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Farmer’s Log, Seed-date June 1, 2021

Nuts and Bolting

The nuts of farming, to me, translate to the “awe, nuts!” moments – like when you arrive one morning to your lovingly hand-reared broccoli transplants and find that they have all bolted prematurely. Riding the waves this spring – whether they were tropical hot or arctic cold – meant that a lot of our plantings behaved differently than expected. This early in the spring, when most of our planting spaces are spoken for, it’s hard to make up for failed crops without having a time machine. The effect for Fresh Roots is that we have adjusted our market start dates, and introduced a “soft-market” concept to our first week. 

That said, we did have many gorgeously productive days on site, with all our farm team recruited and in the process of all staff (22 new team members!) training over the past few Mondays. The Vancouver farm team transformed our greenhouse over the last 4 weeks from wild, gregarious, multi-shaped leaves bursting over every surface to a serene, warm oasis with tame baby head lettuces lined up in rows of green and purple. While seeding and rearing transplants is a lovely, crafty task, the prep for transplanting is everything in this process. 

Putting the Seedlings To Bed

When seedlings are ready, their bed has to be made. To start, we first have to uncover the beds that have been sleeping under silage tarps or lumber wrap all winter. If they were uncovered previously, we need to weed — sometimes for hours — before we can move on. Next, we measure and mark out each bed: 36 inches wide, with an 18 inch path. Then we wheelbarrow 3 loads of compost for every 45 foot bed, rake the compost out, and wheelhoe the bed to integrate the nutrition and fluff the mattress, so to speak. If a fluffy bed is a mattress, then consider row cover the sheets. For transplanted beds, the best way to save yourself future battles with weeds is to apply a sheet of landscape fabric to the prepared bed to prevent scattered, wild seeds from seeing the sun or getting irrigated. When we run out of fancy fabric, sometimes we create low-cost covers out of lumber wrap that we cut holes into with rickety scissors found at the bottom of cracked rubbermaid boxes. Transplants are popped into holes in these sheets, and eventually their plumage cascades over the surface, hiding the fact that their sheets are not Egyptian cotton, but rather, black plastic.  

Prepping our beds in this way not only prevents unwanted weed pressure, it also retains the nutritional quality of the soil, preventing nitrogen from being taken up by unplanned plants. Additionally, it prevents surface leaching, by blocking irrigation and rain outside of the holes we farmers have cut. In these ways, we are serving our soil as well as our crops, to minimize our nitrogen output, which also protects the environment.

We did lots of other cool stuff besides bed prep, including clover angels (who knew this was a thing?), building an epic tomato trellis, donating 14 totes of veggies to South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, and wrestling rhubarb – whose leaves I’m considering using in place of landscape fabric, maybe, to suppress weeds? Also makes a great hat during a thunderstorm. 

 

June will see our first CSA Pickup and Market Days – don’t miss them! 

 

We’ll be at the Italian Cultural Centre from 4-7 on Wednesdays starting June 2nd. We’re located at the southwest corner adjacent to the park-look for the white tents, orange signage, and basketball hoops!

AND

Vancouver Farmers Market at Riley Park from 10-2 on Saturdays starting June 12th.

 

-Farmer Camille

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Farmer’s Log, Start-date, May 1, 2021

A week into April I found myself completely transitioned from working behind a screen to my hands covered in compost, unable to check my messages. It’s awesome. This is why I farm. I love being outside, covered in dirt, with wet, matted hair. Thank Manure it’s finally time to work the soil! We direct seeded about twelve beds at the David Thompson Secondary schoolyard farm, a handful of which are now sprouting. These sprouts are destined to be the first veggies in your CSA box or your June market haul! Time to get excited!

