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Farmer’s Log, Seed Date July 1, 2021

July 1st. Wait, what? It’s J U L Y ? It’s July and the kale has exploded along with the weeds. I’m so thankful for our hard-working team (not just the farm workers!) and the handful of volunteers who have joined us in liberating our crops from the overwhelm of hungry, green-leaved neighbours. Fresh Roots has a few hungry neighbours of the human variety, too, which has made an impact on our yields. The unique pressures of Urban Farming continue to surface as we try our best to fulfil commitments to our CSA members, Markets, Programming, the Community Eats Program, Lunch Lab, and Donor Recipients such as South Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Hub. All of this is to say, I feel the theme of the past month has been about Community. 

Community

The Fresh Roots Community is blooming into the Summer Queen that she is. All of the youth hired under the Canada Summer Jobs contracts are trained up and ready to operate the Fresh Roots Summer Kingdom (aka Farm). By the second week of July, we’ll have SOYL (Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership) participants growing, learning and leading at three sites, keen to pull weeds and distribute wood chips (I can’t wait to utilize those hands!) and harvest veggies for the market. 

Our Community Supported Agriculture Program is in its 5th week, now, getting our lovely greens and roots into the hands of thoughtful consumers who know their investment is supporting not only the operation of our farm, but also our programming to employ youth and teach kids about agriculture and themselves. It has been a pleasure to put the faces to the names on our CSA sheet and watch as our vegetable babies find their forever homes… in your mouths, I guess?

We attend two markets with two distinct but wonderful communities: Saturdays at Riley Park we connect with the market-goers, organizers and vendors that make up the incredible Vancouver Farmers Market; and on Wednesdays our market is hosted by the ever-generous folks at the Italian Cultural Centre. The ICC market community ‘feel’ is definitely different this season than last – yes, that means the pizza and wine are missing. That is because the ICC is putting their effort into supporting the community in another way: they are hosting an epic vaccination site, seeing an average of 1600 members of our community get vaccinated each day. So while I’m sad that we don’t get a slice of pizza, I’m happier still that we are overcoming this virus with the support of places like the ICC. 

Other amazing community experiences include ogling all the adorable dogs that are walked around the periphery of the farms, connecting with our curious neighbors, playing I-spy with neighbourhood kids, chatting with students who attend the schools where we farm, and staff sharing a lunch of Fresh Roots Salad Mix with that tasty yeast dressing we all love. 

I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg that is the support and connection happening between the coreteam members of Fresh Roots! It seriously takes so much teamwork to adorn our Lady Fresh Roots with the glory she deserves. It takes meetings — so. many. meetings — and so much planning, and phone calls, and notes and communication boards to make sure all the cogs are turning in time between each department. There is also a lot of: “who does what?” in this organization, as she evolves and transitions into something new, it seems like every moment. 

So, yeah. We get weedy, and stuff gets stolen, but the trade off for working in a supportive community is totally worth it.

-Farmer Camille

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Introducing Vivian Cheung our new Operations Coordinator!

“Vivian’s Story – From Table to Farm”

Like many university students, my journey to Fresh Roots began when I was looking for ways to gain experience in my field of study. I was a biology undergraduate student at UBC and although my lectures and labs equipped me with the theoretical framework to think like a biologist, I had yet to ‘get my feet wet’ in the practical application of what I was learning, both literally and figuratively. I knew I wanted to help people, especially in empowering environmental stewardship and teaching others about life’s curiosities. Beyond that, like many university students, I was uncertain where to start.

At the same time, my family opened up a restaurant near Granville Island. That meant in between lectures, I would bus back and forth to help out, serving hearty bowls of noodle soup to Vancouverites on cold rainy days. Over time, I began becoming increasingly aware of the importance and power of making healthy food choices. Through hours of conversations with customers, I realized the potential for communities to form and bond through food.

In 2016, I joined Fresh Roots as one of the three Schoolyard Farm interns. From the moment I stepped foot into the gardens at David Thompson Secondary, I felt at home. Our team and programs were smaller back then but nonetheless, the sense of community and passion for social change was and is still evident for all who interact with Fresh Roots.

