We connected recently with their Communications Manager, Mark Macdonald, who shared a little about his role with West Coast Seeds, and some tips about gardening with children. Thank you Mark for your time, and thank you West Coast Seeds for your ongoing support!
Hi Mark, what do you do at West Coast Seeds?
“I do most of the writing and photography for the company – for the catalogue, seed packets, and website. I’ve been here for about eight years. In my garden, I focus on the sorts of things I like to eat, so I grow a lot of salad greens. Inevitably I grow too much of most crops, but it gives me an opportunity to share with my colleagues and neighbours.”
What is it about Growing Chefs! that inspires you to give each year?
“The early start it offers for young people to think about food. Food and gardening are intimately connected, and an understanding of one is bound to broaden the experience of the other. Both cooking and growing provide a superb outlet for creativity, but at the same time they are bound by methods and practicalities. Both food and gardening bring people together. Both involve the sharing of wisdom and building community. What better activities for young people could there be?”
What would you suggest for a kids’ first garden?
“For kids, every day is super long, and a summer can seem like a lifetime. I think there is good fun to be had by planting seeds that do amazing things quickly. Plants like sunflowers and pumpkins come to mind, because in two short months they can grow to a huge size. Also, crops that produce something tangible at the end of the season are great. Drying beans and winter squash are really gratifying to grow because you get to hang onto your accomplishment (before it goes in the pot).
But ultimately, it’s the crops that kids like to eat fresh from the garden that are the most rewarding. Snacking on fresh peas in the summer is something we can all relate to.”
Thanks again Mark, and thank you West Coast Seeds. Happy Family Day long weekend everyone!
Who better to advocate for Growing Chefs! than a current volunteer? Thank you so much to Jasmine for sharing her inspiring story below to encourage others to volunteer.
We are accepting applications now for our upcoming spring session of our Classroom Gardening & Cooking Program. It’s a minimal commitment at a one-time 4-hour volunteer orientation in February, and 4 hours a month March – June.
- Click here to watch a short video about volunteering for Growing Chefs!
- Click here for more information about volunteering for Growing Chefs!
- Click here to apply to be a Growing Chefs! volunteer.
“I got involved with Growing Chefs! two years ago because I wanted to contribute to my community and I love working with kids. I have been an avid gardener for years and have worked in the restaurant industry for a decade, so it was a great fit. The other volunteers I’ve had the pleasure of working with have been farmers, chefs, parents, and students. Every team member brings their own set of skills and knowledge to the classroom. I’ve been fortunate to share cooking skills and gardening knowledge with the other volunteer members of the teams I’ve worked with. The whole experience has worked out to be an inspiration for a career change, and a great networking opportunity for me as well, as I am now pursuing a degree in education.
Getting involved with Growing Chefs! is a really minimal time commitment for what everyone involved gets out of it, and the kids are just so excited for every lesson. Each session we have with them is a new adventure, from tasting odd-looking or unknown vegetables and sharing stories about where they come from, to discussions about urban green spaces. It’s amazing the questions some of the kids have come up with during the course of these lessons- I have learned so much through their curiosity.
There’s something really powerful about engaging with young students, and empowering them to contribute to food security in their own lives. Many of them don’t know where their food comes from or how it’s grown, much less how far it may be travelling to get to the kitchen table. We influence better consumer and eating habits by changing the way these students think about vegetables, and how easy, fun, and delicious it can be to grow, cook and eat them!
If you decide to join the Growing Chefs! community, you’ll be rewarded with knowing you’re positively impacting those students’ lives by imparting gardening, cooking, and nutrition knowledge, and you’ll gain a sense of adventure and curiosity inspired by every student in that classroom. Please consider making time for growing a few chefs in your community.”
If Jasmine’s story has inspired you to volunteer, apply today!
Another season, another addition to the team! My name is Selma van Halder and I’m proud to introduce myself to you as the newest team member at Growing Chefs! I have joined this week as Program Assistant, and will be working closely with Amanda Adams to make sure the classroom program runs smoothly this spring.
My food journey started when I was very little. I was born in the Netherlands. My mom propped me up on the side of the sink as soon as I could sit, and we would cook together. I graduated from stealing the Brussels sprouts straight out of the colander to wielding a knife in no time. My mother will be proud to tell you that when the time came for me to take swimming lessons at 4 years old, I made my own pre-pool dinners from scratch. Making these weekly omelettes were, to me, the best thing about having to go to the pool…
This seems to be a pattern in my life: I tend to think about food above all else. This is why, after two university degrees in Anthropology of Religion, and several years on the non-food related non-profit and NGO scene, I decided to finally dedicate my professional life to food.
