by Caty Janze, SOYL Vancouver Mentor
Growth is a huge part of SOYL, both explicitly through workshops and more implicitly through activities like gardening, cooking, and art. Both have strengths and weaknesses, and the combination of the two creates an environment that allows youth chances to become comfortable in areas they wouldn’t otherwise.
We do workshop most days at SOYL on food security and sustainability, mental and physical health, and leadership and social enterprise. Although I’ve learned from each workshop, the social enterprise ones are the most challenging. Food workshops invite us to reflect on our values and our world, health workshops on how our minds and bodies work, while leadership/social enterprise workshops focus on our skills and how to market ourselves. The latter is difficult because saying good things about yourself is infinitely harder than quietly believing them; lending yourself to others opens you up to being misunderstood, or worse, being understood and still seen as inadequate. Why it’s uncomfortable is also exactly why it’s necessary. Confidence and self-knowledge are often conflated with arrogance and self-involvement, and so being allowed to speak well of yourself without fear of criticism is important for building those skills.
The other defining part of what makes SOYL what it is is the activities! We do work around the farm, and we cook for community eats. These activities get us to move our bodies, enjoy being outdoors, and build community. They also let us practice skills we talk about in workshops. After all, you can’t cook without being confident you won’t start a grease fire.
Overall, SOYL has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have grown more confident in my leadership skills over the course of this year’s program and watching the youth form friendships and develop skills has been fantastic.
Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.
This April we’re excited to partner with local organizations Kiwassa Neighbourhood House and local artist Amanda Suutari to launch the social media campaign #EarthDaySeedingChange2021!
Starting April 1st, when you post your inspired actions to protect the planet you’ll be entered into our Earth Day draw to win locally- produced, planet-friendly prizes, including fine art prints, printed journals, along with other gifts donated by local businesses.
Our goal is to ignite our sense of collective power to make a difference during these times of isolation. #EarthdaySeedingChange2021 is about inspiring each other with all the creative ways we can care for the Earth. Actions are like planting seeds – they contain their own life force, and can take root and grow in places we might least expect.
How to participate:
- Take an inspired action between April 1st and Earth Day, April 22nd (see examples of actions below).
- Post a photo and caption of yourself taking the action on either our Facebook page or Instagram/Twitter with the hashtag #earthdayseedingchange2021 to enter a draw*.
- You’ll be able to check out the photo gallery of posts between April 1st and Earth Day by visiting this page:
- Randomly-selected winners will be announced on Earth Day (April 22nd).
- Prizes will include colourful, sustainably-printed art prints, journals, and postcards donated by local artist Amanda Suutari (printed by Hemlock Printers, one of the most progressive and sustainable print providers in North America), as well as random green-leaning goodies from local businesses (TBA).
- You get to feel awesome about taking action, feel inspired watching the gallery on this page fill up with images, and get some new ideas about how you can live a more Earth-friendly existence!
What kind of actions? Some examples:
- Picking up plastic from a beach or forest
- Planting pollinator wildflowers on your lawn or roadside (West Coast Seeds has some great pollinator mixes)
- Collecting coffee grounds from your local cafe to add to your compost
- Going plastic-free for a day (or longer!)
- Making a phone call or writing a letter to a local MP about an environmental concern such as old-growth logging
- Patching or altering an old garment to extend it’s life
- Making a donation to a local indigenous, environmental, or local food organization
- Download this list of actions for more ideas
Fine Art Prints: One of a selection of fine art prints, journals or hemp postcards by Amanda Suutari featuring these images:
Frog at Night
+ other earth-friendly gifts by local organizations (names TBA).
*for winners outside the Lower Mainland, shipping costs apply.
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.
Every 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.
My 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.