This month, I spent about 2 out of 5 days each week fiddling around with irrigation. This time reminds me once again, how important preparation is for a smooth farm season. When Fresh Roots starts up the growing season, Gray, our Infrastructure Manager, first has to test all the lines and replace any broken bits. Any leaks (or explosive sprays!) need to be repaired before we can hook up the lines that will water our seed babies. Next, we make lists of the parts we need, place an order, and pick them up, sometimes requiring a trip out to Abbotsford. Ideally, we would have a very organized inventory of all the essential, tiny, plastic parts that are dispersed over our many sites. Fresh Roots operates over six sites across the lower mainland (and counting) so this process is a little like herding cats with a broom. 

 

Once we’ve got all our bits and bobs, we need to assemble them according to crop, asking questions like, “do we need overhead or drip irrigation;” “do we need 1, 2, or 3 lines per bed;” “what kind of emitters do we need and what’s their coverage;” etc etc. It’s a little bit like lego, which is kind of fun, but also tedious. Once everything is in working order we finally set the timers… the hardest part. The technology is not user-friendly. It’s like setting an alarm on a water-damaged watch from the ’90s: half-analog, half-digital, with about two dozen impossible-to-find settings buried under complex command chains. TBH, I’m not really sure if these minutiae are interesting to you, Dear Reader, but there you have it – irrigation in all its tiny, explosive glory. 

 

Our seedlings in the greenhouse are now fully irrigated and warm under the clear light shining through fresh panes of glass. It seems like the ideal situation, right? Wrong. Turns out a heavenly courtyard in the middle of a school is also a haven for small animals that like to chew things — namely, about a dozen trays of gorgeous plant babies. I can’t blame the animals. Who doesn’t love a sumptuous spring salad after a winter of garbage… Er, turkey? Our response was to build 6 more cages to protect our precious seedlings from grazing. It also spurred a much-needed deep clean in all the nooks, crannies, and under-the-stairs. The whole team — all departments — banded together to tackle this work and it felt so good to accomplish it together. 

 

Stay tuned next month when I’ll talk about transplants, why we do row covers and the onboarding of our seasonal staff.  

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Suwa’lkh School’s Native Plant Sale Now ONLINE!

The Fresh Roots Team at Suwa’lkh School is very excited to announce that we’ve brought this year’s Native Plant Sale online with 2 convenient pick-up locations! If you’ve been looking to learn more about native plant species or have been searching to find your favourite native plants for your garden, this is the blog post you’ve been waiting for! 

When Fresh Roots formed a partnership with the Indigenous Education Department in Coquitlam/Kwikwetlem, one of the main requests from this community was to help provide access to native plants, especially those harder to find for sale or in our urban environment. The beauty of the Native Plant Nursery Project here at Suwa’lkh School is that the youth who work with us in preparing and selling the native plants also learn about those plants, their uses, and their seasonality.

Gray Oron, the Suwa’lkh Project Manager, had this to say about the native plants we grow:

“Native plants not only give us a sense of place and connect us to the history of the land and the people on it, but they also support our local ecosystems and are easier to care for than most plants. One of the most common questions I get is: ‘can they be outside, right now?’ The answer is yes! They belong here, they are from here, and if you give them the right environment, they will need much less care than most non-native plants!”

We are working towards deeper guidance and connection with local First Nations Communities, Knowledge Keepers, and Elders. We strive to be an ally by providing native plants to the local community and space to support the passing of knowledge to youth. The web pages for each of the native plant species we’re offering in our shop are full of information about each species, their preferred conditions, and their interactions with wildlife and humans.

You can scroll through our online shop, add the plants you would like to have in your garden to your cart, choose a pickup location, and pay online all in a few simple clicks! We will contact you to arrange a pick-up time at your chosen location once you have placed an order. There are two pickup locations to choose from: 

 

  1. Italian Cultural Centre (Vancouver) on Wednesdays from 4-7 pm during our Pop Up Market
  2. Suwa’lkh Secondary School (Coquitlam) on Thursdays from 4-7 pm

 

Thank you in advance for your support in all of the work we do at Fresh Roots, especially during this difficult time! We are grateful to the communities we are a part of and your efforts to support native wildlife and youth education through our Native Plant Sale.

