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#SOYLyouth 2021 – August

by August Sholcz, SOYL Suwa’lkh Mentor

I’m really glad I joined the SOYL program this year. Last year, the SOYL program was a lot of fun and so far, this year has been just as fun. This year is a little more challenging than last year but I love challenges.

I’ve learned to interact with everyone. I’m really enjoying being a mentor and helping out. I have my own little crew and I know each person individually. I get to help and answer questions if they ask. So far, I feel pretty confident in guiding my crew. There are a few who need some extra support, but it’s been pretty good. Since I’ve been in their situation before, I am able to better support them. I am able to ‘put my feet in their shoes’. We’ve learned quite a few different things. We’ve learned how to can vegetables, learned about Colony Farms, learned about the different kinds of soils, etc.

Like always, my highlight is the market. There is only one thing I dislike about markets, which is closing time. My favourite part is entering orders into the ordering machine and handling the money. Doing the market is extremely rewarding not just because of how much was sold, but also getting out of my comfort zone and talking with people. I love to organize the produce to make it look nice and appealing. For me, teaching customers about what we do and what the SOYL program stands for is a little difficult, but it’s great practice. I have definitely come a long way with interacting with others during the markets.

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Fiona

by Fiona Sutherland, SOYL Vancouver Mentor

As a mentor, I have loved seeing the growth and change this wonderful program has brought to not only my crewmates, but me as well. Watching everyone come out of their shells, take interest in farming, help the community, and expand their social circles has been so inspirational! Getting to know our wonderful SOYL youth this summer has been quite exciting, especially from a mentor point of view. I feel as if I have a lot more appreciation for the change and growth, I have seen from day one to now! Seeing the growth in myself is also incredibly exciting. I feel as if I learn more and more every year and I am so grateful for the opportunities this program has provided me with. My confidence in my own leadership skills is continuously growing as I receive feedback from our wonderful facilitators and help build on my current abilities. 

SOYL provides such an inclusive and fun environment to learn in, and this summer has helped me develop and foster crucial life and leadership skills. For example, I now find it much easier to take charge and help lead bigger groups. I feel a lot less afraid to give others gentle reminders and to step fully into my leadership position! SOYL has given me the confidence to trust my own decisions, leadership related or otherwise. I truly appreciate how SOYL brings hundreds of youth opportunities that are few and far between in our education system – not only does the program help prepare us for the workforce, but it gives us valuable information about the outside world and how to stand out amongst our diverse and talented peers. SOYL teaches youth how to bring positive change to our society, no matter big or small.

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Joaquin

by Joaquin Redo Rato, SOYL Vancouver Mentor

Several wonderful, fun hours of labor and toil have been spent on the farm here at SOYL! Today I will talk about what my crew, Crew C, and I have been up to these last few days. 

Here at the farm, we use organic practices meaning no pesticides are added to the farm. Unfortunately, we do have problems with pest which makes this an expensive endeavor. Invasive plant species also pose harm to us as they invade our fields and choke out our crops. That is why weeding them out of our soil is an important part of managing and growing crops.

My crew and I have been a leading front against the war on weeds. The youth here at SOYL work hard in the sun all morning to take out all the enemy plants up to their roots without complaint, only stopping for the occasional water break. Big or small, we get them – then we stuff them into a wheelbarrow which is dumped into the compost bin. We like to keep our farm nice and clean as it gives it a sense of organization, so we also try to pick off any stray leaves or grasses to make sure the ground is spotless. The rats have gotten to some of the ripe crops, so we are going to have to find a way to deal with them without the use of pesticides. Our main goal right now is to eradicate the problem of weeds by putting tarps and natural barriers to protect the farm crops from being choked, but we need to get rid of the existing weeds first to prevent spread.

That’s all for today’s report! Thanks for checking in.

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Caty

by Caty Janze, SOYL Vancouver Mentor

Growth is a huge part of SOYL, both explicitly through workshops and more implicitly through activities like gardening, cooking, and art. Both have strengths and weaknesses, and the combination of the two creates an environment that allows youth chances to become comfortable in areas they wouldn’t otherwise. 

