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FARMER’S LOG, SEED DATE AUGUST 12, 2022

Here I am, about two weeks late, at 6:30am on a Friday making another attempt at August’s farm blog. It’s not that I don’t enjoy telling a story – those who know me or have sat at a table in one of the restaurants I’ve worked at have their ears coated in my poetic wax. I just haven’t had a minute to catch my breath. It’s peak season! 

If you follow FR on the socials, you may have learned that I have a growing obsession with flowers. Nicole (the David Thompson Field Lead) and I have been churning out about 15 bouquets every Wednesday to bring joy to our market stand. It has been a blast to share these blooms with our marketgoers at the ICC – and see their eyes light up when they land on the bursts of colour by the till. I’m hoping that next year we can get SOYL participants learning about flower arranging – and maybe bring in an expert at the beginning of the season to lead a workshop. If you know an expert florist or are one yourself and would love to lead a workshop with youth next summer, please reach out to me – camille@freshroots.ca! We would also love to install some garden-helper mushrooms in the woodchip & straw paths (I’m thinking King stropharia and oyster) so if you’ve got some spawn, let me know. 

SOYL just wrapped up their last day yesterday! 6 weeks of youthful exuberance filled the beds at Van Tech and now those sweet almost-adults have left us in the dust. To commemorate, our final Community Eats lunch on Wednesday was epic: everyone gorged on handmade tacos with extensive fillings and then two vegetable cakes: one chocolate zucchini; the other beet and oat. We then rounded out the very last SOYL-attended market at the ICC. Fresh Roots feels completely different without the youth buzzing around, so I’m thankful that EL still has camps for another 2.5 weeks. Overhearing the young kids’ hilarious conversations in the shade of the cherry blossom trees at David Thompson is the cherry on top of harvest days. Here’s an example I pulled from our #overheardatcamp channel on slack:

“Chef doodle I want to eat your face off because everything you make is so yummy”

Or, perhaps, about a really big pregnant (?) ant: “she could be moving house or mad”

I especially enjoyed the pregnant comment, as I am housing a sweet little human in my own body, and agree that yes, being pregnant sure has made me mad, especially while harvesting on black plastic in a heat wave. My ankles will never be the same again.

Although our youth programs are trickling to an end, there are lots of things on the horizon. On Wednesday, August 17th, the ICC and Fresh Roots are going to be hosting guest vendors at our market. There will be Mexican food, Egyptian hand pies, local tea, and natural soaps and cleaning products. For more information on these vendors tune into our socials @freshrootsfarms

The farm team is wrapping up their CSJ contracts, which breaks my heart as well. But it means that mid-August is the end of our seeding and the start of putting the beds to sleep for the winter. We will be sowing cover crop, unfolding silage, planting garlic, and mulching with straw. It reminds me of bears building a den for the winter. The prospect of the fall with sweet cool wind on the horizon and mushrooms popping up is a real delight, being a fall baby myself. I’ll also be taking a week off to revitalize in the cedars for my birthday, which I am coveting with my whole heart. 

Working with youth on this farm is inspiring, wonderful and hilarious. That said, being a non-profit that relies so heavily on Canada Summer Jobs grants to employ Fresh Roots’ farm staff is an epic challenge. Especially with this season being so late. The limitations of CSJ end dates mean that we are only half way through our 20-week CSA and haven’t harvested a single red heirloom tomato while our workers’ contracts are wrapping up. In Vancouver, Fresh Roots grows tomatoes in the field, without a cover, so this wretchedly slow start to the season has prevented most of our fruiting veg from ripening. And although our markets have been busy and sell out, we have only half the stock variety we usually do, so our sales remain about 30% lower than last season. So with the implications of the weather and being a non-profit urban farm, I’m anticipating a huge harvest on my hands through the fall while my baby belly waggles between my squat legs. I am crossing my fingers that the rest of the core team isn’t too bogged down with their own work to come and help out in the field while I acknowledge the huge loss of skilled farm labour fading away with the cornucopia of fall harvest on the way. In any case, I am  certainly working hard to earn my maternity leave.

Hopefully I will be able to tune in again sooner than 6 weeks from now, although we all know that a farmer’s hands are more than full during the summer here in the PNW. Until then, relish the joy of sweet summer stone fruit juice trickling down your chin and swimming in our gorgeous waters.

