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Cup of tea with calendula, mint, kale flowers, adn chive straw

New Transitions at ¿uuqinak’uuh Grandview’s School Garden

As we say goodbye to students at ¿uuqinak’uuh Grandview’s School Garden, I am delighted to share the changes and transitions bringing renewed energy and inspiration to the garden for the upcoming school year.

For the last few years, Fresh Roots has been drafting and imagining how to integrate the ¿uuqinak’uuh Grandview School Garden program we have been stewarding into the fabric of the surrounding effervescent Grandview-Woodland community and Indigenous cultures. Those rooted in the local community are best poised to lead the programs to flourish and intertwine with the energy already there.

So, I am delighted to share that the school garden program funded by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is being passed on to Grandview-Woodland Food Connection. Specifically, Victoria Buffalo Robe and Ruth Elizabeth Briggs are welcoming the garden into their fold of other food security and Indigenous gardens they steward. A full list of their summer programs, including the Britannia Bulk Buy Food Club and Nature’s Helpers at the Nexway̓ s wa lh7áy̓ nexw (Transformed Life Garden) and šxʷqʷeləwən ct (One Heart One Mind Garden) can be found here. Sharlene Singh at SPEC has been instrumental in navigating this transition, sharing her experiences and insights teaching in school gardens.

We look forward to seeing the changes and depth of programming to come in the school garden, many of which have already started! Victoria has engaged the students in connecting with and learning from the land and plants, slowing down to observe, focusing on Indigenous foods and medicines, and social-emotional well-being outside. Sharlene has re-engaged the students in responsibility and respect for the garden, demonstrating that growing takes patience and care. And, there is more to come.

Victoria and I said goodbye and congrats to this year’s students through tea at the school’s Indigenous Day celebration. Victoria brought a mix of harvested medicine plants to make iced tea and warm tea, and students could add their favourites from the garden. Victoria also brought calendula petals, which she described as “all-around medicine for kids.” That’s exactly what the school garden is—medicine for the students, healing and nurturing them for years to come.

 

Thank you cards from students to Fresh Roots

 

Grandview Garden

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Looking to Volunteer? Join Our Big Help on April 16th!

IN TWO WEEKS! We’re urgently looking for volunteers to help us kick off the growing season in our first Big Help volunteer party of 2024: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/schoolyard-farm-volunteer-big-help-tickets-876050830617

Date: Tuesday, April 16th

Drop-in Times: 4-6pm

Location: David Thompson schoolyard farm

(1755 East 55th Ave – at the intersection of 55th Ave and Argle St)

More upcoming Big Help dates & general info on our website: https://freshroots.ca/volunteer/

We need a minimum of 3 sign ups, so invite your friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers to work together with other community members to support kids and youth on schoolyard farms!

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Summer Fun and Growth: My Experience Working with Kids at Fresh Roots

By Fahima Mohibi, Day Camp Staff

In this blog post, I’ll share my exciting summer job experience at Fresh Roots, a local organization that focuses on food education and urban farming. Their commitment to developing healthy relationships with food, sustainable farming methods, and experiential learning to empower young people.

Fresh Roots camp is an incredible experience that combines fun, learning, and connection with nature. As a staff member at Fresh Roots Camp, my responsibilities included primarily responsible for implementing camp programming, engaging kids in fun and educational activities, plan activities and create or acquire program materials, ensuring their safety, assisting with garden maintenance, facilitating educational and recreational programs, and fostering a positive and inclusive environment for all the campers.

Working with kids is fun and I love it that no single day at Fresh Roots is the same. Every day we have different schedule and different activities. Every week you will be having different group of kids and from different age. Everyday was filled with exciting activities like arts and crafts, sports, nature exploration, and field trips every week. Cooking once a week and making snack from our garden. Being around kids inspires and energises me, especially when I get to see the world from their perspective and indulge their curiosities alongside them. I admire children’s, honesty, creativity, endless energy, resilience, kindness.

What did I learn from my summer?