Even though at that moment, I could tell you the scientific life cycle of Brassica oleracea, I could not show you how to harvest kale when I first started my internship. Preparing my first garden beds was also a huge milestone even though my muscles were very sore in the days that followed. As a highly detailed person, I wrestled with the endless battle with the garden weeds, especially horsetail. Nonetheless, I knew these challenges were opportunities for me to grow as an individual and as a team in a safe and inviting community.

By the end of my internship, I moved from being a consumer of knowledge, sitting at the table as an observer, to a farmer of good food, both literally and figuratively, as my highlights include early harvest days and assembling CSA boxes at the ICC, to providing food for thought in my interactions with volunteers and market-goers. It was exciting for me to help mentor SOYL youth in the very things I could not do in the beginning, including harvesting kale and preparing garden beds. I knew my mind and abilities were stronger, though my battle with horsetail still continues to this day.

Fresh Roots sparked my passion for supporting community empowerment. Since then, I have graduated from UBC and worked in a couple of non-profit organizations, putting my attention to detail to good use through administrative support. This year, I return to Fresh Roots as the Operations Coordinator.

I am excited to continue my Fresh Roots journey with you all in the new year!

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How to take part in a Vancouver school farm fundraiser dinner in your own backyard

They’ll supply the harvest, you serve your dinner at home and it all supports keeping youth healthy and working in Vancouver

By: Lindsay William-Ross

It’s hard to host a long table dinner when restaurant tables in B.C. are limited to just six diners apiece these days due to COVID-19, so many special events are having to either cancel for 2020 or reconfigure completely.

One group that has totally revamped their annual fundraiser is the Schoolyard Harvest Dinner, a summer event that benefits Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society.

This year, Fresh Roots will hold their dinner as an “At-Home Edition” where diners can enjoy a small gathering with big, fresh flavours at home, and can connect with other supporters online – instead of on the lawn at David Thompson Secondary as usual.

Taking place Thursday, August 13, ticket holders can purchase summer harvest boxes curated by Fresh Roots that will be filled with everything you’ll need to create a beautiful meal at home to share with friends or family. There will even be wine and flowers, to accent your at-home experience. Order online and pick up on your chosen day. Harvest boxes are available for two, four, or six guests, and arrangements can be made if you are interested in holding a larger – but COVID-safe – get together.

Guests will come together online on August 13 at 6 p.m. for a celebration and program featuring kitchen tips and tricks from chefs TJ Conwi and Natasha Sawyer about how to compose your plates with the contents of your summer harvest box. Participants from the SOYL program will also share stories about their time with Fresh Roots.

Funds generated from the dinner directly benefit Fresh Roots’ SOYL (Sustainable Opportunities Youth Leadership) program, which engages and empowers youth. This is their fourth-annual iteration of the fundraiser event.

Fresh Roots is the Vancouver organization with a vision to “cultivate engaging gardens and programs that catalyze healthy eating, ecological stewardship, and community celebration.” To that end, Fresh Roots runs Schoolyard Market Gardens, educational farms that they utilize as pathways to youth empowerment and employment.

Partners for the 2020 Schoolyard Harvest Dinner At-Home Edition include Legends Haul, Marquis Wine Cellars, Organic Ocean, 33 Acres Brewing Co., Saltspring Harvest, Susgrainable, and Fife Bakery with more generous donors to be confirmed in the days to come.

Schoolyard Harvest Dinner At-Home Edition

When: Thursday, August 13, 2020, at 6 p.m.

