Here’s a sneak peak from Alexa Pitoulis, our Executive Director at Fresh Roots:
“An important reflection that repeatedly emerges in our strategic conversations is how Fresh Roots creates inclusive, diverse and safe spaces for youth to fully express themselves, and empowers them to engage in their identities and values. This is core to who we are, and it is in how we create these spaces that allow kids, youth and staff to learn and grow in incredible way
Please join us for one of our 10th year anniversary celebration events! It’s because of YOU and your supportthat we have achieved so much.”
Thank you to everyone who was part of the community last year. Tickets to our Annual Schoolyard Longtable Dinner fundraiser are on sale now! As we reflect on 2022 and our 10th anniversary, help us continue to create more impactful opportunities for youth and kids on schoolyard farms for years to come.
You’re invited for a meaningful, enchanting summer evening on the David Thompson schoolyard farm as we celebrate local food, community, and youth while raising critical funds to support Fresh Roots’ impactful programs.
At $250 per person, your ticket gives your exclusive access to an elegant chef-prepared multi-course, seated dinner, led by Chef TJ of Ono Vancouver and in collaboration with select partner chefs (to be revealed soon!), made with locally sourced ingredients from our schoolyard farms and community partners, and paired with an open bar of a wide selection of wine, beer, and other beverages.
A portion of your ticket supports our youth and kids on schoolyard farms, giving more opportunities for them to connect with their land, food, and community through experiential learning and youth empowerment. Join us as we reminisce on 10 years of impact together while looking forward to what’s to come. Stay tuned for more information about the event!
It’s no secret that sometimes the best spot at the party is in the kitchen. And in Vancouver, our “kitchen” talent is vast.
To celebrate the city’s culinary stars on the rise – and support an incredible cause – Canada’s Great Kitchen Party returns on Nov. 24 with an in-person competition to determine who will represent Vancouver next year in the nationwide championship.
Launched in 2006, Canada’s Great Kitchen Party (formerly known as Gold Medal Plates) aims to elevate and celebrate Canadian Excellence by bringing together the top chefs in each city for a ticketed event that also mixes in iconic Canadian musicians and athletes.
The exciting face-off at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver features some impressive local chefs representing a slate of acclaimed independent restaurants – including a few recently recognized by the Michelin Guide: Vish Mayekar (Caffè La Tana, Pepino’s); Scott Korzack (Bacaro); Bobby Milheron (Homer St. Cafe and Bar, Tableau Bar Bistro, Maxine’s Cafe & Bar); Sandy Chef (Archer); Thachaya (Mike) Tuangkitkun (Maenam); and Sean Reeve (Collective Goods, Say Mercy, The Mackenzie Room).
For Joie Alvaro Kent, cookbook author, food writer, and Canada’s Great Kitchen Party Vancouver Senior Judge, this year’s return to in-person competition comes at a most opportune time, and also offers the chance to spotlight the city’s culinary diversity in the kitchen and on the plate, and put an emphasis on some of our incredible indie spots.
“Vancouver’s inaugural list of Michelin one-star restaurants was a tour de force for highly revered neighbourhood gems,” Alvaro Kent tells Vancouver Is Awesome. “I’m absolutely thrilled that the slate of talented chefs competing in this year’s Canada’s Great Kitchen Party Vancouver genuinely reflects our city’s prevailing fondness for independently owned restaurants as well as our cultural diversity.”
Chef Sandy Chen, who is at the stoves as Chef de Cuisine at Archer, one of Vancouver’s most exciting fall debuts, reflects on what the event means personally. “It’s so great to see the return of in-person cooking competitions,” Chen tells V.I.A. “For me, it is an honour, privilege, and great opportunity to challenge my limits and push myself to another level.”
A familiar face to fans of TV’s Top Chef Canada will surely recognize Vish Mayekar, Head Chef at The Drive’s popular sibling spots Caffè La Tana and Pepino’s.”Calling Canada home now and now having the privilege of representing Vancouver on the national level through Top Chef and being part of Culinary Team Canada has been an incredible honour,” says Mayekar. “My next goal: keeping the Canadian Culinary Championship title in Vancouver!”
Vancouver last sent its winner all the way to the top of the podium in February 2020, when Roger Ma (Boulevard) took the championship.
Kitchen Party event features music stars, benefits Fresh Roots
In addition to the cooking competition, the evening includes live entertainment from Neil Osborne of 54-40, blues singer Kandle Osborne, and Canadian Hall of Fame and Juno award-winning band Chilliwack.