Working with children is incredibly fulfilling and a fantastic method to gain important knowledge. I’ve learned a lot about childcare from growing up in a large family, including the specific attention that needs to be given to foster effective communication and balanced respect for one another. And many other valuable skills such as communication and leadership skills, enhance problem-solving abilities, and improve my patience and adaptability and I gain a deeper understanding of child development. I learn to work as part of a team and cultivate a sense of empathy and compassion.

How do I see it influencing my career path or future goals?

Working in a summer camp with kids can have a positive impact on my career path or future goals as I want to be a law enforcement officer. It helped me to develop essential skills like effective communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving, which are crucial in law enforcement. Working with children can enhance my ability to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and build trust within communities. Overall, the experience can provide valuable insights and skills that can contribute to my success in a career in law enforcement.

What is the impact of Fresh Roots on the community?

Fresh Roots has a big impact on the community! They bring people together teach about sustainable farming and provide access to healthy food. They also create opportunities for volunteering and organizing events. Overall Fresh Roots helps build stronger and more resilient communities.

Lasting Memories

It’s a job that’s full of laughter, adventure, and the chance to make a difference. Amazing summer with the little ones.  I loved seeing the kids’ faces light up with joy and hearing their laughter. It was so rewarding to be a part of their summer adventures and watch them grow and learn new things. Plus, the friendships I made with both the kids and the fellow colleagues were priceless. It was definitely a summer to remember.

JOIN THE TEAM: 

Want to join our team? Job opportunities are open now: https://freshroots.ca/about/job-opportunities/

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Being a Day Camp Staff with Fresh Roots

By Kira Slykhuis, Day Camp Staff & SOYL Alumni

Out of all the amazing experiences I had over the summer, my favourite part with working with Camp Fresh Roots was getting to meet so many funny, kind and creative children.

To Be a Great Fresh Roots Staff, You Must…

  • Be open-minded
  • Be kind
  • Be patient
  • Be able to adapt
  • Be fun!
  • Try your best!

5 Awesome Things About Camp Fresh Roots

  • Fun environment for staff and campers!
  • Diverse activities and games
  • Field trips
  • Farming
  • Cooking and baking with fresh ingredients from our farm!

I learnt a lot over the summer. Camp Fresh Roots and Fresh Roots in general gave me the opportunity to improve many skills in an environment where I felt safe and okay to make mistakes as they are apart of learning! I enjoyed my memorable summer facilitating and having a good time with campers!

 

More about being part of the Fresh Roots staff community:

Kira is one of the amazing SOYL alumni, now staff, who shared their personal journeys and how Fresh Roots has made a lasting impact in our new video. Learn more about Kira’s path and others:

Special thanks to www.upperstoryfilms.com

 

Join the team: 

We’re so excited for Kira to be on the Fresh Roots staff team again this summer. Want to join us? Job opportunities are open now: https://freshroots.ca/about/job-opportunities/

 

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IT’S THYME for Climate Resilience!

✨REASON #10 to donate to Fresh Roots this giving season: Climate Resilience!

DONATE HERE: https://freshroots.ca/its-thyme-year-end-fundraiser/

Introduction

What is the recipe to build the sustainable, inclusive, resilient communities of the future? 

We can’t just tell the next generation how to be agents of change in the face of a bleak climate crisis future. They need to see, feel and experience what is possible. And they need the confidence and capabilities to know they can build it. I am truly humbled by the learning and growth I see each season in the kids and youth who participate in Fresh Roots programs and join our summer team. 

We asked a few of our summer employees, who were also SOYL program alumni, if they’d want to share a bit about their personal journeys. We were so moved by all they had to say. Please take a moment to watch. They give me so much hope.

“Fresh Roots taps into hidden potential of each person. In school systems, a lot of people like me who are looked at as the quiet kid, get overlooked and be like they’re just anxious, they’re just shy. When really it’s like they’re not given the right environment to actually grow and become the person they could be. This program is really good for those kids, like me. I needed it.” – Kira, SOYL Alumni & Camp Staff Team

– Alexa, Executive Director at Fresh Roots

Donate Today!

