COVID-19 challenges will spur innovation down on the farm

Spring always seems to sneak up on me. More than any other season it feels like it is half over before you notice it. It may be that this is a super busy time of the year for me. We have all kinds of veggies in school farms performing in overdrive with the good early weather and it looks like we are in for a good stretch over the next few days.

I was speaking with local farmer Jack Bates the other day and we talked about markets and supply chains in the midst of unusual circumstances. Some dairy farmers would have no doubt cried over spilled milk a few weeks back as they had to dump a lot of product. Thankfully, it looks like things are back to normal now.

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Potato farmers are hoping we will make our own homemade fries as the processing of frozen fries for the hospitality/tourism industry is at a major low. I have been doing my level best on this front and will continue to do so. Forever.

Bates noted that an early welcome to spring is producing a bumper cabbage and turnip crop, and spuds got in the ground a lot earlier than usual.

The Farm Roots farm has warba and russet potatoes pushing out of the ground and the farm stand at Boundary Bay has been open for a few weeks now.

The farm stand will be open right up until the end of fall harvest so make sure you stop by as our organic vegetables start to make their way out of the ground on the trip to your dinner table.

Although the Delta Farm Roots farm will be open and operating as per usual, the program itself has been suspended as have all of the Delta School District’s academy programs for the 2020/2021 school year. As disappointing as this is for everyone, and especially the Farm Roots students, the impact of physical distancing restrictions at the farm while bussing kids to the site made the tough decision necessary.

Delta is recognized as an innovative school district, not only in British Columbia and Canada but in several countries around the world. The suspension will only give time to incubate creative ways to enhance and build on the success of the program so that it will eventually re-open in a very big way. Teachers, school district staff and other stakeholders will spend lots of time to prepare to expand the programming for the benefit of all of us.

The community has always supported the programming and we certainly need your support now more than ever. If you are a parent of elementary aged children, especially those in grades 5 to 7, you should consider reading up on the Farm Roots program at https://deltalearns.ca/farmroots/.

There are a myriad of agri-food and agri-tech careers out there that should not be overlooked and that are critical to our collective well-being.

COVID-19 has affected us all in some way or form. Thankfully the sun still shines and school farms in the region, big and small, will continue to provide us with fabulous produce.

This setback will help us innovate further. A problem is an opportunity to improve.

Mike Schneider is founder of Project Pickle and likes to write about growing, cooking and eating food. He is a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution ambassador.

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