through the fieldhouse are one of the off-site ways that I experience the seasonalities of the farms. From receiving the seed shipment to seeing the collage of them on the kitchen table, to watering the seed trays and saying my final goodbyes to them by spring, the fieldhouse has been a preview of the potential of the plants and community to grow in the coming months.

Working together with elderly neighbours to prep the Sharing garden beds

Stage 4: Maturity

  • For a third year in a row, our Art in the Park summer pop-up drew in our neighbouring families in kid-friendly garden-based learning activities. As well as an opportunity to create accessibility for kids in the park to do some of the cool crafts and games we do at camp, it has also been a way for members of our team to grow in their facilitation through organizing and creativity – it started with Molly, who applied their rich knowledge and years of experiences in summer camps to try new unconventional ways of environmental learning; last year, it was Crystal, our summer LFS 496 student, who focused on teaching others about food security and encouraged engagement for the sharing garden, and this year, I had the pleasure of working with Freya, one of our junior camp staff who fun fact, is a LunchLAB alumni, reinforcing Fresh Roots’ heart to work alongside youth to grow as a leader from participant to mentor to hopefully, facilitator. As with all the Art in the Park facilitators, I also from them in their expertise, with Freya bringing a dynamic, fun, curious enthusiasm to this year’s summer pop-up, while making sure every kid that stops by feels valued and seen, even for a short 5-10 minute activity. Some activities included brainstorming a dream garden through chalk, experiencing the sharing garden by mixing sensory textures and smells in nature play dough, making seed bombs of all geometric shapes, and scavenger hunts in and out of the sharing garden to learn about what’s growing.
  • In addition to Fresh Roots staff and plants that come through the office, by summer, the fieldhouse is another hub for our SOYL youth to learn steward the land and engage with the community. Even just by comparing their first visit to their last visit in the fieldhouse, you can see the impact of the schoolyard farms as a place to learn and build confidence and community in each youth. This year, the youth came by Norquay Park to learn and help with the sharing garden, do a workshop at the fieldhouse, utilize their creativity to draw what they saw at Norquay Park, and come together to draft up SOYL logos in honour of our 10th anniversary!

Freya holding up some sprouted seed bombs for Art in the Park

Stage 5: Fruits

  • Possibly my favourite highlight each year is having the pleasure to work with students at the fieldhouse and pass on my skills and knowledge experiences of working within admin and nonprofits to equip others for their next career endeavours. Whether it’s through UBC’s LFS 496 program or VSB’s Work Experience program, the fieldhouse gives me the chance to be a mentor and a friend, something that would be lost if it weren’t for an in-person office space in a community-driven space (try teaching someone about databases in the middle of a schoolyard farm…). We had the pleasure of having Anmol, Carmen come through these programs in the spring and in the fall, Jia and Jindi have been supporting the behind-the-scenes at the office. Through the learning opportunities offered through the fieldhouse, it’s been encouraging for me to see the payoff in my follow-up conversations with these former students. Although admin work can be admittedly repetitive, I’m really grateful for every student that comes through and even more encouraged by the ways they apply what they learned post-graduation.
  • In addition to the enjoying the harvest from our work with students at the fieldhouse, one recent harvest through the fieldhouse has been the community I’ve experienced through meeting other fieldhouse artists in residence. In the last year, I’ve visited Moberley Park Fieldhouse and Roundhouse Community Centre to connect with other fieldhouses to get to know the stories of impact at our respective communities, share our struggles and wins, and plan ahead to give the best to the community. Often, being at a fieldhouse can feel like an isolating experience of being a house in the middle of the park, so I’ve been extremely grateful for the community that we’ve cultivated in Norquay Park and now across the Lower Mainland at different fieldhouses!

SOYL youth at Norquay Park engaging in a drawing activity

As we wrap up the 10th anniversary of our schoolyard farms, I wanted to give a big thank you to every staff, student, community member, organization, and family in the neighbourhood who learned with us at Norquay Park this year and in the past decade. Thank you to the Parks Board allowing us to call Norquay Park our hub for all these years and the care and support you’ve given us.