Vancouver was calling, and I found my food home at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA). After their professional culinary arts program and a job as a teacher’s assistant, I left my PICA family for a job in the vibrant Vancouver restaurant industry. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work and train with some of the best chefs in Vancouver; I spent two years with Chef Chris Whittaker at forage and Timber restaurants. In my spare time I cook (duh), write, garden, sing, and I volunteer.
Volunteering with organisations that make my heart beat a little faster has been a staple in my life since my student days, so when Chef Chris posted a Growing Chefs! call for volunteers in our staff room at Forage I jumped at the chance. I’ve spent the past four years honing my craft and my kitchen vocabulary, only to tone the latter down for Tuesday mornings with Growing Chefs!, or Wednesday afternoons with Fresh Roots kids.
What could be better than teaching kids about food? There is nothing more empowering than an awareness of the products you are consuming, and nothing more precious than being able to go through the process of growing, harvesting, processing, and cooking your own food. And most of all, it’s so much fun! The kids love it, and the giant pile of hand drawn thank you cards at the end of the season gets me every time.
A true understanding of what it takes to transform a seed into something that not only sustains us but enables us to thrive is hard to find. Over the many decades of industrialization the chain has become too long, the disconnect between consumer and product is so great, that we’ve lost understanding of what is literally the most important thing in our lives: food. Kids in the western world are now, for the first time in human history, estimated by the World Health Organisation to live shorter lives than their parents due to diet related disease. Something needs to change and I want to do my part to fill the gap, to raise awareness and make the world a better place by doing what I do best: cook and teach.
In September of last year I decided to take the leap and quit my kitchen job to join Groundswell, Vancouver’s local social venture incubator, for their fifth cohort of budding social entrepreneurs. I have been working hard ever since to make my dream of owning and operating a kitchen literacy coaching and training business a reality. Groundswell is a community of like-minded individuals striving towards a new economy, one social venture at a time. They offer support and community to “unlikely entrepreneurs” and provide classes and a platform within an incubator structure.
My time at Groundswell has resulted in a new business: Fare Kitchen Literacy. It is my goal with this business to provide people with meaningful assistance in their journeys towards healthier, more sustainable food consumption. I do that by offering in-home kitchen literacy coaching and training for individuals or families. I’m also partnering with existing organisations within the thriving food scene that is Vancouver, to assist them in broadening their reach.
One of those exciting partnering conversations was with Amanda, here at Growing Chefs! in December of last year. While we were looking into the possibilities for a family based curriculum and discussing the options for connecting kids and parents with the joys of engaging with and preparing food together, she silently dropped the job description for Program Assistant in my mailbox.
And here I am: ready to dive into the behind-the-scenes side of the organisation that I’ve been in love with since I moved here. There could not have been a better step for me to take at this point in time, and I hope to get to know you all as we move into the growing season.
Have you registered as a volunteer for this session yet? Now is the time!
Click here for more information and to apply, and don’t hesitate to contact Amanda or I with any and all questions. See you in the classroom!
Happy New Year from all of us at Growing Chefs!
We hope you all had a wonderful Holiday Season, and that you are feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to make 2017 your best year yet! We know that many of you set goals and make resolutions that you hope to achieve for the year. We also know that many of these goals tend to revolve around health and wellness, and we want you to succeed! Below are 4 specific goals to help you on your way to a healthy and happy 2017!
1. Try One New Healthy Food Each Month
Have you been eyeing a certain vegetable in the supermarket, or are you curious about that new superfood you keep reading about? Does it look “weird” or scary to cook? Face your fears and give it a shot – you never know if you’ll discover something you love! This is also a great idea to do with your kids – the more new foods they try, the more open-minded they will be to all foods in the future, and it’s a great way to sneak more healthy foods into their diet!
2. Learn One New Healthy Recipe Each Month
This goal can go hand in hand with the previous one. Finding new delicious ways to cook new foods or longtime favourites, is a great way to ensure you keep incorporating healthy foods into your diet without getting bored. Make mental notes of a delicious dish you tried in a restaurant and try to recreate it at home, or scour the Internet for tons of healthy recipes! Getting your whole family involved will help your kids learn to cook, get them in touch with their food, and allow you to spend some quality time together.