We are 84% of our way to our goal of raising $40,000 to get kids and youth learning and growing on schoolyard farms! Can you help us get there?

? 6 people donating $100 supports a stipend for one 6-week summer SOYL youth participant to learn and grow.

? 10 people donating $30 allows one family in financial need to send their child to camp

Fresh Roots Stories: SOYL Alumni VIDEO

Meet a few of the amazing SOYL alumni, now staff, as they share their personal journeys and how Fresh Roots has made a lasting impact. From their own transformative experiences to the meaningful connections with kids, youth, and the wider community they support – get ready to dive into the inspiring stories that drive their commitment and passion for positive change.

Special thanks to www.upperstoryfilms.com

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Back to Our Roots: Malcolm

By Vivian Cheung, Operations & Digital Engagement Specialist

As you may know, this year is a time 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 through our 10th Anniversary blog interview series called ‘Back to Our Roots’. We’re 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 2016, Fresh Roots partnered with Suwa’lkh School to develop what is now the Suwa’lkh Medicine Garden, Healing Forest, and Orchard. One of the key leads in making this happen was Malcolm Key, the Aboriginal Youth Program Coordinator at Suwa’lkh at the time. Currently, Malcolm is an Indigenous Education Enhancement Worker with the Vancouver School Board, working to design, develop, and implement outdoor educational programs through an Indigenous lens, which includes working with the LunchLAB team at Norquay Elementary. For our next interview, Jaimie, our Suwa’lkh Farm and Education Lead, sat down with Malcolm to discuss about the origins of Suwa’lkh and Fresh Roots partnership, how the site has changed but continues to impact Indigenous youth, a thoughtful exchange on stewardship in the past, the present, and looking forward to the future.


Malcolm Key with students in the Suwa’lkh Outdoor Classroom

I have a few questions that they would like me to ask for the 10th anniversary and how you’ve started at Suwa’lkh. The first one is not related to anything Suwa’lkh at all – what vegetable do you feel like today? 

I feel like a beet, as in the “beat” must go! 

How did you learn about and get connected with Fresh Roots? 

That’s a good question. It takes me back to when we started the process, the idea about building out an Indigenous garden… The Principal of Indigenous Education at the time there saw that my background was in outdoor, adventure-based learning and so we matched up my skill set to facilitate an outdoor education program…

One piece of that work was a partnership with Outward Bound Canada to facilitate outdoor adventure-based learning, but not all kids want to go off into the mountains, onto the rivers, or into the ocean for those types of adventures…This was where the idea about creating the Suwa’lkh Medicine Garden started – let’s make opportunities to connect to the land as accessible as possible and let’s start thinking about building out a garden that would provide opportunities for youth to learn how to grow food, learn how to utilize flora and fauna for their medicinal, spiritual and nutritional purposes.

I started researching around and started seeing that there was something going on with the Vancouver School District, with an organization called Fresh Roots. …We went to Van Tech to see what this farm-to-school program was doing with Fresh Roots and instantly got pretty inspired about that work, that wow, this type of collaboration is something that is very successful. I was really inspired by the partnership that was created between the school district and an external community-based organization… Once you could see that was doable, then it was like, okay, we have to start sourcing funding to start purchasing capital investment for site preparation of the space at Suwa’lkh, and then also things like the greenhouse.  

We needed somebody as a year-round steward of the garden and somebody that could help facilitate the components of the garden program in partnership with the school in partnership with the Indigenous Education department there, so Fresh Roots was an ideal partner for that. They had expertise in navigating through a school district, experience working with the Vancouver School District at the time, and expertise in facilitating gardening programs and all those types of things that go with it…

I’m certainly happy to know that years later, that Suwa’lkh is still there. Suwa’lkh School’s Medicine Garden is such an integral part of the department there and the Coquitlam School District. You mention that the salmon returning is just super incredible to know, that all those things that we thought about all those years ago, to see them actually happening, that salmon are returning, that nature is playing its role in all this and returning to the ways that it’s always done for eons. 

