BY MARILOU BOURDAGES
“This is as local as it gets,” says Marilou Bourdages, community coordinator with Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society. “Our vegetables are grown in VanTech Secondary School’s soil by students and neighbours, and are then sold back to the neighbourhood community, right on the school grounds!”
Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, in collaboration with the Vancouver School Board (VSB), is transforming underutilized school grounds into schoolyard market gardens, creating productive farm fields that are used as outdoor classrooms by the school community.
A year ago, Fresh Roots and the VSB signed a first of its kind licensing agreement, plowing the way for one-quarter-acre schoolyard market gardens at David Thompson and Vancouver Technical (VanTech) Secondary Schools.
Fresh Roots grows community through growing food
The schoolyard market gardens are places where knowledge of food and health is shared between generations, cultures and languages. “We have students that come to the field, with elders hand in hand. They translate their grandparents gardening methods – basking in their families rich heritage,” explains Ilana Labow, co-director of Fresh Roots. Teachers also use the garden to achieve BC’s core curriculum objectives in various subjects like biology, physical education and English.
These gardens are not just for students
During the summer, neighbours can taste Fresh Roots’ locally grown produce by visiting their Good Food Markets. Starting late May until November, Fresh Roots will run a weekly market stand on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 6:00 pm at VanTech Secondary School. On May 28, for the first market of the year, lettuce, salad mix, radishes and turnips will be waiting for neighbours to take them home.
“The food is delicious and affordable,” says Melanie Beliveau, a teacher and resident in the community. “Every produce bought at the Good Food Market directly supports schoolyard grown crops and programming.”
Neighbours interested in supporting the market garden are also encouraged to commit to a weekly Veggie Box – customers pay up front for the entire season and in return get an assortment of delicious vegetables weekly. It is a wonderful way to support local agriculture and ensure that families have access to healthy, high quality food every week.
The season is already well underway
At VanTech, students and neighbours have been working in the garden since March, boosting the raised beds’ fertility by adding rich compost. The overwintering kale has been completely harvested to create space for this year’s crops. The head lettuce left the greenhouse and is now enjoying the sun outside, next to the beet and carrot seedlings. As the season progresses, the diversity of vegetables will keep growing. Everyone is welcome to drop by anytime and check out what is growing on.
“It doesn’t matter what language you speak, nor where you come from,” says Marc Schutzbank, co-director of Fresh Roots, “everyone has a relationship with food.”
Weekly Veggie Boxes!
Support the Schoolyard Market Garden by enjoying a weekly box of delicious vegetables. Pick up will take place at the VanTech Secondary Good Food Market, on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 6:00 pm.
- $475 for 24 weeks of veggies; May – November
- 10% off Fresh Roots’ Good Food Market
- Sample weekly veggie box includes:
1 large leafy green (kale, chard or mustard)
1 salad creation (salad mix, spinach or head lettuce)
1 herb (cilantro, parsley or dill)
1 root vegetable (carrots, beets or turnips)
1 crop of the week (zucchini, beans or garlic)
For more information and to sign up, please visit: www.freshroots.ca
Marilou Bourdages has been passionate about urban agriculture and food for many years. Being able to work at engaging the community in the Schoolyard Market Gardens is a dream come true for her.
Copyright (c) 2014 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News