3. Shop Locally and Seasonally
Make a conscious effort to eat locally and buy foods that are in season. Not only will you support the local economy, strengthen the community, and have less environmental impact, you will also nourish yourself with fresher, better tasting, and more nutritiously dense food. Buying foods that are in season is usually cheaper, too, if keeping an eye on your finances is another resolution of yours! To help you get started, head to your local farmers market or consult this list to see what’s in season in BC.
The BC Association of Farmers’ Market has an online tool to help find a market close to you!
4. Give Back
This year, pick one cause, charity, or organization that is meaningful to you and spend some time giving back to the community. Volunteering often only takes up a few hours of your week, but the benefits to both the community and yourself are endless. Volunteering helps us grow and creates awareness within ourselves; it helps strengthen relationships and creates new bonds with others; and, of course, it helps those that need it most. The boost in your happiness and mental well-being will no doubt bring a positive improvement in your health. For volunteering opportunities in BC, check out some of these websites: govolunteer, City of Vancouver, or Vancouver Coastal Health. Here at Growing Chefs!, we are always looking for volunteers; we are currently recruiting for our 2017 Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program starting this spring – if planting, growing, and cooking veggies with kids, and inspiring them to eat healthier, sounds like something you would enjoy, be sure to check out our volunteer page here!
On Giving Tuesday, Tuesday, November 29th, BC Place is going to be lit up green for Growing Chefs! When you see those lights, we hope you’re reminded of the hard work our volunteers put in to get kids excited about gardening, and cooking healthy food.
Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving back to charities, and at Growing Chefs, Giving Now Means Giving More! Local businesses Eight Solutions, Lyra Growth Partners, and Pan American Silver Corp have committed to matching the annual pledged donation amounts for all new Champion Radish Club monthly donors (up to a maximum determined by corporate #GivingTuesday donations).
Join our Champion Radish Club and keep our gardens growing! Your monthly gift will provide a consistent, reliable, and predictable source of funding. This sustainability allows us to plan ahead and implement our hands-on programs more efficiently. It also lowers administrative costs. Giving now means giving more!
- Your commitment of a monthly donation of $10 doubles from an annual gift of $120 to $240!
- Your commitment of a monthly donation of $25 doubles from an annual gift of $300 to $600!
- Your commitment of a monthly donation of $50 doubles from an annual gift of $600 to $1,200!
Why choose monthly giving?
- Your gift is easy, secure, and green—a monthly donation saves paper, postage, and energy!
- You ensure your gift has the greatest possible impact!
- You will get special updates from the classroom from our participating students!
- You get to be a Champion Radish. (A most delicious type of radish!)
Donation commitments can be made online using a credit card (via Canada Helps) between Tuesday, November 7, 2016 and Tuesday, November 29, 2016 to be eligible for matching.
Talk about your giving with #givingtuesdayca. Thank you so much to our Giving Tuesday partners!
For more information, or to make a matching commitment from your business: Jaydeen Williams, Acting Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-710-1677
BC Place photo credit: http://photokaz.com/
The final months of 2016 bring us to our second year of our fall program! From October to December, grade 4-6 classrooms at Charles Dickens Elementary, Lynn Valley Elementary, General Brock Elementary, Sir James Douglas Elementary, and Queen Mary Elementary are participating in our fall classroom gardening and cooking programs.
Many people are surprised that we are growing gardens at this time of year but there are definitely vegetables that you can grow indoors year-round, as our students are currently learning.
Beans, radishes, herbs, and lots and lots of fresh greens -kale, arugula, mescluns, lettuce – all do quite well in windowsill gardens.
Just look how much they have grown in 4 weeks!
Of course not everything can be grown all year round, which means the fall is the perfect time to talk about local food, seasonal eating, food miles, and food preservation methods. Our amazing volunteer teams brought in some great examples from their kitchens of foods they preserve. After, our students got to roll up their sleeves and give it a try themselves preparing their own pickled vegetables right in the classroom.
With only a few lessons left in our fall program, we are ramping up the kitchen skills as students are beginning to develop their very own recipes and will soon be putting those recipes to the test in our program end cook off!
We were able to recently connect with one of our amazing volunteers, and a member of our monthly donation Champion Radish Club, Darren Stott!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got introduced to Growing Chefs!
