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Community Spotlight – Made by Malcolm

By Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Lead and Malcolm’s Support Worker

Malcolm’s Story

Malcolm is a valued Fresh Roots community member with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and the garden at Suwa’lkh School in Kwikwetlem (Coquitlam) is a place that he loves to spend time. He has been working out in the garden with Fresh Roots for 5 or 6 years now. He was a student at Suwa’lkh who helped create the garden and orchard and helped develop the 7 acre food forest next to the school. During his last year of school he worked outside 3 hours a week, seeding, weeding and uppotting. After Malcolm graduated in 2020 he wanted to continue working in the garden. He started volunteering twice a week and kept coming to the garden throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It provided him with a safe, welcoming place to go every week. This is a place where he is able to build lasting connections with the community.

Malcolm loves to do the uppotting and seed start tasks. Weeding is also a task he loves because there isn’t too much to think about. With weeding everything must go! Malcolm really enjoyed the seed saving of lupine seeds this summer. Harvesting, leaving them to dry in a paper bag, separating seeds, packaging and labelling. He asked if we would be doing this again next year. Malcolm also really enjoys harvesting the purple peacock beans. These are easy to spot and we just have to pull them all off. The simple repetitive tasks are great for Malcolm. He does enjoy learning new farm tasks when we are able. The more things he can do means he has more choices of tasks to choose from when he is here.

Sonia, Malcolm’s Mom, has said “We are so blessed that he is so welcome there! I tell everyone what an amazing program it is all the time. He is so lucky to have Fresh Roots”.

Support the ‘Made by Malcolm’ Fundraiser!

In addition to dedicating his time to help out on the Suwa’lkh schoolyard farm, Malcolm fundraises by selling Made by Malcolm handmade cards. In January, he raised $362.34 in support of Fresh Roots experiential food literacy education programs. Way to go, Malcom and Jaimie!

Malcolm is back with another Made by Malcom Fresh Roots fundraiser, selling sets of holiday cards for $5! Each set comes with four cards (star, tree, snowflake and stocking). Show your support by purchasing a set of cards through their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Made-by-Malcom-655182104946615/!

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2021 Stories – Summer Schoolyard Gardener

by Olivia Evans, Schoolyard Gardener

For my first term in UBC Co-op, I had the pleasure to work with Fresh Roots as a summer schoolyard gardener. As a schoolyard gardener, my main tasks included planning garden layouts, harvesting fresh produce and overall garden maintenance. Schools involved with this project included Windermere Secondary, Britannia Secondary, Templeton Secondary, Strathcona Elementary, Grandview Elementary, Laura Secord Elementary, Total Education Program, and Nightingale Elementary. This overall experience taught me not only new skills in gardening and nutrition, but also about the importance of community.

Some of the highlights I had from this summer included working with the farm team at the David Thompson schoolyard farm, and the weekly lunch cooked by the Vancouver SOYL program participants,  where we gathered together and ate outside at the Italian Cultural Centre. 

This experience was one I hope to never forget, as it allowed me to engage in hands-on learning that will continue to aid me in my studies for the future.

Work with us next summer! We hire youth (ages 15-30) each year, with job opportunities posted starting in March 2022: https://freshroots.ca/about/job-opportunities/.

Thank you Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ), Vancouver School Board and MP Jenny Kwan for supporting schoolyard farms and engaging summer learning programs for kids and youth!

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Sissi

by Sissi Han, SOYL Suwa’lkh Mentor

Hi, I am Sissi! Here is my blog post!

I chose four pictures from the album and they are my treasured memories.

I took my first picture on my way to Rochester Park. They were hydrangeas. The flowers next to a cluster of clusters, just like small pompons. I felt relaxed at that time. The flowers were blooming brightly, they were gorgeous.

The second picture is a cluster of lavender. The whole SOYL team went to visit colony farm that day and we saw a lot of native plants, fruits, veggies, flowers. Although the temperature was pretty high, I felt well worth seeing these lovely plants. I heard that lavender scents can produce the most positive, calming results.

The third picture is a container full of blueberries from the first week of SOYL market. We harvested a lot of plump, dark blue blueberries. I remembered there were bees flying around, and cobwebs between leaves and branches.

The fourth one is a photo of the curry from Community eats of out crew. The curry was tasty and it smelt so good. We had coconut milk, chickpeas, sweet peppers, and other ingredients that I didn’t really put in the curry I made from home. That was impressive.

This was really a memorable experience!

Bright smiles,

Sissi Han

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Natalia

by Natalia Samaniego, SOYL Suwa’lkh Mentor

I originally found out about SOYL thru a “my school” app notification. This is my second year here and it’s been a great experience full of lessons, fun, and friendships. I’ve learned about leadership, food systems, forest ecosystems, mental health, the list goes on. I’ve done many things outside of my comfort zone that I wouldn’t have done if not for this program, like gaining hands on experience as a cashier in the Thursday SOYL market. As a mentor, I’ve learned to deal with uncomfortable situations and deescalate conflict. I’m a more confident person than I was before.  I’m really happy I got to be part of this program.
Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.
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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Cady

by Cady Tong, SOYL Suwa’lkh Mentor

Being in the SOYL program was very new to me. You spend of your time outside either working on the farm or forest and any workshops we had we could relate back to experiences we had just had.

