Some of the freshest veggies you’ll see this summer have been grown by youth who are learning about cultivating plants from seed at a former Coquitlam school yard-turned horticultural classroom.
Lined up like jewels on a queen’s tiara, the colourful eggplants, carrots, potatoes, beets, kale and other vegetables are on display — and for purchase — at the Fresh Roots Pop-Up Market, located at Suwa’lkh School, (formerly Millside Elementary) at 1432 Brunette Ave.
The market is the initiative of Fresh Roots, a non-profit that helps local youth develop skills in growing, cooking and selling food, as well as learning about the importance of the environment and protecting the regional food system.
“Youth are getting an opportunity to excel at something out side of the classroom,” said Gray Oron, who is the co-founder of Fresh Roots, which established the SOYL program in the Tri-Cities, in partnership with School District 43 (SD43).
Students — who get credit for Environmental Science 11 for participating — say they are having a good time and learning about the importance of growing your own food.
“I’m learning the importance of fresh food and how much effort goes into a single vegetable,” said Ashley Huang, who is going into Grade 12 at Gleneagle Secondary this fall.
Jack Elliott, who is going into Grade 12 at the Greater Heights Learning Academy in Coquitlam, said participating in SOYL has inspired him to start his own garden.
“We’re also learning what we can do to help the environment,” said Elliott, whose own garden now boasts a crop of about 50 garlic bulbs.
A former elementary school, now home to SD43’s Suwa’lkh School and Inquiry Hub, has seen its traditional school yard transformed into an intensive garden, that grows vegetables of all types, as well as indigenous plants.
There is also a small orchard and a large greenhouse.
Gray said it took two years of effort to import soil and install the infrastructure to get the horticultural classroom up and running.
But the work appears to be worth it: students are now selling the produce, and learning about the agricultural business.
You can find the Fresh Roots Market off the School House Street parking lot, under a white tent on Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m. through to October.
This summer there will also be a children’s camp and in the fall, SD43 elementary, middle and secondary schools are expected to visit the location to find out more about how they, too, can grow their own vegetables and protect the environment.
You can find out more about Fresh Roots by visiting its website.
Fresh Roots is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to support the SOYL program. A virtual silent auction is being held through to Aug. 19, 2021.