SPROUTING YOUNG URBAN GARDENERS Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society is filling the gaps between classroom learning and real-world experience to teach high school students how to grow their own produce and take on responsibility. WORDS BY JENNIFER COLE
T he start of the growing season and a harvest of kale, tomatoes, radishes, peas, potatoes and everything in between — that’s what spring means to Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society. A non-profit organization advocating good food for all, its members say that communities coming together to create a locally sustainable food system is as important as the food itself — and the first step is education. Fresh Roots operates commercially viable farms at Vancouver Technical Secondary School, David Thompson Secondary, Suwa’lkh School in Coquitlam, and works in tandem with the Delta School District at its eight-acre Boundary Bay farm. The organization offers field trips to its many sites for kindergarten through to Grade 12 students, including after-school groups such as Scouts or Guides. Its outdoor field classes use farming and food as a catalyst to teach a variety of topics that complement the current B.C. school curriculum. Educators correlate indoor learning, such as the biology of plant re-production, to the real-
life experience of watching bees busily pollinating plants in the farm fields. Other classes invite students to use grocery store items to make dishes. They learn where the food came from, the complexity of the global food system and how these same items could have been grown locally. Alexa Pitoulis, executive director of Fresh Roots, says it’s the ability to fill the gaps between classroom learning and real- world experience that makes the organization unique. Grade 7 teacher Gaye Dalla-Zanna agrees that with the state of the world today, specifically climate change, we need to find ways to be resourceful and knowledgeable about our food sources. Students need to learn how to treat the earth so we can reap the rewards of its gifts, she says.
It all began in 2009. Gray Oron, Ilana Labow and Marc Schutzbank were friends and urban agricultural enthusiasts
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