The event also happens to be one of the city’s largest annual fundraising dinner parties, and this year’s beneficiary is Fresh Roots, the Vancouver non-profit that transforms urban spaces to create thriving neighbourhood gathering places for learning, sharing, and connecting.
“We are proud to be part of this event in which all the competing chefs are champions supporting local and sustainable food systems. Fresh Roots’ mission is giving kids unique opportunities to experience growing, preparing, sharing, and celebrating good food—perfectly aligned with Canada’s Great Kitchen Party!” says Alexa Pitoulis, Fresh Roots Executive Director.
When it comes to the food, guests will watch as the competing chefs present their dishes to the judges’ panel. Senior Judge Alvaro Kent will be joined by James Chatto (Canada’s Great Kitchen Party National Culinary Advisor and Head Judge) along with well-known food industry Vancouverites Roger Ma; Andrea Carlson; Hamid Salimian; Douglas Chang; and Sid Cross.
All eyes will be on Chen, Mayekar, and the other four chefs as the centrepiece for a terrific night that reflects so much of what Vancouver’s food scene is all about.
“These six highly skilled culinarians uphold an impressive level of integrity, ingenuity, and dedication to highlighting local growers and purveyors—a true testament to the key values of Vancouver’s food community. We’re in for an exciting evening and a tight race for top honours,” shares Alvaro Kent.
Engaging articles, reviews and stories all about Vancouver. Vancouver Magazine informs, guides and entertains people who engage with the city. Mixing quality journalism and service-driven pieces, it chronicles and reflects Vancouver’s emergence as a dynamic international city.
Publishing date: September 12, 2022 • 4 minute read
A unique meal program offered to students and prepared with help from students at two Vancouver schools is among several such programs across B.C. feeling the pinch from rising food costs.Program operators are having to tweak menus and stretch their dollars at a time when school districts report demand for in-school meals is on the rise.“Most of our meals are vegetable-forward but there are meat dishes for the omnivore students and we’ve had to make a drastic cut in the serving size,” said Tasha Sawyer, the chef-in-residence leading the LunchLab program at Vancouver Alternate Secondary School. “Instead of serving a single portion of chicken, we are making a chicken and vegetable stir-fry in order to stretch that supply.”
Sawyer said inflation for food pushed up the price-per-plate for a student meal to $4 from $3, a 33 per cent increase, at the start of the 2021-22 school year. It remains $4 for this year, but “that may change if inflation costs continue to rise.”
She said overall inflation is running at seven-to-eight per cent, but for food alone, it’s at 10 per cent.
The meal program is served twice a week to students at the high school and is provided free to students enrolled in the school’s other meal program, and offered at a sliding scale of $1-to-$5 each meal for others, said Alexa Pitoulis, executive director of Fresh Roots, a non-profit group working with school communities to provide locally sourced and grown food.
Some of the vegetables come from a school garden and other ingredients are sourced locally, whenever possible, and students help in the kitchen, she said.
The LunchLab is also providing meals at Lord Roberts elementary and the hope is to expand to other schools, Pitoulis said.
The program was feeding 180 students before COVID-19, and last year numbers were up to 150. This year, “we might have to cap it at 100-to-125,” she said.
“Like all non-profits, we are trying to constantly make adjustments and we’re not exactly sure what’s coming” in terms of inflation.
Fundraising for the program from private donors, grants and foundations is also affected by inflation as fewer charity dollars are available, said Pitoulis.
“We’re definitely trying to understand the impact and we’re being cautious,” she said.
Across the Vancouver school district, about 3,000 meals are provided to students through various programs, a spokeswoman for the district said in an email.
The spokesperson, who didn’t want to be named, said “inflation projections were included” when the budget was drawn-up and “any impacts are presented in the amended budget process.”
She said the provincial government’s increased funding of $60 million for all school districts announced last week will be used in part to fund meal programs.
The Surrey school district has about 2,000 students in its meal program, spokeswoman Ritinder Matthew said in an email. She said there are “significant budget pressures due to inflation” on food and transportation prices, and the provincial funding announcement will mean a one-time increase of $7.3 million in new money, which can be used for the meal program and other student activities.
“This will allow us to continue feeding all of our students that need this support, and accommodate any new students,” she said.
The program in Surrey is run by community donors, including the national Breakfast Club of Canada charity. Spokeswoman Judith Barry said demand for meal programs has grown 60-to-100 per cent in some districts across Canada during the pandemic.