– Farmer Camille

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FARMER’S LOG, SEED DATE JULY 1, 2022

WOW, welcome to the busiest moment at Fresh Roots. The week of July 4th is when all of our summer youth programming starts up – SOYL Internships in Vancouver, Delta & Coquitlam – and the EL Summer Camp at David Thompson. It’s also the week of our epic, annual fundraiser, where we haul together to fund our humongous programs, farm, and community work. Even though the sun is only mildly sticking his head out, we are sweating!

Speaking of the weather, wasn’t that nice to get some vitamin D over a handful of days this past month? The dramatic shift between constant, cool moisture and then a high of 34C meant all our daikons bolted, resulting in a pitiful 30lb harvest from 65 feet of plants. That said, our lettuces, brassica greens, and salad radishes have been absolutely radiant, and peas are coming in a rather late but epic wave of sweet, verdant pods. Rubicon Napa Cabbages were excellent, too.

While it’s been wonderful to swim in greens and tender radishes, we are so ready to reap the fruit of our labour. Many of our fruiting veggies are still a month behind, and aren’t showing signs of speeding up much. In an effort to try to stimulate faster growth, we planted most of our hot crops into black landscape fabric and installed low tunnels to mimic greenhouse conditions. Summer Squash looks like it might be ready for CSA in a couple of weeks but tomatoes definitely won’t hit the market until August. And peppers & eggplant  — eek — maybe not until September. 

Our markets have been going very smoothly. It’s been wonderful to stock it brimming with tasty plumage and come back with very little that didn’t find a home. However, did you know that every single morsel that comes back to our cooler is recovered either within the organization through our community eats program, or shared with South Van Neighbourhood House or Collingwood Neighbourhood house? Literally nothing is wasted. Being in an urban setting, connected with many food security organizations means that it’s easy to revert our market returns to mouths, and I’m so thankful for it. 

The farm team is finally complete with our newest member, Freshta. That reminds me – I ought to introduce the amazing folks that make up this season’s high-functioning, incredibly talented and hilarious team. 

Elina Blomley

They/She

Market Lead

Elina is studying food/agriculture at SFU and brings a whimsical and hilarious slang to the team. They are highly organized, have a keen eye for detail, and are just a delight to work with. 

Nicole Burton

She/They

David Thompson Field Lead

Nicole hails from the farms of Ontario, where the roads are wide and the summers are hot. She’s got an expertise in growing crops for seed as well as managing a market garden. Her cool-as-a-cucumber approach puts us at ease when things feel tight. 

Sam Tuck

He/They

Van Tech Field Lead

Sam braved the desert heat at Solstedt Farm in Lillooet last summer. He’s passionate about Indigenous Uprising and teaching the team a lot with his sharp anti-racist lens. 

Freshta Mohibi

She/Her

Market Assistant

We are blessed by this SOYL alum and ray of sunshine. Freshta is the newest member of our team and comes from a large, loving family that grew up tending to an apricot orchard. 

Stay tuned for updates next month on how our fundraiser went, and what’s new and in season on the farm. 

– Farmer Camille

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Farmer’s Log, Seed Date November 1, 2021

Of course, the day that I need to sit inside and hammer out a blog, the sun decides to shine and the sky is bright blue. At least I don’t have to squeeze into my mud-soaked raingear today, which is the norm this time of year. 

Reading back on last month’s blog, the goals I set for the farm seemed realistic and intuitive. Alas, this is not how things usually go. Piper, Galen and I went out to Delta to lend hands in planting their garlic and clearing out the high tunnel. We had the intention to harvest the seaweed that was washed up on the beach out there but a storm blew it all away. We also had intentions to piggyback on Delta’s compost pile but ran out of time tying ristra peppers from rafters so couldn’t shovel it into the truck. This all translates into later planting and mulching dates, and more days in transit between locations. 

Galen and I did get our garlic planted at Van Tech: 4 X 45 ft beds (not ten, like I imagined) to mature into big heads of Russian Red Garlic. Amendments we used were compost and river sand, sul-po-mag, and blood meal. We mulched with 6 inches of straw and will add seaweed when it washes ashore in Delta again and we have time to harvest it. We messed around with the spacing a little bit but ended up with 3 rows per bed, intermittently planted (laid out in a posts-and-windows pattern) 6-8 inches apart. It’s important to make sure each clove has 3-4 inches in every direction so it has space to expand its roots and get juicy. That means we planted about 1,000 cloves in these four beds. We also installed 3 X 25-ft beds at about 4-inch spacing for green garlic, which is like a delicious, garlic-flavoured leek harvested in the spring. For this purpose, we used the smallest cloves and some bulbils (garlic flower-produced seed). I’m excited to see how they turn out — I’m expecting thin, single-cloved, tender stalks that we will bunch for our CSA in 2022.