Happy planting!

The Suwa’lkh Fresh Roots Team

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Fresh Five Week 3: Earth Day!

Earth Day turns 50 this year! Back in 1970, an American politician named Gaylord Nelson wanted to harness the energy of youth activism to bring attention to environmental issues. That year, 20 million Americans (10% of the total population) took part in marches, rallies, and learning sessions, and their collective voices and the connections made from that first Earth Day led to important environmental legislation in the US, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts within three years.

Today, Earth Day is a global event that has gone digital! You can learn more and find lots more ideas of how to get involved at earthday.org. And, of course, we have a Fresh Five things you can do to celebrate this beautiful planet we call home.

 Dress Your Veggies

A friend of mine asked people to share what they had way too much of in their pantry that they didn’t know what to do with, and someone said “Nutritional Yeast!” So I just had to share our Fresh Roots Famous Salad Dressing. We use it to make our farm-fresh salads irresistible – we have to cut kids off at 5 plates of kale salad, it’s that good! If you, too, have a supply of nutritional yeast in your pantry and aren’t sure what to do with it other than put it on popcorn, here’s an awesome solution. It’s great on salad, steamed or roasted vegetables, grains, and more.

What does this have to do with Earth Day, you ask? Well, when we make veggies delicious, kids (and parents) will choose to eat more of them. That’s not only good for your body, it’s good for the planet too. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change globally, so choosing plant-based foods more often reduces your carbon footprint. And if you can get your veggies from a local farmer, or your own garden plot, that’s even better!

Fresh Roots Famous Salad Dressing

 

Learn About Food & Climate

Raising animals isn’t the only part of our food system that’s connected to our warming climate. From farming to processing to packaging to waste, every part of out food system has impacts on the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This interactive learning resource from the Center for Ecoliteracy is a deep dive into the topic for middle and high school students, or anyone curious about the food system. And don’t worry – it’s not all bad news! You’ll discover lots of ways the people are making change for good in their communities and beyond.

Understating Food and Climate Change

 

Discover Backyard Nature

What better way to honor Earth Day than to learn about some of the other living things that make their homes here? Seek is a kid-safe mobile app created by the iNaturalist folks. Just point the app’s camera at a plant, bug, bird, mushroom, or other living things and the app will tell you all about it! Plus, you can earn badges and participate in challenges. There’s no registration required, and all location data collected is obscured to protect privacy. Happy Searching!

Find the Seek App

 

Make Veggie Art

If you have some fruits or veggies that have been in the fridge just a little too long, Veggie Printing is a fun way to repurpose them! Not only is it a good thing to do with that limp celery, potato that’s started growing, or the bits of your veg that aren’t going to make it into soup, it’s also a great way for kids to play with their food. When kids are encouraged to use all their senses to get to explore a carrot or asparagus in a stress-free way, they can develop a greater appreciation for them, which in turn makes them more likely to eat those vegetables. And if you’re wondering what to do with those veggie prints, may I suggest making an Earth Day card or banner to hang in your window?

Veggie Print Activity Guide

Sing Along with Eco Jams

What better way to wrap up a list of ways to honour the Earth than with an Earth-themed concert you can sing and dance along to from the comfort of your living room? As a grad student, I had the privilege to have singer, songwriter, social worker, and educator Joe Reilly join my outdoor school program for an Artist-in-Residence week. He worked with the kids to write songs, and led us all in a concert that was just the best. As his website says, “The core of his message is an invitation to heal our relationships with our selves, with each other, and with the earth.” His songs full of science facts, silliness, so much joy, and a ton of heart. He’s live streaming throughout the week on his Facebook page, or you can check out a recorded live stream here.

Joe Reilly Earth Week Non-Tour

May you love the Earth and all the life she sustains,

Kat

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We’re Still Farming~A Fresh Roots COVID-19 Update

Dear Fresh Roots Community,

Like many of you, we are closely following COVID-19 developments and taking steps to keep our team and all those we work with healthy. We hope you and yours are safe and well during this time. We wanted to share what’s happening here at Fresh Roots.

