By Kristen McLester, Youth Program Facilitator
What vegetable do you feel like today? That’s the kind of question you’d hear at a Fresh Roots interview or group zoom call. This question provides a peek into what working with Fresh Roots is like. This past summer I had the opportunity to pursue a full-time job with Fresh Roots as a youth program facilitator. I was excited to become involved in the local food system but I had no idea just how rewarding and fulfilling my experience would be. I initially thought I would be teaching campers about agriculture but I feel like I learned just as much, if not more, from the campers and the community.
Prior to camp, I had the opportunity to explore different avenues Fresh Roots is involved in, such as the LunchLAB initiative, re-indigenizing the food system, and virtual learning opportunities. I also explored their farm sites in Vancouver and Coquitlam. I’ll never forget one sunny day in Coquitlam, working with the SOYL team to create new plant beds. In between digging and uncovering tarps, we snacked on some golden raspberries and oh my, they were some of the tastiest berries I’ve ever had.
Fast forward to the first day of camp, and I was probably just as nervous as the kids were. The rest of the summer is almost a blur because it passed by so fast, but there are so many memories I hold. I’ll never forget the first time a camper found a worm, held a ladybug, picked their first carrot, or created their intricate bug hotel. There was a lot of teaching moments as well, like conflict resolution between fighting siblings or calming a frustrated child who just wanted to go home. There were a lot of firsts for me and the kids and so many things that we taught each other.
Outside of the day camp itself, there were opportunities to meet with the other Fresh Roots staff through group events such as a decolonize workshop or their annual long table dinner. Fresh Roots provided a safe place to take risks and explore new avenues. There were (and are) so many opportunities to get involved within the community and I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to learn and grow in our local food system.
Oh, and today, I feel like kohlrabi!