As our offices prepare to come to a close and the Norquay Sharing Garden is all mulched up thanks to our LFS student Jindi, the life cycle of the fieldhouse arrives at it’s final stage – asleep in the park’s slumber, waiting for the first glimpse of the first snow drop flower at Norquay Park to start the cycle once again.


See you soon, old friends.

Sunchokes patiently waiting,

Hello from Norquay,



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:


Hello From Norquay – Off Season Harvest

Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve made an update from the Norquay Park fieldhouse, so I hope you’re doing well and staying warm in the final hurrah of winter. For me, I’ve been bustling around in between the office and the virtual work of operations and digital engagement. Although many people often correlate our work with the growing season, the off-season serves as fertile ground for non-conventional species to thrive. So, here is the quick, dirty rundown what’s been growing at the Norquay Park Fieldhouse below. (Also, check out Kat’s great blog about Fresh Roots’ off-season)


New season, new faces! We were so excited to welcome awesome human beings in our office space and schoolyard farms (and off site too!). For starters, if you were following along the Farmer’s Logs or been on the farms last year, you would know that Camille, being the incredible person they are, was housing a sweet little human in their body while also managing the farm team AND the Vancouver sites. Crazy, I know. For now, Camille and their little bean are having some much needed quality time while they’re on leave, so this season, it’s been such a delight to have Cheyanne stepping into the role of Acting Good Food Farm Manager in their absence.

You’ll get to learn more about Cheyanne through the season as we get farm updates from her, but here’s her bio to get you started:

Cheyanne has been working as a farmer since 2016, and is passionate about creating healthy and resilient communities through sustainable, small-scale farming. She studies western herbalism in her spare time and can be found crafting all sorts of herbal potions in her home kitchen. Future plans include blending her two passions by starting a medicinal herb farm.

In addition to Cheyanne, another familiar face that you’ll get to know is Anmol, our newest LFS 496 student to help with all things admin and farm as the growing season starts. I’ve asked Anmol to introduce herself so take it away, Anmol 🙂

Hi everyone!!

This is Anmoljeet Kaur. I have got the opportunity to be part of the Fresh Roots team through the LFS 496 to work as an Admin and Farm Assistant.

Well, I am extremely excited to learn new skills and be on the farm!!

A few things about me, I am a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and I am currently pursuing a Master of Land and Water systems. I love to read about soil health, urban farming, regenerative agriculture, and waste management. I have worked on some research projects back home in India, quite of few focused on farm pest control and intercropping using indigenous practices. I am good at making traditional farm nutrient formulations and trained in mushroom cultivation and commercial horticulture. This summer, I will be working on my major project “Capturing nutrients from waste”. Apart from that, I am a great cook. I have got a great hand in making a bunch of Indian curries. Have a look!!

If you see Cheyanne or Anmol around on site, definitely give them a community welcome. We love meeting new folks in the community! With hiring wrapping up, you’ll also get to see more new faces around as seasonal staff get onboarded, so stay tuned for more updates.

Seed Inventory

At the beginning of the season, we were also welcomed by a big box of seeds. With all the kids and youth that engage on the schoolyard farms in addition to markets and CSA’s, and of course, the Norquay Park sharing garden, you can imagine the amount of veggies we need every season. That’s why we’re super grateful for our friends at West Coast Seeds for their ongoing support to let us hundred of veggies and varieties for students and community members alike to learn and enjoy through our farm-based educational programs!