We do workshop most days at SOYL on food security and sustainability, mental and physical health, and leadership and social enterprise. Although I’ve learned from each workshop, the social enterprise ones are the most challenging. Food workshops invite us to reflect on our values and our world, health workshops on how our minds and bodies work, while leadership/social enterprise workshops focus on our skills and how to market ourselves. The latter is difficult because saying good things about yourself is infinitely harder than quietly believing them; lending yourself to others opens you up to being misunderstood, or worse, being understood and still seen as inadequate. Why it’s uncomfortable is also exactly why it’s necessary. Confidence and self-knowledge are often conflated with arrogance and self-involvement, and so being allowed to speak well of yourself without fear of criticism is important for building those skills. 

The other defining part of what makes SOYL what it is is the activities! We do work around the farm, and we cook for community eats. These activities get us to move our bodies, enjoy being outdoors, and build community. They also let us practice skills we talk about in workshops. After all, you can’t cook without being confident you won’t start a grease fire.

Overall, SOYL has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have grown more confident in my leadership skills over the course of this year’s program and watching the youth form friendships and develop skills has been fantastic. 

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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Farmer’s Log, Seed Date September 1, 2021

Technically the title of this report is wrong. Sept 1 is not a seed-date this month, and there won’t be any more seed-dates for 2021. All our seeds and transplants are in the ground, fully germinated, and fate has been determined– sort of. The intended fate for our veggies is to land in CSA boxes and market shelves. This doesn’t always happen because of the pressure of pests, diseases, weeds, and theft. But I digress…

What a whirlwind of a month, August was. It’s peak harvest season, with a slew of intense heat, drought, and financial crunchiness. Meanwhile the administration team at Fresh Roots is hauling to raise funds so we can afford to operate everything from SOYL Programs across 3 sites in the lower mainland, to EL summer camp, not to mention farming vegetables. 

Although all the numbers aren’t quite in, I think the Backyard Harvest Dinner was a success, Fresh Roots having met our fundraising goal of 20K in pledges and silent auction bids (excluding ticket sales). It is such an epic feat to pull this kind of thing off. There is so much organizing, networking, communication, timing, collaboration, showmanship, and rather bad poetry (sorry-not-sorry). Witnessing Caroline Manuel (Communications), Vivian Cheung (Ops), and Alexa Pitoulis (our ED) pull the whole thing together was kind of like magic. That said, every single person on our core team pulled weight, whether it was packing dinner boxes, cooking for 50 people, or trucking equipment from 3 sites. 

The highlight of the fundraiser for me was the farm team planning our outfits. All season long we were very proud to imagine ourselves as a band called “Planting for Death” – a term I use to refer to re-planting holes where transplants have failed. The team loves to take the weird things I say (ie: “great,great,great,great,great;” “It’s fine, I’m fine, Everything is fine;” and other sayings not quite family-friendly enough to list) and turn them into songs. Well, not literal songs. We are more in our ‘concepts and planning’ phase. The only literal thing P4D has done was put together outfits, dye some eyebrows, and do a little dancing for a fundraiser. But you better trust that our literal outfits were literally epic. This Farm Momma doesn’t lie. 

Last week we said goodbye to our beloved Isobel, the part-time flower arranger and ponderer of deep, comical musings. We planted seeds of rebellion in her, and she is returning to school in Saskatchewan to mess up industrial agriculture. This month we will be bidding our Market Lead, Nico, adieu, as he returns to Ontario to connect (like, he is a dude who really connects) with the Food Security community out there. Piper, Mia and I (with an assist from Galen) will be holding down the fort on the farm and market scene until the third week of October when we will put the farm to sleep for the winter. 

September is my favourite month of all time. First of all, it’s my birthday month and I Thank-Mother I was born. Mushrooms begin to pop out, it’s sweater-weather, and the chill in the air cools down my summer-boiled temper. This is a moment when we still have all the wonderful fruiting veggies of the summer while the cool season crops come on, so we get to enjoy a cornucopia of diversity. I’m looking forward to filling our CSA Boxes and Market Shelves with a plethora of colours, shared with all of you.

-Farmer Camille

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Campers say Camp Fresh Roots is “Really Fun”

By Kat Vriesema-Magnuson, Experiential Learning Manager

We’ve heard from a number of Experiential Learning staff this year about their experiences on our team. This month, I thought we should turn it over to the most important members of the team: the kids. I interviewed campers during our EcoWonders camp at David Thompson, and here’s what they had to say:

What do you think about Camp Fresh Roots?

