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And That’s a Wrap for 2021!

Thank you so much for your ongoing support. As we reflect on the past year, we’re proud of the community we are growing with you. We see so much hope for the future in the kids and youth we get to work with. Experiencing what is possible through engaging youth and the community in growing food on schoolyard farms is incredibly energizing. 

 The hope we see and feel is because YOU are part of the progress we are making. Fresh Roots is fortunate to be part of an interconnected and supportive community of individuals, businesses and organizations who are re-imagining food education and community-based learning. Through deepening our relationships with you all and with the land upon which we are privileged to work, we are learning and innovating. We’d like to share some highlights from the past year and some of the ways we engaged with kids, youth and the community:

  • SOYL (Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership) we welcomed 65 high school youth in Vancouver, Delta and Coquitlam for 6 weeks of contributing to farm work, learning from local knowledge keepers about the land upon which our programs take place, cooking and sharing meals with each other and the community and co-running our weekly farm markets.
  • LunchLAB Community Eats was one of the biggest highlights of the 2021 season. Getting to cook and share food again after a pause last summer due to COVID-19 restrictions meant so much to everyone at Fresh Roots where harvesting food and preparing and sharing meals is a foundational part of our programming and an extra special treat for little and big kids alike. With our partners at Growing Chefs, we adapted our educational, in-school meal program, LunchLAB, to be included as part of the summer SOYL program. We hired 3 Chef Educators who worked with rotating cook teams of 5 SOYL youth two times per week to prepare lunch for 40 of their peers. Lucky Fresh Roots staff and community guests! Along with Growing Chefs, we were also able to restart our LunchLAB program at Total Education Secondary Program this fall, serving delicious and nutritious chef and student prepared meals to students and staff in school!
  • Summer Camp and Experiential Learning programs engaged learners from grades pre-K through 12 in 11,000 hours of learning on the farms and in the community! We expanded to 9 weeks of summer camps doubling the number of kids from 125 to 286. We hosted field trips for over 60 classes from local elementary and secondary schools on the farms and brought our Farm 2 You workshop program to over 30 classes and day camp groups.
    • Gatherings cautiously returned this fall and we were thrilled to support Vancouver Technical Secondary School in preparing food for both the Grade 8 Welcome Orientation Lunch (350 parents and students) and the Indigenous Family Gathering (100 community members). For both events, SOYL Alumni and youth volunteers pitched in to prepare and serve food to their community.
  • Farms and Markets were bustling this 2021 season! We grew over 150 types of plants using organic practices which made their way into the community through 4 weekly markets in Vancouver, Coquitlam and Delta, 65 CSA Veggie Box shares, events and gatherings and donations to local neighbourhood houses.  

 

Lastly, we’ll share a few last words from some of the folks who speak to our programs from their own lived experiences:

SOYL made me realize that whatever I end up doing needs to have some way of connecting it to the Earth and the land we are coming from because you can’t really accomplish any sort of justice without including ecosystems because everything is connected.

SOYL Youth 2021, Vancouver

Kudos to the Delta SOYL Team and all the SOYL staff! Cam has absolutely loved this experience. We so appreciate that this opportunity is available to him. He has become more confident, independent, met new friends and his anxiety has become way less! He has learned great responsibility and skills that will serve him well in the workforce. He also loves to cook and having exposure to a chef and vegan recipes has been awesome. This has been amazing for him as a person. Thank you to you and all of the leaders. Your hard work has really paid off!!!

Josie Zhan, Parent of Cameron SOYL 2021 Delta Mentor

With the state of the world today, specifically climate change, we need to find ways to be resourceful and knowledgeable of our food sources.  Students need to learn how to treat our earth so that we may reap the rewards of its gifts.  This program inspires students to learn and enjoy all aspects of where their food comes from and the delight of tasting it. 

Gaye Dalla-Zanna, Grade 7 Teacher, Farm Observers Program

 

We’re closing out this year with ever-present natural disasters and crises dominating news threads. Messages tell us to be worried, scared, sad, and that we need to act now. And while there is no doubt urgent work is needed, Fresh Roots is growing the next generations to be best equipped to navigate the changes to come. We do this by supporting the self-determination of kids and youth to build lasting relationships with people, places, and food. We see them growing their confidence in discovering more about themselves and their role in the community. 

So, thank you. Thank you for believing in Fresh Roots and our vision for Good Food For All. We are incredibly grateful for you, our community and your continued support.

With gratitude,

Alexa, Executive Director

To DONATE and receive 2021 tax receipt visit: freshroots.ca/donate/

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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 – Carmen

by Carmen Starr, SOYL Suwa’lkh Mentor

Market time at SOYL has always been my favourite time during the program. I loved it last year when I was just a crew member and got to do it and I loved it just as much this year as a mentor too. I could honestly list various reasons why the market is my favourite. To start off, I love the preparation for it. Harvest days are some of the best days for me. I love getting to pick the veggies and going through our whole process of getting them market ready. On market days, being able to sleep in is so refreshing and relaxing. Having that extra bit of sleep always helps. Besides that, getting to interact with customers and getting hands on work experience is great. I like that I get that experience in SOYL because it really helps having it. SOYL has just been a great way to gain work experience and prepare me for when I apply to somewhere and get my first job.

SOYL has been such a great way to step out of my comfort zone and really start to open up more. It has given me so many opportunities to connect with different people in my age group and has helped me step up and become a better leader. The mentorship this year has been new for me but others and I have seen a large change in the way I was last year. I’m more open to sharing my voice in conversations. I’ve gained more confidence in myself. I have faced some of my biggest fears here and got through them better than I ever have. I’ve always struggled with public speaking but being in this program and getting used to talking so much has helped me improve on it. SOYL has really done so much for me and I am so grateful I got to be apart of such a wonderful 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.