Although there are lots cool seeds to choose from, my favourites from this batch are the cucamelons and rainbow cauliflower. For those that have never encountered this unicorn of a fruit, cucamelons look like mini watermelons and are like the mini 2nd cousin, twice removed, of cucumbers in taste. I like pretending that I’m a giant that munching down on a watermelon patch so I can see why its a camp favourite! Another veggie that catches people’s eyes, especially at last year’s market and the sharing garden, are the purple graffiti cauliflowers. It almost feels like it was the product of a funky science experiment, but in fact, it is naturally occurring. The bright purple comes from anthocyanin, the same antioxidant also found in red cabbage. This year, to our surprise, we received some bonus bright orange cauliflower seeds! Similar to purple, these varieties come from a surplus of beta-carotene, the antioxidant you find in carrots and sweet potatoes. Look out for cucamelongs and these fun cauliflower on our schoolyard farms and potentially the sharing garden!


Lately, we’ve also been working together as a team to make the office space at the fieldhouse look great. Every season, we get hit with a hurricane of programs and seasonal staff. And every year, the office unfortunately faces the aftermath at the end of the season. Through the team’s efforts, we made great breakthroughs in the organization of the space, which will be great as we have some exciting partnerships with the sharing garden coming up.

More to come with Norquay Park’s fieldhouse. Until our next update, enjoy these snow drops that have made a return in the snow at Norquay Park.


Seedlings of the new season.

Hello from Norquay,




LFS 496 Summer Internship Reflections

By Crystal Mai, Community Education Facilitator

As the Community Education Facilitator at Fresh Roots for the last three months, I have received numerous opportunities to challenge myself, learn, and improve my professional skills in food systems, marketing, and youth and community education. At the same time, I have also been given many opportunities to practice my soft skills in public speaking, project management, communication, and digital designs. Regardless of the professional or soft skills I have gained and improved, they are both transferrable to my future career paths. Meanwhile, they serve as the prototyping experience of my internship. They enable me to prepare for my future job by allowing me to practice and apply my school knowledge in real-world contexts. I feel fulfilled and grateful for not only receiving a taste of the real world and meeting new people and starting to build my networking, but also for figuring out what I want to do after graduation and having more confidence.

It offered me a taste of what life was like in the real world

While working on projects with classmates was beneficial, it lacked practical application compared to what I encountered in a real-world workplace. I noticed significant differences between working in a classroom or school atmosphere and working in the real world. Part of my internship role helped support the Fresh Roots: Before the Sunset Annual Fundraising Event. Researching and reaching out to possible auction sponsors has led me to collaborate with various stakeholders, including food companies, beverage manufacturers, and cafes. Writing social media promotion posts for sponsored companies has allowed me to hone my marketing, communication, and digital design skills. Overall, the experience has enabled me to approach projects in ways I would not have considered otherwise. I will also take these valuable skills to my future employment, as one of my potential career paths is to become a Marketing Specialist. Furthermore, I realized that my intern work also impacted Fresh Roots, which gave me a great sense of pride.

It built my confidence and helped me explore what I wanted to do after graduation

Doing this internship exposed me to many different aspects of my field of study regarding Food Systems, Nutrition, and Health. It helped me realize the areas I excelled at and needed to develop more. For example, I am proficient in providing nutrition knowledge and spreading the word about healthy eating to community members and youth. While, I will work hard to enrich my understanding and application in sustainable farming and ecology, which is more related to the food systems part. By facilitating the field trips and day camps at David Thompson and VanTech Schoolyard farms, I was also able to try out different farming tools and learn new skills (e.g., weeding) along the way. I will leverage these experiences to motivate me to become an advocate for Food Systems Education for the youth. This also serves as another career path for me, as I would like to become a youth educator.

Interning at Fresh Roots helped me discover two career paths that I am passionate about, and they both provided me the chance to learn and grow within the perspective fields.


Norquay Sharing Garden | One Step Further to Elevate Community Food Security

By Crystal Mai, Community Education Facilitator

Hello everyone! My name is Crystal, and I’m entering my fourth year and studying Food, Nutrition, and Health at the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. I am very happy to volunteer at Fresh Roots this summer an LFS 496 student, a faculty-led practicum course.