“It’s really fun.”- Multiple campers

“It’s very enjoyable.” – Age 9

“I never knew we would be cooking this much and I really like cooking.” – Age 7

What’s your favourite part?

“Cooking. We made curry and rice and brownies.” – Age 8

“The brownies.” – multiple campers

“The Curry. It had swiss chard, potatoes, and carrots.” – Age 10

“My favourite part is that we get to make food and harvest and learn all the types of plants” – Age 7

“We do lots of different games and fun things”. – age 6

“I like the games. My favourite is Fruit Salad. That’s all you need to know from me.” – age 6

What is Camp Fresh Roots about?

“It’s about plants and games and arts & crafts and fun.”- Age 7

“It’s about the environment and helping” – Age 8

“It’s all about nature and plants and learning about them. There’s lots of nature here.” – Age 7

Well, that about sums it up. Camps will be over for the year in just a couple weeks, but we’re already gearing up to welcome field trips in late September and October. After a much needed rest!

Oh, and that brownie recipe the kids all love? It’s easy, vegan, made with zucchini, and extremely delicious. You can find it here: https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Healthy-Zucchini-Brownies-31120011

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Austin

by Austin Webber, SOYL Vancouver Mentor

As a mentor in SOYL, I have witnessed so much growth in a short time of three weeks. Members and mentors of the program have grown so much in this packed three weeks of the program and will continue to learn and grow. In the beginning, members and mentors, including myself, were a bit shy and didn’t want to introduce themselves. But, by the end of the first day, everyone got more comfortable and talkative. As a team, we have gained knowledge about different plants, vegetables, nutrition, and cooking. Everyone in SOYL this year is working extremely hard and getting so much done, which is a huge contribution to making the farms successful.

After the first half of the program, I have gained so many new friendships by working with the crew members and mentors and getting to know them better. I have learned much more in my second year as a mentor. For example, there are tons of plants used for medicine like Nettle which can lower symptoms of allergies like hay fever. A field trip that really stood out was going to VanDusen Botanical Gardens to walk around and explore nature at its fullest. This field trip really stood out because I learned how plants live the same lives as humans – by growing, eating, reproducing, and moving just like humans. Not only is SOYL such an amazing opportunity, but it also flourishes to connect the community to learn, and grow.

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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Farmer’s Log, Seed Date August 1, 2021

You know what I like about August? There are actually very few seed dates this month. This translates to two things: one, there isn’t enough time left in the season to plant much; and two, I get to focus on making flower bouquets instead of seeding in the greenhouse. 

When Galen (the SOYL – Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership Program Manager) told me that flowers were a big program at Fresh Roots, I was like, “pffffffft can’t eat flowers.” But then, one morning, I covered Isobel’s early shift harvesting and bunching blooms and now, I cannot get enough. I’m kind of obsessed. They fill me with colour and joy and I see it extend into the hands of our market goers. Flowers are amazing. 

While very attractive to humans, flowers don’t appear to interest many pests besides insects, which is a huge bonus in the urban landscape. I cannot say the same for our veggies. We lost a full planting (about 60 heads) of kohlrabi, 90% of our broccoli and about 75% of our cauliflower to rodents. The disappearances happen almost over night. They’ve also started munching our ripening tomatoes but we have implemented some tech to try and prevent such massive losses. Other pressures unique to urban farming resulted in the loss of our entire snow pea crop, an average loss of about 60% of our kohlrabi plantings, and about 30% loss of our butter lettuce. Naturally, I expect some cream skimmed off the top with hands reaching through fences for a tomato or zucchini here and there, but I’ve witnessed people show up to the farm with huge buckets and knives, expecting to reap in the bounty of veggies planned and paid-for by our CSA members. 

In addition to having our veggies taken, the Fresh Roots truck catalytic converter was swiped the day-of our last ICC market in July. This meant we couldn’t finish our harvest for the market so our shelves and CSA Veggie Boxes were a little scant. 

Another pressure that is kind of funny has been a fisherman! We call him “worm dude” because he digs for worms in our freshly seeded beds. I had been wondering what was causing these circles of failed germination all over our beet beds, so when I saw him digging the other day I was relieved to learn we didn’t have another weird fungus on top of our ongoing club root and lettuce drop. That said, it has resulted in about 30% failed germination in our beets and carrots. Strangely, the crop circles have continued since I explained to him the effects of worm digging. Maybe he is not the only fisherman looking for bait.   