Malcolm teaching about sacred plant medicines with Vancouver SOYL youth

It’s awesome to keep hearing how this small space has grown over the past to what it is now. It’s so amazing to see!

…It was interesting coming back into the school district after COVID and seeing how much social anxiety there was, how much disconnect to each other because of that experience. A lot of youth suffered a lot for just that kind of social connectedness with each other, that sense of belonging. I really see now how important it is for our youth to get a connection to the land because it is such a common denominator for everybody. 

You’re not measured by your socioeconomic circumstances. You’re not measured by any other way. You are just connected to the land. That’s such an important thing, that kids can feel like they’re accepted just on that ground alone. That’s so important now as we move forward beyond COVID and having a healing space that’s land-based. It’s so important for our kids at this time of where we’re at. 

That’s a great segue into the next question. It’s about the healing forest – how and why did you want to establish the forest? 

It was interesting because when you look at babies and children, there is a natural gravitation towards water. Water is such a life source. It’s something that we have a connection to.

Once in a while, I would poke into the forest at Suwa’lkh to look at the beautiful creek there. I remember looking into the forest in June and it would be hot out in the park and grass area, but you go into the forest, it’s nice and cool. It just had a feeling of nurturing your spirit in there. Initially, I started thinking that it would be really nice to do something in this forest that the kids can go in there, maybe with an interpretation trail that they can walk around. It’s a place for the kids if school is challenging, they can go out and reset, and just be out in the forest and take a time out or just take some space. It would be a place where they can just go and feel like they’re grounded on Mother Earth. 

There was this vision to create an outdoor classroom. I’m an adult and I get annoyed being in a classroom that’s fluorescent lights and all this kind of stuff. To me, that’s almost a distraction. There’s all this stuff on the walls and I would feel like you’re more focused when you’re in the forest, so it just seems like a more natural space to be at. Then again, there’s a sense of calm when you’re in the forest. That is a nice kind of energy to create if you’re doing educational classes.

…It was nice to see that those things came to fruition and that forest is being utilized as it is now, that the salmon regeneration program is well underway. Seeing this become as successful as it is really something! 

Yeah, some of them even now, you can see them fidgeting a lot in the classroom and one of the first things that they’re asked is “Do you need to walk in the forest?”. Once they’re in there, it’s like an instant calm comes over them and it’s so amazing to see. 

When we realize that we have two mothers, the mother that brought you into this world, and then you have a Mother Earth, and that you can go and be with Mother Earth for a little while, it is such a nurturing and healing kind of experience that a lot of people can’t put their fingers on it. There is something there that gives them a sense of calm.

Suwa’lkh student offering cedar to the salmon stream

The last question which is the reason why it all started – what is the impact have you’ve seen with Fresh Roots since this partnership started and even today? 

Fresh Roots, the organization and their vision for the work that they do, is such an inspiration. They are over the target when it comes to the work that I see that’s important, the work that I’ve done in the past and also the work that I’m continuing to do now. I’ve actually been replicating quite a bit of the work that I did at Coquitlam now with the Vancouver School District, so that includes a partnership with Outward Bound Canada here, but it also now includes a new partnership with Fresh Roots out here in Vancouver. What’s really full circle in many ways is that it was the Coquitlam Indigenous Education Department going to Vancouver to see what Vancouver’s doing with the farm-to-school program and this past June, I’m now bringing Vancouver School District’s Indigenous Education department out to see what Coquitlam has been doing.

Just to see this whole full cycle play its course is really something. The work that’s happened out at Coquitlam is now something that is what our department here is looking to replicate here, within the Vancouver School District. It really speaks to the power of a partnership alliance and a coalition. When you get the right partners together that have a shared vision of work that they want to achieve together, the benefits that each partner is able to contribute to the work, it magnifies it even more. It compounds it. 