My favourite vegetable is zucchini. I love to stir-fry it with some black peppers and salts. In the meantime, I love watching K-dramas and snowboarding! Going for a walk during the golden sunset hours near the Wrench Beach at UBC is another enjoyable activity for me. Going forward, I am very excited to be involved in the planting at the Norquay sharing garden, the organization of the Before Sunset Annual Fundraiser event, and other entertaining park activities. Meanwhile, I will be assisting the Experiential Learning Teams with field trips and day camps. It will be a fulfilling and meaningful journey because I will be exposed to many great opportunities to connect with different people, neighbours, foods, and lands. I am hoping to improve the community’s food security level, bringing us one step closer to ending world hunger.

Photo Credited to Elaine Casap on Unsplash


You may wonder what a sharing garden is? 

Norquay sharing garden is one of the community sharing gardens in Vancouver, where we offer fresh produce to everyone who needs it. Members of the neighbourhood volunteer their time to care for one growing area. Food grown in the garden is shared with members and/or individuals outside the community. Additional produce may be donated to local food banks and other organizations assisting household food security. 

Feel free to check out other sharing gardens in town also working towards community food security if Norquay is not near your neighbourhood. 


The benefits of a sharing garden are more than just harvesting foods.

From a psychological perspective, sharing gardens creates a win-win situation for all participants. Growers passionate about cultivating the land can be confident that their efforts have made a difference since their food feeds people in their local communities and beyond. Sharing gardens may also foster great sentiments of belonging and respect among all community members, as they provide satisfaction and fulfillment through teamwork and sustained effort.

From a food security perspective, sharing gardens utilize urban farming strategies to increase food security by promoting locally grown food and social and ecological connections. Urban farming has many benefits, including boosting biodiversity, using under-utilized spaces, and feeding needy households. It stimulates the local food economy by producing green employment, growing skills, and shortening food supply chains, which reduces hunger in the long term (Valley et al., 2019).


Let’s take a closer look at what our sharing garden looks like!

Spring and summer are the best time for seeding! In May, the Experiential Learning and Youth Empowerment team at Fresh Roots came together to weed, prune, and plant veggies for community members. Check out pictures of them in action!

Everyone can benefit from the sharing garden as we grow our own foods, share with and donate to people who need it. Volunteer gardeners can acquire practical growing skills, while community members can be fed.  

Let’s make some perfect bedding for plants to germinate in order to feed more people in the community when harvest time comes!

It was a new experience for me to plant things at the sharing garden! I planted cauliflowers and pepper leaves and I’m very excited to see them grow and harvest!

You are welcome to visit our sharing garden (Norquay Park – 5050 Wales Street) over the summer and take any fresh veggies and fruits available as you need! Stay tuned for more of our seasonal harvests:

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Norquay sharing garden, where I have learned practical gardening skills while assisting the neighbourhood in improving food security, bringing us even closer to stopping the world’s hunger.



Valley, W., & Wittman, H. (2019). Beyond feeding the city: The multifunctionality of urban farming in vancouver, BC. City, Culture and Society, 16, 36-44.


Hello From Norquay – Art in the Park (part 2)

And that’s a wrap! We had a wonderful time these last few months getting creative with nature for our Art in the Park programming at Norquay Park, led by our very own Molly from the Fresh Roots EL team. Thank you to the amazing kids and families who stopped by to do arts and crafts with us, including familiar faces from our experiential learning programs on our schoolyard farms.

What is Art in the Park? Check out our previous Norquay blog to learn more.


This past summer, Molly guided our participants through an array activities, exploring topics of gardening, sustainability, and the environment at Norquay Park. During our first week, we made seed bombs, which proved to be a popular activity as it returns again later in the season and also made a guest appearance at Fresh Roots’ McSpadden County Fair booth. We’re excited for the many flowers that will emerge from these “rebellious” acts of kindness!

Another fan-favourite was nature playdough! Playdough was made from common kitchen ingredients and dyed with natural ingredients such as turmeric and matcha, empowering participants to make their own fun rather than buying it manufactured from the store. Kids loved setting their imagination free, including creating veggies found in the park’s sharing garden.