The non-profit has launched a fundraising campaign to support its meal programs, which serve 18,500 children in B.C. There are also a couple of hundred schools on a waiting list to access the non-profit’s breakfast programs, and the number is growing, the charity said in a news release.
B.C. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said that the province came up with the extra $60 million for schools after hearing from districts, trustees, parents and families across B.C. on how tough the pandemic and inflation has been on family finances.
“I have heard it from districts all over the province,” she said.
“We are definitely making changes because of higher demand and the opportunity for extra funding from the provincial government to school districts for food security, etc.,” Cindy Waters of the Chilliwack Bowls of Hope Society, which helps provide school meals, said in an email.
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on the delivery and cost of school food programs,” said Harold Munro, editor-in-chief of The Vancouver Sun and The Province and chairman of The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund, which operates the Adopt-A-School program.
“Adopt-A-School distributed nearly $1.4 million to B.C. schools last year, three-quarters of which went to feeding children,” he said.“Rising inflation has only made the situation worse, and demand for food is extremely high again this school year.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the name of the Surrey school district spokesperson.
It’s time to wrap things up on the farm. We had our last market of the season on Saturday and final CSA pickup the week before. Even though our plants aren’t melting away like they usually do at this time of the year, they have stopped producing and are ready for their next stage of life and death in the compost.
While Fresh Roots winterizes the farms, we are also looking for someone to replace me during my parental leave in 2023. This person will be starting early in the year and working all season, overlapping with my return at the end of the summer. I’m hoping to find a person who will want to continue working with Fresh Roots for many years to come after I’m back. So, in an effort to recruit someone awesome, I’ve decided to use this blog entry to give a little breakdown of my position during peak season, and make it easier for folks to imagine themselves here.
Farm Manager: Season Overview
The FR core team spends the winter strategizing on how to make things smooth, fun, and true to our overall mission. This makes spring feel totally fresh and exciting. The first thing the farm manager does is review the crop plan, count the seeds, and place a seed order. Then, there’s organizing the spaces, figuring out what compost and amendments are needed, and spending more money (provided by early season CSA purchases) on all the good stuff. Seeds for our long-season crops need to be started either in the ‘grow-op’ in our storage space at the office, or in the prop house in the courtyard of David Thompson. Direct seeding starts at the end of February, so a portion of the farm’s beds need to be prepped and amended in preparation.
Next is hiring the farm team. The team looks a little different every year depending on where we are farming, but for the Vancouver site, I hire the following positions: 1) Market Lead, 2) David Thompson Field Lead, 3) Van Tech Field Lead, and 4) SOYL Jr Market Assistant. There may also be volunteers, interns and LFS students who need to be onboarded, too.
By May, all these folks should have their schedules and start a 5-week training program to get familiar with their responsibilities. This means that by the middle of June and the start of the CSA pickup, the staff and volunteers know what’s up and can graduate to beginning their leadership phase. This marks the start of Peak Season when we all need to work together as an oiled machine to meet our goals. By the first week of July, our summer youth internship program starts up, and SOYL youth will be directed by the farm workers in farm and market tasks for 6 weeks.
A Week in the Boots of a Farm Manager
Here’s what my week looked like in 2022’s peak season, keeping in mind that 2023 may look differently depending on which markets we sign-up for, how we structure our CSA, and who is helping us harvest:
Monday: Admin and Communications
This work can either be done on the Fresh Roots computers in our office or from home on the farm manager’s personal computer. I usually work from home with my cat on my lap and a steamy mug of tea.
Email, orders, payments, newsletters, blog
Data entry of harvest, sales & CSA records from the previous week
15-minute visits to the sites to see what veggies are coming up and making lists of what needs to be done
This week’s harvest planning for CSA and Market. Record plans in the Harvest Plan and CSA Plan documents
Field work plans for the week plus delegation of seeding & transplanting plans and ensuring data entry has been done
Work plan emailed to all the farm team including links to Field Work, CSA & Harvest Plans
Communicating in slack with all the other departments in Fresh Roots about what kids can do on the farm, and where we might need help. This means making clear plans with facilitators and managers in: Experiential Learning (EL), Sustainable Opportunities for Youth leadership (SOYL), & our Administrators (ED, Ops, and Comms).