Where: At the location of your choosing/online

Cost: $150-450

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A SOYL Summer-Part 2

A SOYL Summer- Part 2

As the 2020 SOYL (Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership) wraps up another action-packed week or learning and growing together we are sharing the second installment in the three-part series written by four SOYL alumni from the summer of 2019. Introducing the second installment of this three-part series:

Written by Stephanie, Maria, Railene, and Sarina, 2019 SOYL Participants

Chapter one: The beginning of SOYL

The anticipation of SOYL was finally over as the first day finally arrived. We gathered together in a circle, seeing new faces. We were sorted in crews with people we had not yet connected with. While we started doing icebreakers and name games the awkwardness slowly faded away. Despite only meeting hours before, our interest bonded us together with beautiful conversations. Laughter and joy spread as we progressed through our first day. Closing off, we participated in an activity that ensured our friendship with one another. A ball of neon pink string was passed between all of us and we wrapped the string around our wrist three times. When it was our turn we would say what our goals for SOYL are. We discussed our goals to contribute to each other and promised to uphold the community agreements. In our community agreements, we agreed to be on time and be respectful to everyone in the community. Our schedules were formed the following week and we had lots to do. On the first day, we also learned how to use the gardening tools safely. We learned the importance of watching our surroundings so we don’t get into an accident. One of the two most important things we took from SOYL on our first week was safety but mostly fun!

Chapter Two: Community Eats

Most of the SOYL members can agree Community Eats is one of the best things in SOYL! What isn’t there to love about eating healthy, delicious, sustainable foods together as a community. In the morning a crew goes up to the kitchen inside the school and starts planning for the yummy meal. The veggies that sadly could not make it to the farmers’ market due to imperfections are used in the meal. For example, sometimes the vegetable isn’t pretty but it’s still perfect to eat. Community Eats is a hands-on learning experience for students. We learn to cook the food and on the other hand, we learn the importance of reducing waste. A couple of topics we covered in Community Eats are how we can use the unwanted pieces of veggies to make a broth instead of composting right away and we also learned about urban agriculture but will get more into that later. When all the cooked food was brought outside, we gathered together to listen to one of our SOYL crew members to introduce the meal of the day. While we were eating the delicious food we started having conversations with our SOYL staff, mentors, and crew members.

Chapter three: Farm Work

From buckets to shovels, every tool had a purpose on the farm that would make specific tasks easier. The first time on the farm we learned about tools such as forks and shears to ease into using them in the future. We even learned about the benefits of a glove. The glove will protect you from small thorns pricking your fingers or spiky weeds difficult to pull out. The facilitators made sure we knew how to handle such large tools with safety and care. Nicole, Hanah, and Sunny were the facilitators that ensured we understood how to clean the tools and safely put the barrels back. By the end of the day, we all knew how to properly use them. Tools such as shovels were used by the majority of us to remove the weeds in the beds with deeper roots. We all took part in the satisfaction of pulling a weed in one swift pull. Sometimes on the farm, we have been hungry for a snack while weeding and a simple trick is to eat one of the popular edible weeds on the farm. Most of us can say purslane is one of the best snacks on the farm. It’s succulent which contains water, making the pure green leaf fun and crunchy. The lemony leafy taste makes it even more desirable when spotting a bunch on the veggie beds. After the unwanted plants are pulled out of the beds we harvest the veggies. Harvesting is a rewarding job to do. The eye-catching multi-colored plants are removed from the beautiful deep rich soil we have on the farm. The mouth-watering task makes our days a whole step more enjoyable. During the program, we go to two different high schoolyard farms, one at David Thompson and the second one at Van Tech.

Proceeds from the Fresh Roots Fourth Annual Schoolyard Dinner *At Home Edition* fundraiser On Sale Now provide critical funding for Fresh Roots programs, like SOYL, that engage and empower youth more important now than ever!

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Fresh Roots on The Conversation Lab -Co-op Radio Vancouver

Our fearless Interim Executive Director, Alexa Pitoulis, chats about all things Fresh Roots on The Conversation Lab with Don Shafer produced by CFRO FM (Co-op Radio Vancouver). Thanks so much for the opportunity to share a little bit about what we are up to these days and how we adapted our LunchLAB in-school meal program along with our partner Growing Chefs! to offer students and families meals out of school during this uncertain time.
Vancouver Co-op Radio CFRO To learn more or to donate visit www.lunchlab.ca

Listen to “Alexa Pitoulis – Freshroots Urban Farm Society” on Spreaker.