Finally, another Art in the Park activity for an eco artist in your life are these nature paintbrushes. Repurposing string, and sticks and leaves around Norquay Park, we created works of art for participants to take home – highlighting the unique textures and shapes of different leaves that add excitement into their paintings.

Hope you all have fun trying these activities out as we’ve had holding Art in the Park at Norquay. As the season winds down, we hope to make arts and crafts with you at the park next summer!


Norquay arts and crafts,

Summer fun led by Molly.

Hello from Norquay,



Try this at home!

What’s next for Art in the Park? As the weather gets a little wetter and a little colder, we’re bringing Art in the Park to you, online! Try this activity next time you’re at Norquay Park, or from the comforts of your home!

This tree made from leaves found around Norquay Park. Use this picture above (or print out the worksheet here: Art in the Park – Leaf Tree) and try to match each leaf to its corresponding tree name. Think back to all the trees you have seen at Norquay Park. Using our senses, we can find all of them!!

*Answer Key below, no peeking!!*


  • What shape is the leaf? Round? oval? teardrop? heart shaped? 
  • How big is it? Is it as small as a blueberry? Is it as big as your hand?
  • What texture is it? Is it smooth, slippery, bumpy, spikey, fuzzy,  or waxy?
  • Are the edges smooth or bumpy? Are they serrated (like a bread knife or a saw)?
  • Does it smell? Some leaves like cedar give off a strong memorable scent.
  • Does it have any nuts or fruit? It’s much easier to tell what an apple tree looks like when there are apples on it!
  • Is there a pattern? Are there a specific number of points on each leaf? A specific number of leaves on each segment?
  • Have you seen it before in a different context? Like in a picture or on a flag?

Answer Key:

  1. Cedar: cedar leaves are bumpy and segmented. They smell very nice.
  2. Apple: apple leaves are oval shaped with a pointy end. The edges are serrated.
  3. Ash: European ash has long pointed leaves. There are many different varieties of Ash.
  4. Lilac: lilac leaves are heart shaped. They have pretty purple flowers in the Spring.
  5. Oak: oak leaves are wavy and shiny. They accompany acorns in the Autumn.
  6. Maple: maple leaves have five pointed ends, a maple leaf is on the Canadian flag.

Hello from Norquay – Art in the Park

Reflections from the Sharing Garden

The signs in the Norquay Park Sharing Garden are up! As I mentioned in the last update, we’re so excited to see folks from around the neighbourhood take part in the humble harvest that our small garden in the middle of the park outpours for the community – definitely come by if you still haven’t checked it out.

It fills my tender heart to see the red, rosy cheeks of the raspberries smile back and lengthy arms of the beets and turnips stretching out across their bed when I go out for a morning watering session. This has become a highlight in my day as I begin to spend more time in the fieldhouse as more COVD-19 restrictions ease up. All so often, especially during this busy season for Fresh Roots, we can get tangled in the art of getting by. Like busy bees, we fly from site to site, pollinating the programs on our schoolyard farms, hoping to produce rich fruit within each camper or youth we have the pleasure of learning from. Moments like these, watering and harvesting, remind me to stop and take the time to celebrate what we have accomplished as a community and look ahead to what is to come.

There’s a lot to look forward to at Fresh Roots, including our Backyard Harvest Dinner with Friends in a few weeks, and you’re invited! I’m also hoping to provide updates to what you can expect in the garden to harvest next month, so stay tuned for that.

New FREE Family-friendly Drop-In Sessions!

Norquay has become the common ‘hive’ for many of our paths intersect, for both Fresh Roots staff and park goers. Perhaps you’ve wondered about our educational programs or wanted to find out more about what we’re all about. Introducing Fresh Roots’ newest addition to Norquay Park – Norquay Art in the Park!

Starting this Thursday, kids, families, and artists of all ages are welcomed to stop by our booth at Norquay Park by the playground for garden-focused arts and crafts straight from our Summer Camps! Led by Molly, one of our experiential learning experts from Camp Fresh Roots, get a taste of our educational schoolyard farms with a fun and creative environmentally-friendly activity that you can take home. This week, we will be making seed bombs!