For Fresh Roots, we’re able to provide access to a lot of students that they’re able to facilitate their knowledge with. From the school district perspective, having a partner like Fresh Roots coming in and utilizing their expertise and stewarding these types of garden programs, it can’t be done by the school district alone. It needs to have this type of a partnership arrangement and Fresh Roots is a premier organization on the West Coast of Canada that’s involved in this type of work. Anytime I think of that type of work, I think that Fresh Roots has to be involved in it. 

Amazing! Is there anything else that you want to share? 

… There’s a lot of feeling that there’s a sense of powerlessness that we can’t change things in this world. As we’re experiencing first hand climate change and all these things, I just think that if kids are able to grow some salmon, put it in a river and see a few years later that they’re returning, that’s an empowering experience for them that they feel that they have the power to change things. That’s so valuable for their journey going forward that that will engage them in their future to continue to try to find ways that they can make positive changes in this world. 

Baby salmon about to be released

In the spring, when we release them, we still have some of the youth with us at the school who did that and now that we’re seeing them return, they’re very excited.

Jaimie: They want to go out and check if more have come. Are they still there? Are they still alive? Are they swimming? That’s great to see that they want to go and check. They really care about what’s happening out there and it’s so great to see because at the time when they were in the classroom, they kind of were like, why are we doing this and it’s hard to explain when they’re tiny eggs. There’s nothing to physically show them at that point. The goal is that they’re going to return and the whole thing is going to start again. 

Now that they know this is why we did this, they’re super excited about the forest and what they can do to make more people care about the forest like picking up their garbage. They’ve already got a whole bunch of sign ideas that they want to put in there to let people know what we’re doing. It’s great to see how engaged they are with the forest now. 

Malcolm: This is the business that we’re in – to ignite a sense of passion for learning for our youth and hopefully, that passion for learning is a motivation for them to want to push on into some other things and realize that their learning in their high school years is just the start of a lifelong learning of whatever it is that they’re pursuing in their lives for their careers and whatnot. That type of work to motivate our youth, to become learners and want to learn more and do more, that’s what still drives me today. If we can get our youth out there and fully engaged, then we’re doing our jobs. 

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IT’S THYME for Suwa’lkh

✨REASON #9 to donate to Fresh Roots this giving season: Suwa’lkh! ✨

DONATE HERE: https://freshroots.ca/its-thyme-year-end-fundraiser/

Introduction

Suwa’lkh is one of Fresh Roots’s most important spaces for students to connect with food, the land, and community through Indigenous youth leadership on a weekly basis, as well as field trips, SOYL, and summer camp. Check out what Jaimie, our Suwa’lkh Farm and Education Lead has to say:

“Having the Suwa’lkh youth help with all aspects of the farm twice a week, we are building important connections with each other, the land, and the food we are growing. Throughout the season, youth are preserving herbs, learning about canning, and growing sacred medicines to be used in the school district. To see that the youth are enjoying being outside and growing food is amazing, and we’re encouraging them to eat more foods that they are harvesting. 

In addition, the food grown on our small site is making its way to people all over Coquitlam. Youth get the opportunity to give back through bunching and bagging vegetables for food donations. I love that we are able to have that impact on families in the district and hope that the youth learn to feel connected to the community through the work we are doing.”

Donate Today!

Support the work at Suwa’lkh by helping us fundraise to buy practical needs!

? 30 people donating $10 will supply children’s gardening gloves needed on site 

? 10 people donating $50 will supply more wheelbarrows to engage more youth at Suwa’lkh

Story of Fresh Roots at Suwa’lkh

Learn the history of Suwa’lkh and its lasting impact from Malcolm Key, one of the founders of the Suwa’lkh garden: https://freshroots.ca/back-to-our-roots-malcolm/

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IT’S THYME for Youth Empowerment!