When Growing Chefs! was just getting started the founder Merri contacted the company I worked for back then (SPUD) to talk about a partnership. I was very impressed with Merri and her vision and promised myself to volunteer when the timing was right. SPUD was a supporter of Growing Chefs! while I was there and when I left and had the time to volunteer during the day I jumped to the chance.
What made you decide to become a classroom volunteer with Growing Chefs!?
I fundamentally believe the more we as individuals appreciate our food the more we will look after our planet and our health. Growing up in the 70s and 80s food was treated as a commodity and children had a little experience cooking and gardening. I think has had a detrimental effect on our planet and health and only education can reverse this.
What made you choose to support Growing Chefs! as a Champion Radish monthly donor and how do you think your gift makes a difference?
I felt I had to put my money where my mouth was. It’s crazy that courses like Growing Chefs! aren’t part of the curriculum and until they are they need support from people like me and others.
Why do you think a program like Growing Chefs! is important in a community like Vancouver?
I keep imagining all these little Jamie Oliver’s graduating school and shopping at farmers’ markets, growing their gardens and voting in politicians who care about our farmland and environment.
Why do you think it’s important for kids to learn about growing and cooking their own food?
More than anything, it increases their appreciation of it and those that produce it.
What’s your favourite vegetable to grow, cook, and/or eat?
I planted my first jalapeno pepper plant this year and was surprised how many peppers it produced. My son and I had fun challenging each other to eat them raw! Otherwise they were amazing in a hummus salad wrap.
What’s the most unique food you’ve ever eaten?
I’ve not eaten yet, but was intrigued by seeing bark in the herbs and spices section of Famous Foods. If anyone has any recipes, please pass on.
Thank you Darren for your ongoing support! We’re so grateful for community members like YOU!
Sunday, October 16 is World Food Day, a day of action against hunger on a global scale. It celebrates the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), whose core mission is achieving global food security. World Food Day is a day where people around the world come together to declare their commitment to eradicate hunger in our lifetime.
Growing Chefs!‘s vision is a world with healthy, sustainable food practices and our Classroom Gardening and Cooking Programs are designed to teach children and their families about these practices. We stand with many other organizations working tirelessly to do the same, at all parts of the food cycle, and we believe that every day should be World Food Day, as no one should have to go hungry.
This year’s theme is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too,” focusing on the impact of a changing environment on food security.
Farmers are already dealing with climate change-related challenges, such as higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, shifting growing seasons, and extreme weather events. Agriculture is at the center of climate change-related issues; being the most impacted by climate change while at the same time being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. However, this means food production can also play a major role in reducing the effects of climate change and as such we are already seeing a shift in farming practices and consumer sourcing.
We can all do our part – growing our own gardens, sourcing from local, sustainable farms, and making informed food choices.
To recognize #WorldFoodDay, and to inspire you to think more about where our food comes from, we have put together this list of a few food documentaries to check out this weekend.
Who it’s for: Those that really want an inside look at food production in the US.
About: An Academy Award-nominated American documentary film that examines corporate farming in the United States. Its focus is on the environmental, social, economic, and health impacts of agribusiness. While jarring at times, the film does offer a surprisingly hopeful message: Making informed food purchases really does matter.
Note: Sequences of this film do show industrial animal farms and practices that may be disturbing to some viewers and may not be suitable for small children.
Who it’s for: Those interested in food security issues.
About: Not just talking to experts about food security, this film goes to the source visiting different “food desert” communities, such as the urban streets of Philadelphia and a rural town in Colorado. The filmmakers talk directly with the families there who live on extremely limited incomes with poor access to food. Not only focusing on the issues, this film also highlights local food heroes and many inspiring individuals who are working to help.
Who it’s for: Anyone interested in the fascinating networks and impacts of bees.
About: We’d be remiss not to include a film about the impact of bees on food production. The bees are disappearing, and if they go the impacts on our world food supply would be huge. The cinematography in this film is simply stunning as the filmmakers draw you into the intimate world of the bees while describing the plight they face.
Who it’s for: Those with an interest in the growing local food movement.
About: Growers, restaurateurs, and consumers across the United States share their insights and methods for growing the local food movement. If you love thought leaders of the locavore movement like Alice Waters and Peter Hoffman you will enjoy this film as they discuss their experience with local food while drawing attention to the dangers of America’s industrialized food system. A beautiful film about how we can bring our food production back home.
Who it’s for: Anyone interested in food waste issues and solutions.