We plant a variety of things on the farm, often consumable but also beneficial towards our environment such as flowers for our bees or plants for filtration. 

We do a lot of cooking, leaning more into the vegan/vegetarian side which teaches us the importance of the food we eat while introducing us to new diets, which tie nicely into our food systems workshops.

We often gather in the forest next to Suwa’lkh which has a creek where we’ve learned the importance of our salmon to us and the Coquitlam people and of how the water systems affect us. 

At SOYL we get to create a really nice community where everyone feels welcome and we discuss the importance of safe spaces. It is unlike what I’m used to in my day to day life where such a close community is rare to come across.

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – August

by August Sholcz, SOYL Suwa’lkh Mentor

I’m really glad I joined the SOYL program this year. Last year, the SOYL program was a lot of fun and so far, this year has been just as fun. This year is a little more challenging than last year but I love challenges.

I’ve learned to interact with everyone. I’m really enjoying being a mentor and helping out. I have my own little crew and I know each person individually. I get to help and answer questions if they ask. So far, I feel pretty confident in guiding my crew. There are a few who need some extra support, but it’s been pretty good. Since I’ve been in their situation before, I am able to better support them. I am able to ‘put my feet in their shoes’. We’ve learned quite a few different things. We’ve learned how to can vegetables, learned about Colony Farms, learned about the different kinds of soils, etc.

Like always, my highlight is the market. There is only one thing I dislike about markets, which is closing time. My favourite part is entering orders into the ordering machine and handling the money. Doing the market is extremely rewarding not just because of how much was sold, but also getting out of my comfort zone and talking with people. I love to organize the produce to make it look nice and appealing. For me, teaching customers about what we do and what the SOYL program stands for is a little difficult, but it’s great practice. I have definitely come a long way with interacting with others during the markets.

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Fiona

by Fiona Sutherland, SOYL Vancouver Mentor

As a mentor, I have loved seeing the growth and change this wonderful program has brought to not only my crewmates, but me as well. Watching everyone come out of their shells, take interest in farming, help the community, and expand their social circles has been so inspirational! Getting to know our wonderful SOYL youth this summer has been quite exciting, especially from a mentor point of view. I feel as if I have a lot more appreciation for the change and growth, I have seen from day one to now! Seeing the growth in myself is also incredibly exciting. I feel as if I learn more and more every year and I am so grateful for the opportunities this program has provided me with. My confidence in my own leadership skills is continuously growing as I receive feedback from our wonderful facilitators and help build on my current abilities. 

SOYL provides such an inclusive and fun environment to learn in, and this summer has helped me develop and foster crucial life and leadership skills. For example, I now find it much easier to take charge and help lead bigger groups. I feel a lot less afraid to give others gentle reminders and to step fully into my leadership position! SOYL has given me the confidence to trust my own decisions, leadership related or otherwise. I truly appreciate how SOYL brings hundreds of youth opportunities that are few and far between in our education system – not only does the program help prepare us for the workforce, but it gives us valuable information about the outside world and how to stand out amongst our diverse and talented peers. SOYL teaches youth how to bring positive change to our society, no matter big or small.

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Joaquin

by Joaquin Redo Rato, SOYL Vancouver Mentor

Several wonderful, fun hours of labor and toil have been spent on the farm here at SOYL! Today I will talk about what my crew, Crew C, and I have been up to these last few days. 

Here at the farm, we use organic practices meaning no pesticides are added to the farm. Unfortunately, we do have problems with pest which makes this an expensive endeavor. Invasive plant species also pose harm to us as they invade our fields and choke out our crops. That is why weeding them out of our soil is an important part of managing and growing crops.

My crew and I have been a leading front against the war on weeds. The youth here at SOYL work hard in the sun all morning to take out all the enemy plants up to their roots without complaint, only stopping for the occasional water break. Big or small, we get them – then we stuff them into a wheelbarrow which is dumped into the compost bin. We like to keep our farm nice and clean as it gives it a sense of organization, so we also try to pick off any stray leaves or grasses to make sure the ground is spotless. The rats have gotten to some of the ripe crops, so we are going to have to find a way to deal with them without the use of pesticides. Our main goal right now is to eradicate the problem of weeds by putting tarps and natural barriers to protect the farm crops from being choked, but we need to get rid of the existing weeds first to prevent spread.

That’s all for today’s report! Thanks for checking in.

Learn more about the SOYL program HERE.

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#SOYLyouth 2021 – Caty

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.