For more information, follow along our posts on social media:

Norquay Art in the Park

Time: 10:45 AM to 12:45 PM

Where: Norquay Park (by the playground)

Admission: Free drop-in


  • Thursday, July 29
  • Friday, August 6
  • Friday, August 13
  • Friday August 27
  • Friday, September 3
  • Friday September 10
  • Friday September 24

*COVID-19 precautions and practices will be followed to ensure the safety of all participants

Hope to see you there,

For the first Art in the Park!

Hello from Norquay,




Hello from Norquay: Sharing is Caring

The concept of a food sharing garden was first introduced to me a few years ago, back when I was a Fresh Roots intern. I recall eating lunch in the fields with my team and talking about forests in Japan where anybody could come to pick the fruit and produce that grew in these designated areas. I remember us dreaming big – wondering if this was not only possible in the urban jungles of Vancouver, but whether this idea could be practically realized through Fresh Roots one day. We admittedly shared many musings and crazy ideas for the future of our little organization; after all, sharing is caring, and so, you can imagine my wide-eyed excitement as I first stood in the middle of Norquay Park, harvesting rhubarb in the Norquay Park Food Sharing Garden.

Perhaps you are like me and this is the first food sharing garden that you’ve been to. Our team has come up with 3 simple guidelines to get you started (available in other languages!):

  1. Find “PICK ME” signs to show what’s ready to eat
  2. Only walk on the pathways so plants don’t get hurt
  3. Take what you need AND leave some for others, too!

In addition to sharing food, we hope that the Norquay garden will be a place where we as a community can share ideas, just as I once did with the team and continue to do on our schoolyard farms. We tend the Norquay garden throughout the growing season, so come by and say hi! We’d love to hear about your plants and hear your stories as we partake in the feast of what it means to be a community.

And that’s it! You are now a sharing garden expert, so on behalf of the team, I invite you to visit the Norquay Park Food Sharing Garden. Currently, we have kohlrabi, raspberry leaves for tea, and my personal favourite – rhubarb (and more to come!)

In honour of National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day today on June 9th, I can’t wait to use my Norquay harvest in a very ap-PIE-tizing (here is the recipe for those that want to join me in the celebration: We look forward to seeing your tasty creations from the Norquay Garden as I look forward to showing you my pie and highlighting more plants that you can harvest in the next Norquay update. After all, sharing is caring.

“Pick me” – the garden,

Make strawberry rhubarb pie.

Hello from Norquay,




Hello from Norquay: Pass the pink popcorn!

Spring is in full bloom at the fieldhouse! To think that less than a month ago, these flowers that crown the streets of Vancouver were merely kernels on barren branches. Now, they are sweetened by the rich fragrance of pink popcorn in the air, the perfect treat to celebrate the release of a new season, both inside and outside of the Norquay fieldhouse. Here are three of many things to celebrate about spring time at Fresh Roots:

1. Here’s to the season to populate. It’s exciting to see our team grow, whether it’s meeting new faces virtually or exchanging smiles through our masks in-person from a safe distance. More welcomes to come as we continue our hiring process! (Click here for our current job openings)

2. Here’s to the season to pop up. Thanks to the amazing farm team, the gardens are coming to life before our very eyes! This includes our very own Norquay community gardens, freshly cleaned up, all thanks to great volunteers. Stay tuned to watch new signs ‘pop up’ in Norquay park soon.

3. Finally, here’s to the season of popsicles. In a rare last few weeks for ‘Raincouver’, the sun is out and we can’t wait for the bright future ahead for Fresh Roots as it looks to be another stellar growing season ahead! The sunny weather has also sparked some fun, summer-inspired activities to potentially come to the Norquay fieldhouse. More on that and other updates to come in next month’s Norquay update. Until then, pass the pink popcorn!

Pop, pop, pop it goes,
A toast to the new season!
Hello from Norquay,