About: An award-winning, B.C. produced film that emerged after the producers discovered that while one in ten people in North America go hungry, collectively we are throwing out nearly 50% of our food. Expiry dates, perfect produce, portion sizes, Just Eat It brings together farmers, organizations, and consumers to reveal the issue of food waste and its sources while examining its devastating consequences around the globe.
Growing Chefs! Program Coordinator
On Sunday, October 2nd we held our annual Harvest Kitchen Party, From Farms to Forks 7! We were once again joined by an amazing group of local chefs, growers, and vineyards to welcome 150 guests to the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts to enjoy great food and drink and help raise funds for Growing Chefs!
We invite you to relive the evening with us thanks to our wonderful photographers Olivia Sari-Goerlach of OSG Photography and partner Ben Goerlach. Additional photos provided by Michelle Sproule of Scout Magazine.
Our guests were welcomed to the party with sparkling wine and canapés including Turmeric Panisse by chef Alessandra Quaglia of Provence Marinaside and Covert Farms, as well as Pulled Jackfruit Steamed Buns by chef Rob Clark from the anticipated soon-to-be-opened restaurant, The Arbor by The Acorn, made with fresh vegetables from Klippers Organics.
Our friends, chef Morgan & chef Edison, from Pier 73 offered an incredible ice block Ploughman’s Table full of pickled & preserved vegetables from Hazelmere Organics, smoked Golden Ears Cheese Crafters cheeses, seafood ceviche, jerky, and foie gras with quince jam thanks to Gelderman Farms.
Mixologist Dylan Williams of Bambudda and Ms. Better’s Bitters created an impressive Scarlet Sour cocktail with concord grape puree from Stoney Paradise Farms and Sin Gin from Gillespie’s Fine Spirits.
Emcees Fred Lee & Margaret Gallahger joined us again this year in welcoming our guests, leading the nights events, and introducing our Growing Chefs! Charles Dickens Elementary school students who shared their love of participating in our Classroom Gardening & Cooking program. The speeches portion of the evening also included Growing Chefs! founder, Merri Schwartz, who shared another amazing thank you poem dedicated to everyone that helped make our night a huge success. Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts’ Executive Chef & Program Director, Julian Bond, announced the doors were open and everyone could be released into the kitchens!
Chef Gilles L’Heureux of Los Cuervos Taqueria & Cantina created a wonderful new favourite this year of Choripapa Taco using Helix Farm potatoes. Looks like he got some help in the kitchen from an extra special chef!
Guests were offered an assortment of amazing desserts including Ginger Cake with sungold tomato sorbet & vanilla ice cream by Chef Rhonda Viani of West made with produce from Mighty Pitchfork. Pastry chef Wendy Boys baked Classic Apple Pie with aurora golden gala caramel & vanilla chantilly using apples from Parsons Farm Market. Bella Gelateria arrived with their gelato cart offering three different hand-crafted gelato and sorbet flavours including a Seasonal Berry Vegan Sorbet thanks to Krause Berry Farm. All desserts were paired perfectly with fortified and ice wines and delicious teas from Namasthé.
Our guests were gifted decadent East Van Roasters cacoa nib toffee to take home.
Wine pairings were generously provided by Constellation Canada, and included:
Black Sage Vineyard Pipe
Inniskillin Cabernet Sauvignon
Inniskillin Discovery Series Chenin Blanc
Inniskillin Reisling Icewine
Jackson Triggs Reserve Shiraz
Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Chardonnay
Sumac Ridge Pinot Noir
See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Noir
See Ya Later Ranch Riesling
See Ya Later Ranch Rover Shiraz
Beer was kindly provided by Moody Ales
The Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts were once again wonderful hosts and we are always grateful for the amazing venue space. Our teams of chefs, restaurants, growers, volunteers, sponsors, media, emcees, producers, silent auction donors, and of course all of our guests, are what make From Farms to Forks the fabulous fundraiser it is. An extra special thank you to our sponsors Whole Foods, Pedersen’s, Artona, Scout Magazine, Edible Vancouver Magazine and Daily Hive.
We want to thank everyone who helped us make the evening a success. With your generous support, we raised over $20,000 in funds for our Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program. This means we are able to give hundreds of B.C. kids hands-on experience growing and cooking their own healthy, nutritious food in the upcoming year.
We hope you enjoyed the night as much as we did and we look forward to seeing you next year!
View the full From Farms to Forks 7 Flickr photo album here.