Mapping the Landscape of Schoolyard Farms

By Sophia, Henry, Areej, Maryam, and Jason

There is so much potential in schoolyard farms! Fresh Roots has been operating schoolyard farms in the greater Vancouver area for over 10 years. But what other organizations and models for schoolyard farms are out there? How are other organizations potentially bridging the gap between the growing season and the school year? How are other schoolyard farms distributing fresh produce to the school and community? 

Fresh Roots has identified these questions for us to investigate, which is the scope and focus of our community research project.

Schoolyard Farms

From the 18 organizations we’ve looked into, we’ve cataloged and found a variety of strategies different farm organizations utilize to stay active and involved throughout the entire year. 

Map of schoolyard farms researched. All farms are in Canada and the USA.

We defined “schoolyard farm” broadly. We looked at educational farms and farming programs, many of which are on school grounds or are connected with primary and secondary schools. Some farms serve one school, while others are used as teaching sites for many school groups. On some schoolyard farms, classroom teachers lead the educational programs. Others have specialist teachers employed by the school district or, like Fresh Roots, have their own educational staff who lead programs.


We’ve found that most organizations utilize structured programmingclasses, workshops, and summer camps to keep students involved over the summer. Most of these educational farms and organizations are non-profit (88.9%, or 16 out of 18 organizations), which explains why we see a large reliance on local volunteers to lend a helping hand with the management of agricultural work and programming year-round. The other two organizations (11.1%) researched are for-profit.

For the farms that have the means and the funds to do so, employment opportunities are a great way of retaining students and local community members to stay involved with these schoolyard farms. Additionally, it’s important to note that the farms that are able to sustain this, whether non- or for-profit, also tend to be organizations that have multiple partners and donors supporting them.

Food Distribution

Our team also looked into how farm-produced food is allocated. A majority of the food goes back to partner schools and their cafeterias, and some are sold at farmers’ markets or in produce boxes. A few organizations also donate to their local neighbourhoods and communities, or to food labs for research. Bearing in mind, most of the organizations we’ve looked into overlap and allocate their produce to more than just one of these categories, and are involved in much of their local food system.

Infographic about schoolyard farm research.


Research Team

Sophia Lei: 3rd year in Food Nutrition and Health Major; I am mostly interested in the food utilization aspect of the food system, looking at consumer demands, social values and nutrition.

Henry Yang: 3rd year in Food, Nutrition, and Health Major; I am interested in the biochemistry of nutrients, and how food can play a direct role in influencing human physiological processes.

Areej Altaf: 3rd year in Food, Nutrition, and Health Major; I am interested in the food sovereignty aspect of the food system, making sure everyone has access to safe and culturally appropriate foods.

Maryam Alavi: 3rd year in Food, Nutrition, and Health Major; I am interested in the food system interdisciplinarity and analysis of the interactions between different components and how they affect each other.

Jason Chang: 3rd year in Nutritional Science Major, Kinesiology Minor + Masters of Management dual degree program; I am interested in the biochemical and physiological aspects of human nutrition and how it impacts our daily life. 

This community research project was completed as part of a UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS) class. The Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS) at the University of British Columbia is where science meets society’s urgent needs. They focus on how better to feed humans, how better to understand the way food nourishes and powers us, and how better to care for our food resources.