✨REASON #7 to donate to Fresh Roots this giving season: Youth Empowerment! ✨

DONATE HERE: https://freshroots.ca/its-thyme-year-end-fundraiser/

Introduction

“What do you want to do when you’re older?” is an age-old question in society, yet for most young people this can be an overwhelming thought. For many it’s full of barriers. So, at Fresh Roots we take this question outside on our Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership (SOYL) where all are welcome on our schoolyard farms. Together we breathe some fresh air into that big question, mix in some sunshine, rain, mud, seeds and education to see what happens…

Over six weeks of SOYL in the summer and year-round in our after school program, youth from all walks of life get the chance to learn about food – how to grow, cook and sell it at local markets. Digging into meaningful connections with the land and each other, SOYL “grows more than just plants, it grows people” (SOYL participant). For their efforts, youth receive a stipend, a simple yet powerful form of recognition that supports and motivates youth to keep showing up on the farms, for themselves and their community. Many return to be SOYL mentors and increasing numbers are even becoming our summer camp staff! 

Whether youth leave knowing they might want to be a farmer one day or have no idea, the seeds of self-worth and confidence have been firmly planted and their mental health boosted: 

 “Personally, I have always had a lot of stage fright and feel anxious in environments with more people (especially when it comes to presenting). However, during SOYL I felt safe enough to want to present and talk to new people. I have also learned an extensive amount of information about nature and SOYL has contributed greatly to my environmental knowledge. I feel like I’ve grown more in 6 weeks of SOYL than a whole year of school!”

I have been able to gain a better idea of what my future might hold and the type of career (environmental sciences) I am interested in for the future”

 

Donate Today!

We are com’minting to raise $40,000 to get kids and youth learning and growing on schoolyard farms, and we need your help!

?6 people donating $100 supports a stipend for one 6-week summer SOYL youth participant to learn and grow.

?12 people donating $25 provides crucial training for summer staff on working with youth with neurodiversity and mental health challenges.

 

Impact of SOYL 2023

Join one of our Vancouver SOYL facilitators, Carolina, as she reflects on the importance of SOYL for the youth this season and also for herself: https://freshroots.ca/2023-soyl-stories/

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IT’S THYME for Work Experience!

✨ REASON #8 to donate to Fresh Roots this giving season: Work Experiences! ✨

DONATE HERE: https://freshroots.ca/its-thyme-year-end-fundraiser/

Introduction

“My journey with Fresh Roots began as an undergrad, in the early days when there was the schoolyard farm internship. Taking my academic understanding of biology and my experience in my family’s restaurant, Fresh Roots fostered and nurtured my strengths, transforming my outlook on science, career, and learning. It’s no wonder that I stayed volunteering at Fresh Roots for a few years before the opportunity arose to join the team as staff! Fresh Roots was and is more than just another work experience. Through deep connections and lots of potlucks, Fresh Roots gave me a taste of the power of community and in myself, building up my confidence and abilities in my formative young adult years. Even now I’m continuously being empowered to train and teach others on how to connect with the schoolyard farms. From supervising high school students to undergrad students every term and my years of non-profit administration, I love passing on what I have learnt and helping my peers expedite their professional development.

For us students, adults and adult volunteers – those who fall outside of the formal programming for elementary and secondary school – over the last decade, Fresh Roots has demonstrated a commitment to help us gain invaluable training and experience. We have been encouraged to explore and widen career possibilities as leaders and mentors, passing on knowledge and passion to the next generation to also become empowered food citizens. The fact that we see several SOYL alumni and former staff return each season speaks wonders to the impact that Fresh Roots has had on me and my peers. You really don’t get the depth of this feeling and impact at many other workplaces.”

– Vivian, former Intern, volunteer, and current Operations and Digital Engagement Specialist at Fresh Roots

 

Donate Today!

We are com’minting to raise $40,000 to get kids and youth learning and growing on schoolyard farms, and we need your help!

? 5 people donating $35 will purchase new rain gear and boots to have an hand for youth who don’t have the gear needed to stay warm and comfortable while working on the farms!

? 10 people donating $100 allows us to replace a clunky office laptop which is essential for work experience students to learn and work with!

 

Back to Our Roots with Jessica

Every summer, we hire youth ages 15-30 years old to gain valuable farm, education and youth experience. Check out Jessica’s story as the Market Lead in 2019: https://freshroots.ca/back-to-our-roots-jessica/