Fresh Sheet for EL so they can plan their farm lunches for day camp (feeds 40 kids)
Review & approve the farm team’s hours if it’s the end of a pay period
Tuesday – Harvest Day
730am: meet at David Thompson to harvest tender veggies
1130am: ICC cooler – drop off harvest and eat lunch
1-3pm: Van tech harvest of fruiting veggies / hot crops
3-330pm: drop off harvest at the ICC cooler
Wednesday – Market Day & CSA Pickup #1
730am: harvest flowers & any remaining harvest needed for CSA or Market
1130am: pick up our bread order and maybe mushroom order
1-330pm: help set up the market (operates 3-7) with the Market Lead and whoever is helping out that day; either another farm team member, SOYL Youth, or volunteers
Thursday – Harvest Day
730am: David Thompson
1130am: ICC Cooler
1-3pm: Van Tech
3-330pm: ICC cooler
Friday – Field Work, Remaining Harvest & CSA Delivery for Pickup #2
730am: complete any necessary harvest for CSA Pickup / Saturday market. Otherwise field work! 230 CSA Delivery to Collingwood Neighbourhood House for their “Community Care Veggie Box” program
Saturday – VFM Market
Sunday – Everybody takes a day of rest!
Wrapping Up the Season
Once the farm team’s summer contracts are over – usually at the end of August – one of the workers will stay on through the fall to help wrap up the CSA & markets and to winterize the farm. In 2023, I’ll be back to help the acting FM wrap things up. Together, we’ll write the crop plan for 2024 and work on the end-of-season reporting. We’ll also staff any remaining markets together, likely adjusting our schedules to Tuesday to Saturday.
There are many other pieces of work that aren’t explicitly outlined in my weekly schedule – like all the planning and training that happens, community outreach events, volunteer events, tours, and workshops I lead. These bits and bobs are usually crammed into Mondays or Fridays, or woven into harvest days. Volunteer and youth training is also delegated to the farm team members during their field work time. Overseeing the schedules of each farm team member can be a jigsaw puzzle, noting that each member has their own domain to manage and it’s up to the Farm Manager to make sure responsibilities are fulfilled and deadlines are being met so we can meet our CSA and Market commitments. It’s also up to the Farm manager to make sure that mentorship is happening across the organization – so that the farm team members are supported and empowered to teach youth the skills they’ve acquired in their first 5 weeks.
Peak Season is incredibly dense but it’s a lot of fun. All of the folks working on the farm are youth – from the farm team to the 4-year old campers in the EL program. There is so much life and energy to play with in this job, and I hope whoever is looking for that kind of fun will apply!
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 – email@example.com! 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
We were excited to be back participating in Science Odyssey this year, Canada’s biggest celebration of STEAM. Led by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Science Odyssey brought together hundreds of fun and engaging activities across the country from May 7 to 22, 2022.
by Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Environmental Education Program Lead
This year, we held the workshops in the Suwa’lkh Healing Forest. We had 5 classes participate in the Exploring and Understanding Native Plants workshops over 3 days, May 16, 18 and 19th.
The students worked their way through 3 stations, removal of invasive plants/planting natives, a forest walk, and ecosystem web/plant in a jar.
Station 1: Removal process. students remove Japanese knotweed, blackberries and English Ivy. These are all invasive plants that we have been removing from the forest on an ongoing basis. After they had removed the invasive plants that had the chance to plant native plants. They helped plant salal, sitka spruce, lingonberry, common camas, evergreen huckleberry, thimbleberry, snowberry, red flowering currant and stonecrop. They removed lots of Himalayan blackberries, Japanese knotweed and English Ivy.
Station 2: The forest walk. The students went on a walk through the forest and were identifying which plants we have. They were able to identify salal, salmonberry, thimbleberry, Indian plum, red flowering currant, cottonwood and skunk cabbage.
Station 3: Ecosystem web/plant in a jar. During the ecosystem web each participant is given a new identity. They temporarily become something that is a part of our forest. We connect to each other using string. Students would have to say how they are connected to each other; blue heron is connected to salmon because they eat salmon. We continued making these connections until the web got complicated and more difficult to connect to someone they have not yet connected to. Plant in a jar activity takes your sight away. The leaf of a plant is placed in a jar with a sock over it so you are unable to see inside. The next step is to draw what you are able to feel.
During the break we made tea for the students to try. We made different kinds with what we have available to us, mint as well as mint with sage and salmonberry leaves.
Thank you to the Suwa’lkh School, iHub Secondary School, Centennial Secondary School, Maillard Middle School, and Rochester Elementary School for joining us for this year’s Science Odyssey at Suwa’lkh!
Native plants information page – coming soon!
Stay tuned for the launch of our native plants resource page on our website.