Most importantly, our team is working to ensure our farms will be growing more rather than less food this season to feed you, your families and our community. Food is an essential service and a strong local food system is more important now than ever.

Signing up for a Fresh Roots Veggie Box is a great way to access weekly, hyper-local produce! Sign up today or inquire to see how you could buy a Veggie Box to be donated, email food@freshroots.ca to learn more.

With the announcement of indefinite school closures, we’ve suspended all of our school-based programming, including field trips and field classes until school reopens. This also includes the LunchLAB program we run in partnership with Growing Chefs!. We happily look forward to re-scheduling these programs once safe to do so.

At this time we are planning on running our summer SOYL youth leadership and empowerment program and kids camps as planned. Youth registration for SOYL is open until the end of April at: https://freshroots.ca/get-involved/soyl/ and camp registration is ongoing at: https://freshroots.ca/education/camp/.

We continue to monitor the situation and recommendations by the health authorities and will communicate any further adaptations and plans to Fresh Roots programs to you all as the situation develops. The safety of our community comes first. We have communicated to our partners that we are here to help support the kids, youth and families in our communities through these challenging times.

We are also working creatively to look into how we can support distance learning for classes and families. Maybe a virtual farm tour for your kids or class? A “meet a farmer or chef” program? Lesson plans you can use or share? We’d love any suggestions you may have! Follow us on social media to learn about upcoming online resources, tools, and program ideas.

We greatly appreciate all the support our community has given to ensure the continued success of Fresh Roots – thank you!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by email at info@freshroots.ca or by phone at 778-764-0DIG (0344).

With a fistful of hopeful sunshine,

Alexa and the Fresh Roots team

 

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May 2016 Newsletter

Fresh From Fresh Roots

Over the past two weeks, Fresh Roots has been invited to speak with teachersfunders and industry membersthought leaders and professors from across British Columbia to explore what we can do to support a sustainable food and education system that focuses on ensuring that everyone has access to healthy, good, and local food. Here are some of my takeaway moments:

1.  Teachers are incredible force for innovation. Check out what’s happening in Chilliwack or Delta, for new farms on school grounds.  We’re excited to support these projects as we can.

2.  The new BC curriculum creates so many opportunities for teachers and students to use experiential learning through the farms – let’s take that opportunity to explore math, science, literature through a lens of indigeneity and sustainability. We had an incredible field trip exploring these themes just this past month. Come and plant with us! 

3.  SOYL (our summer internship program) focuses on providing job skills training, food literacy, and self-confidence.  And it’s in high demand  We had twice the number of applications as we had spots for youth. We’re excited to help provide healthy food for all youth during the summer. Learn more here.

4.  Almost 1/3 of food produced globally is thrown away.  THAT’S A LOT – Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.  Learn more through the FAO.

5.  We grow healthy food – and, we help help support an urban connection with food and food systems to remind youth of the intimate connection we all have with land, food, and community. Come and eat with us and with rural farmers who are getting more food to the plate than we ever could.  Cheers to them.

6.  Singing feels good – so come and join Rhythm and Roots Choir for a show where the proceeds are going right back into Fresh Roots.  Get your tickets now.

With a fistful of sunshine,

Marc – feeling like a nice summer kale salad with fresh salmon, and crumbled feta with a mustard vinaigrette – Schutzbank

Chief Poet and Executive Director

 

Salad Rainbow

Farmer’s Log

Thanks to the incredible weather, fertile soil and a little elbow grease, the fields are producing the most beautiful greens and roots in such great abundance we can hardly keep up!  Thankfully, we have some extra help from our new-hires, Allie, our new Good Food Distribution Coordinator and Cody our Schoolyard Farm Worker. With these two on the team we’ll be growing and selling more food than ever before.