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An Exciting Peek Behind the Scenes at Fresh Roots!

For the past few years, we’ve had a BIG PROBLEM. We’ve wanted to show you all of the awesome things that the youth have been digging into at our farms, but there’s no way we could jam EVERYONE onto the farms at once!

Well, NOW we are thrilled to show you something we’ve been working on since the summer: a short and sweet sneak peek into one of our amazing programs!

We hope that by the end of this heartwarming video, you’ll be inspired to give a little warmth back to the youth in the form of a donation to support 2019 programs and our vision of Good Food for All! We are trying to raise $10,000 before December 31 to support the youth in next year’s programs and ALL contributions are greatly appreciated.

So… without further ado, please watch this lovely video! (It’s only two minutes and totally worth it!)

Watched that video and loved it? Didn’t watch that video but already know you love Fresh Roots and want to donate? Thank you so much! Please go ahead and donate now!

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VSB Student Captures SOYL Program

Learning about Food, Sustainability, and Leadership on Schoolyard Farms

by Nichole Bruce, SOYL Graduate

When I accepted the placement at SOYL this summer, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Some of my friends had done it the summer before and said it was a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun. I quickly came to learn that SOYL is more than just working on a farm all summer. To sum it up SOYL is a program for youth run in partnership by the UBC Faculty of Education’s Intergenerational Landed Learning Project, and Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, a non-profit organization that runs two urban farms on high school grounds. SOYL is perfect for anyone who is interested in the food system, sustainability, and leadership. Over the course of the seven weeks we participated in numerous workshops, traveled around Vancouver on our weekly community days, and learned more about food and agriculture than I could’ve imagined. I decided to join the SOYL program because I was, and still am, interested in all the things I mentioned above, the food system, sustainability and leadership. I had my own vegetable garden at home and was curious about how food is grown on a commercial level and all the factors that affect the production. Since there is no course in school that teaches about agriculture or agronomy, I thought SOYL would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about the things I was so interested in.

 

Harvesting garlicEvery morning we (when I say ‘we’ I mean the 24 SOYL participants) would go to one of the schoolyard farms at either Vancouver Technical Secondary or David Thompson Secondary and work in the farms for the mornings and then participate in a workshop to help us build our leadership skills or prepare for market, where we sold all the produce we grew. Each day was a bit different in terms of what we were doing, which only made the program more fun. We were split into crews of six youth and would work together on whatever task we were assigned and one of the farmers – who have the coolest jobs in the world – would guide us and answer any questions we had. My favourite memory from this summer would definitely be the day we made blueberry jam. All of us – the facilitators, youth, and chefs, squished into the Van Tech kitchens on probably the hottest day of the summer and made over 150 jars of jam. It was so much fun, we had music playing and people were laughing and smiling and we were making delicious blueberry jam that we could soon sell to raise money for next year’s SOYL program.

Communal lunch on the farmMy summer with SOYL has taught me so many things and has shaped my future in ways I don’t quite know yet. Before SOYL, agriculture was something I was interested in but I didn’t know anyone else with the same interest, not many high school students go around saying “I really want to be a farmer when I grow up.” For me, the most valuable experience I had this summer was talking to all the farmers who work on the farms year-round and learning about how they got to where they are. There are so many programs more than general sciences and arts, and talking to people who had been a part of these programs really opened my mind to the possibilities I have once I graduate high school. In regards to life-long lessons I learned, the one that stands out to me the most is not taking food for granted. It’s so easy to not even give a thought to the people and industry that puts food on our plates every day. There is so much more that goes into getting food from farms than a truck driving it to the supermarket, and learning about the food system has given me a new appreciation for the food I eat. In more ways than I can count, SOYL has not only taught me about food but has also helped me become a better, more knowledgeable and more responsible person.

Weeding is tough work!

 

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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.