Although our markets and CSA are done for the season, we still have brassicas and chicory producing tasty cold-sweetened shoots. Japanese Sweet Potatoes were dug, and about 200 pounds of sunchokes are looking for homes. We are using these veggies to supply special events like the Indigenous Family Gathering at VanTech and to fill the food boxes for the South Van Neighbourhood House food hub. I’m also hustling a bit to get whatever bits and pieces I can into East Van Farm-to-table restaurants like Ugly Dumpling and Dachi Vancouver. If you’re a restaurant nearby and want to purchase veggies from us, get in touch with me!

Fresh Roots’ Field Lead, Piper, has now finished their contract for the season. I am so grateful for the positive vibes and enthusiasm they contributed this season. What a gem of a human that I’m sad to see go. I’m sure they will continue to charm whatever workplace or schoolroom they enter. This also means it’s up to me, sometimes Galen, and hopefully volunteers to finish up winterizing the farm. There are a lot of plants to pull and plastic to cover our fields, so any help from any supporters or *ahem* readers would be cherished. I promise to give you kale!

Now that I’ve enjoyed my hot lunch and written about garlic (was that really all I did in October? Plant Garlic? Time flies), it’s back off to the fields to tear down some trellising and coil up drip lines from our irrigation system. I’m hoping I’ll get a good dose of Vit D with these sun rays. Stay cozy, friends. 

– Farmer Camille

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Farmer’s Log, Seed Date October 1, 2021

Welcome to the final month of operation for the 2021 Fresh Roots Farm Season. This month we are undertaking lots of soil TLC so we have a nice, healthy biome in the spring, ready for our seeds and transplants. The only thing we actually plant this late in the season is Garlic. This year we will be filling an entire block (that’s 10 x 45ft beds) with lots of juicy amendments then planting the whole area with Russian Red Garlic. We’ll top them off with foraged seaweed and 6 bales of hay so they have a nice store of nutrients dissolving into the soil all winter until they decide to sprout up in the spring. There are a few beds we will leave to overwinter – like kale, chard, chicory, and a few other brassicas – but the rest we will amend and cover with silage for a nice winter nap. 

October is pretty solidly booked with school field trips on the farm. I’m hoping the youth will witness our system of putting the beds to sleep as a meaningful learning. It’s not just about smothering everything with big sheets of black plastic – it’s about protecting our soil from leaching and weeds all winter long so that we have an easier time in the spring. 

This month also closes out our final markets – October 13th is the last CSA Pickup as well as Market at the Italian Cultural Centre and October 23th will be the final market with VFM at Riley Park. Once our markets are shut, we clear the fields of any veggies that are left and either sell direct to restaurants or donate to local food hub programs. Right now I’m working on a partnership with David Thompson Secondary for a student-led program called the “Free Store” to get our donated veggies into students’ homes over the holidays. Otherwise we try to get our veggies into the weekly boxes at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, or the low-cost market at Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House.

Most of our fruiting vegetables have completely died back. That means no more eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, or peppers. We have some straggling last beans which is kind of shocking to me, but they’ll only last another week or two before they rot in this fall rain. Our flowers are melting off their stems while broccoli and Gailan pump out their last straggling sideshoots so we can bundle them up as broccolini for our final CSA Veggie Box. The transformation of the farm from a beautiful, buzzing production zone into a state of decay is marvellous to me. It means it’s time to slow down and introspect – and it’s so healthy to take stock of what needs work. Looking forward to doing the same for my own damn self, especially in light of this new holiday commemorating one of the Calls to Action for Truth and Reconciliation. 

With production out of the way, Piper and I will be able to focus on winterizing and tidying up the farm. I am so excited to have a clean slate this spring and looking forward to some possible new toys like a rolling flame weeder and a fancy tiller – that’s what I’m asking the Fresh Roots’ Santa for this Christmas, anyway. Another big wish on my list is for more weekday volunteers in 2022 to help us tackle weeds on a weekly basis. With changes in our programming, our SOYL participants weren’t able to support us at our site at David Thompson. This meant the farmers who are dedicated to cultivation had to divide their time between maintenance and seeding; I bet you can guess which task got priority.

