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Youth enrolled in the program quickly learn that for a farm to succeed, they need to work together to accomplish tasks. They form a tight-knit community involved with all aspects of growing and selling the produce to the public at Fresh Roots weekly farmers’ markets from June through October. Through real world experience, participants begin to understand the connections between land, food, community and how they can make a positive difference in the world. Fiona Sutherland, a SOYL mentor, says the program helps prepare young people for the workforce, but it also gives them valuable information about the outside world and how to stand out among their peers. SOYL teaches them to make positive change to society, no matter how big or small. Fresh Roots’ founders believe good food for all is a right, not a privilege. Today, Fresh Roots educates and empowers youth with awareness that the community they create while growing food, and the support and needs of a broader community, connect just as the food they’re growing relies on them for harvest. They learn that when the cycle works, food brings people together and is a mobilizing force for good.

who wanted to see how much food they could grow for their families, friends and community in East Vancouver’s urban environment. Little did they know that a garden fence shared with Queen Alexandra Elementary School would change ev- erything. The school asked if the gardeners on the other side of the fence would help them transform its fallow garden into something that would help provide produce for its farm-to- school program. According to Oron, the administrators asked for a parcel of land in exchange for any help they’d give. Work- ing together, parents, teachers and community members re- stored the school’s garden and an edible schoolyard sprouted. Four years later, Fresh Roots was working with the Vancouver School Board, offering professional development food-literacy seminars to B.C. educators and operating a market-scale educational farm at Vancouver Technical Secondary School — the first in Canada. Along with other fundraising initiatives, such as Giving Tuesday, Fresh Roots uses a community supported agricultural (CSA) model to subsidize farm costs. Yearly shares or memberships are sold in the farms. Investors profit by being provided a weekly box of fresh produce during the growing season.

Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society 5050 Wales St., Vancouver, B.C. freshroots.ca | 778-764-0344 | @freshrootsfarms

Jaclyn Wallace, a CSA box member since 2016, says Fresh Roots is the definition of supporting local.

Jennifer Cole is a Vancouver-based writer and an avid urban gardener who’s hoping to grow bigger heads of kale.

She first learned about the CSA boxes and the farms when she went on a field trip with the high school she was working with at the time. She and the students spent the day at DavidThompson learning about farming and Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership (SOYL), a six-week summer work program for secondary school students run on Fresh Roots farms in partnership with local school districts.

“I joined the CSA that day and have been a member ever since,” Wallace says.

SOYL becomes more than just about growing food for the young people enrolled in the program. They learn that for a farm to succeed, they need to work together. Cameron Zahn, a 2021 SOYL youth participant, summed it up. “You have to do your part,” Zahn says. “Other people have to do their part. But if other people slack on their part, you have to pick up and do their part for them. And that kind of happens with everybody. Everybody has days where they’re good and bad. And everybody has days with less work and more work. So, it’s kind of a work experience and also a community experience in the way that everybody eventually helps each other.”



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