It sounds like I have a lot to complain about right now, but it’s only because July and August are our busiest, and most productive months. With harvest comes reaping, and work, and sweat, and competition. These frustrations also come in-hand with growing food in the city. In permaculture we say farmers have to work with what we have, rather than against it. Stolen food and catalytic converters is an indication that our city is rife with food insecurity, poverty, and desperation. Right down the road from our flagship garden at Van Tech is the mobile home city that was recently threatened with eviction. Meanwhile, free-range rodents up the hill are living an organic lifestyle foraging our fields. The discrepancy is gut-wrenching. 

Recently, the entire staff of Fresh Roots were invited to a workshop on anti-oppression. It was an impressively comprehensive guide to the key concepts and terminology used in identifying oppression, and was scheduled a couple weeks after Canada Day. This July, I witnessed the farm team digest what’s happening in the world around them and really apply their thoughts and feelings to it all. We have spent many of our harvest hours with our hands busy while our mouths discuss weird movies, what our band name would be, and also the continuing effects of Colonialism. Watching these ideas grow in the minds of young people, and then to witness them take action on them is nothing short of inspiring. 

As an organization, Our Lady Fresh Roots is proactive and progressive in the way that it creates intern opportunities for youth and connects children with the source of their food. That said, there is so much space to grow! Recently, in an interview with the BC Association of Farmers Markets, Alexa (our Executive Director) and I were asked what it is like to be doing land-based work in light of the recent residential school findings and this incredible Indigenous Uprising that is happening. To be honest, it was hard to find the right words to answer that question. It means a lot for me, as a white person of mostly settler descent, to be doing land-based work to heal my own ancestral trauma. Doing land-based work also reminds me of my responsibility to commit to the process of interrogating my own complacence with colonialism, and challenges me further to work into allyship with the forever-keepers of this land I inhabit. Land-based work in a fraught and hectic urban environment highlights the inequity of food accessibility even further. 

Once the tomato harvest is done in October and I have a moment to enjoy the cool fall breeze, I’ll tuck into some tea and commit time to taking the teachings the young folks on the farm team have offered me to the core team. That is what the off-season is all about. Until then, we shall continue to ruminate in the fields on gnarly turnips and heartfelt ideas about justice and equity. 

-Farmer Camille

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4 Lessons about Worms to Wiggle Along to

By Kat Vriesema-Magnuson, Experiential Learning Manager

As I write this, EL Lead Andrea (aka Snap) is leading a wormshop for our EcoWonders campers. What’s a wormshop, you ask? Well, It’s a workshop… about worms! Red Wriggler worms, in this case, which are about to be added to our new vermicomposting bin, but not before our campers have a chance to get to know them and learn many lessons from them.

Lesson one: All animals need a home.

Animals all need food, water, air, and shelter. For our Red Wrigglers, who are not native to this area, that means a blue plastic tote, filled with all the things worms love: dirt, and shredded paper to nest in, and just enough water to stay moist.

Lesson two: Rot rocks!

Our Red Wrigglers will be part of our waste management system. This type of worm is one of the best decomposers of plant matter out there, and we’re going to keep them fed with fruit and veggie scraps and weeds from the farm. As fungus and bacteria start to break those plants down, the little toothless worms will slurp it up like a smoothie. Thanks, decomposers for not leaving us neck deep in food scraps!

Lesson three: Everybody Poops.

Worm poop, or more formally, worm castings, is one of the best plant fertilizers out there. And even though it’s made of rotten banana peels and apple cores and slimy lettuce, and has gone all the way through a worm’s digestive system, its smells…. Totally fine! Like really good, rich soil. 

Lesson four: Worms are just like us (kinda).

They can see (light and dark), they can feel vibrations, they can smell delicious rotting food. They have a brain and a heart (ok, 5 of those) and they breathe air (through their skin). Contrary to popular myth, you can’t make two worms by cutting one in half, but they can regrow parts of their tail if it gets damaged. Most importantly, they need us to be gentle and caring with them, just like we need people to be gentle and caring with us.

We still have a few spaces left in our August camps at David Thompson in Vancouver and Suwa’lkh School in Coquitlam if you have a young worm-curious child in your life. Sliding scale fees are available, starting at $112.50 for a 3-day program or $185 for a full week. Visit freshroots.ca/camp to learn more and register.