– Farmer Charlotte

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New Volunteer Postings – Support SOYL Youth this Summer

Fresh Roots and UBC Faculty of Education’s Intergenerational Landed Learning program have been excitedly collaborating and planning to produce our most exciting year of SOYL youth programming yet!

The SOYL summer employment and leadership program empowers secondary students to cultivate and steward food gardens on school grounds for learning, community building and growing Good Food for All. Through the program, youth develop skills in growing, cooking and selling food, as well as a greater connection to themselves, their community, and the Vancouver food system. They also receive a stipend, community service hours and work experience credit for their contributions. See our SOYL page for more details.

SOYL includes weekly Community Eats lunches, and we have some special volunteer needs to help make this program a reality.

  1. Volunteer Chefs (4 positions) – applications are due June 12th
  2. Delivery for Community Eats Volunteer (1 position) – applications are due June 26th

Click on the above links for more details, and contact us at volunteer@freshroots.ca if you have any further questions.

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Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Greens and Feta

3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-2 cloves minced Fresh Roots garlic
3-4 Fresh Roots beets, with greens
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoons chopped drained capers
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk oil, vinegar and garlic in small bowl to blend. Season dressing generously with salt and pepper.

Cut green tops off beets; reserve tops. Arrange beets in single layer in a baking dish; add the water. Cover; bake until beets are tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Peel beets while warm. Cut beets in half and slice thinly. Transfer to large bowl. Mix in capers and 1/4 cup dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut stems off beet greens; discard stems. Wash greens. Transfer greens, with some water still clinging to leaves, to large pot. Stir over high heat until just wilted but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain greens; squeeze out excess moisture. Cool; chop coarsely.

Transfer greens to medium bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange beets in center of platter. Surround with greens; sprinkle with feta. Drizzle with any remaining dressing.

VSB and Fresh Roots Partner to Create Large School Market Garden at Van Tech

Media Release

VSB and Fresh Roots Partner to Create Large School Market Garden at Van Tech

Vancouver, BC (June 13, 2012) – The Vancouver School Board and non-profit Fresh Roots signed a partnership agreement paving the way for a quarter acre landscaped school market garden. The agreement is the first of its kind in Canada.

“We’re combining local food, urban agriculture and education at our schools,” says Kevin Millsip, Sustainability Coordinator for the VSB. “The work we’re doing on urban agriculture is important and we’re very happy to work with Fresh Roots to take farm to school to the next level.”

The school’s market garden will be specifically designed to provide both an educational space where students can learn about agriculture and gardening while growing Asian greens, salad greens, beets, carrots, garlic and a variety of other vegetables that grow in parallel to the school year. By synchronizing the growing season of the garden with the school year, organizers say students will reap the benefits of a fall and winter harvest.

“Hundreds of children in schools in Vancouver eat our schoolyard grown veggies with huge smiles on their faces because they learn and play in the spaces where their food grows and know their farmers,” said Ilana Labow, a Director with Fresh Roots. “We are so excited to grow a large-scale hands-on learning classroom that will make it possible for thousands of children to share in the same experience.”

School Board officials say the partnership opens up a whole range of possibilities at a time that the district is seeking new ideas to repurpose existing land and facilities in lieu of declining enrolment and fiscal challenges.

“This is a wonderful example of the VSB taking an unusable space and repurposing it into something that’s aesthetically pleasing, educationally engaging and sustainable,” says Rob Wynen, a School Trustee with the Vancouver School Board.

Fresh Roots has already collaborated with the district on a pilot garden project at Queen Alexandra Elementary. The scale of the Van Tech project is expected to dwarf the Queen Alexandra pilot. Fresh Roots organizers say a future market garden is already being planned for David Thompson Secondary.

Photos of the groundbreaking available. For more information or to arrange an interview:
Kurt Heinrich
Public Relations and Media Specialist

Vancouver School Board
1580 West Broadway | vsb.bc.ca
p: 604-713-5074 | c: 778-228-1610 | e: kheinrich@vsb.bc.ca |
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