That’s pretty much October for Fresh Roots’ Farm team in a nutshell – looking forward to slowing down and taking stock in the months to come. Thanks for a wonderful summer season!

-Farmer Camille

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Natalia

by Natalia Samaniego, SOYL Suwa’lkh Mentor

I originally found out about SOYL thru a “my school” app notification. This is my second year here and it’s been a great experience full of lessons, fun, and friendships. I’ve learned about leadership, food systems, forest ecosystems, mental health, the list goes on. I’ve done many things outside of my comfort zone that I wouldn’t have done if not for this program, like gaining hands on experience as a cashier in the Thursday SOYL market. As a mentor, I’ve learned to deal with uncomfortable situations and deescalate conflict. I’m a more confident person than I was before.  I’m really happy I got to be part of this program.
Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.
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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Carmen

by Carmen Starr, SOYL Suwa’lkh Mentor

Market time at SOYL has always been my favourite time during the program. I loved it last year when I was just a crew member and got to do it and I loved it just as much this year as a mentor too. I could honestly list various reasons why the market is my favourite. To start off, I love the preparation for it. Harvest days are some of the best days for me. I love getting to pick the veggies and going through our whole process of getting them market ready. On market days, being able to sleep in is so refreshing and relaxing. Having that extra bit of sleep always helps. Besides that, getting to interact with customers and getting hands on work experience is great. I like that I get that experience in SOYL because it really helps having it. SOYL has just been a great way to gain work experience and prepare me for when I apply to somewhere and get my first job.

SOYL has been such a great way to step out of my comfort zone and really start to open up more. It has given me so many opportunities to connect with different people in my age group and has helped me step up and become a better leader. The mentorship this year has been new for me but others and I have seen a large change in the way I was last year. I’m more open to sharing my voice in conversations. I’ve gained more confidence in myself. I have faced some of my biggest fears here and got through them better than I ever have. I’ve always struggled with public speaking but being in this program and getting used to talking so much has helped me improve on it. SOYL has really done so much for me and I am so grateful I got to be apart of such a wonderful program.

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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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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Fresh Roots Urban Farm’s Backyard Harvest Dinner showcases culturally diverse foods

The Vancouver non-profit society empowers youth by growing, harvesting, and selling food

August 1st, 2021

Fresh Roots Urban Farm’s Backyard Harvest Dinner With Friends takes place on August 19 at 6 pm PDT.

 

MORE AND MORE people want to know where their food comes from. Vancouver’s Fresh Roots Urban Farm teaches youth all about what’s on their plate—including how to grow it.

Food equity among young people is a pressing issue. Some 2,000 Vancouver youth go hungry daily, according to Fresh Roots, while more than half of Vancouver youth (54 percent) do not eat the recommended daily amount of fruits or vegetables. Poor nutrition among students affects everything from academics to mental health to physical fitness.

The non-profit society’s Sustainable Opportunities Youth Leadership (SOYL) program gets youth involved in every step of the food process, from planting and harvesting to selling it at farmer’s markets. Youth also learn about food justice and cook with local chefs, whether for themselves or people in need in the community.

So much hands-on skills and entrepreneurial experience help build self-confidence and community engagement.

To raise funds for the SOYL program, the organization is hosting its Backyard Harvest Dinner with Friends on August 19 at 6 pm PDT. The online event includes a virtual farm tour, music, and entertainment.

Participants will receive a summer harvest box filled with items from new and culturally diverse local food businesses to have at home. The box includes dishes made by members of the first cohort of Flavours of Hope’s Dream Cuisines, a pilot program supporting newcomer refugee women launching food ventures in partnership with Coho Commissary. These include Super Dishes—Egyptian Halal Cuisine, Mis Cazuelas Mexican Food, and Tinker Bake (Mexican baked goods).

Ono Vancouver and Kula Kitchen helped develop the menu.

Other partners for the 2021 Backyard Harvest Dinner include Legends Haul, Organic Ocean Seafood, 33 Acres Brewing Co., Susgrainable, Odd Society Spirits, Plenty Hard Kombucha, VanSuya, Tsawwassen Farm School, the Italian Cultural Centre, UBC Farm, and VanCity.

Backyard Harvest Dinner tickets, $150, include dinner for two, beverage pairings, flowers for the table, and other items.