‘Farm school’ for out-of-school kids popular in Surrey

SURREY – Instead of pencils and books, kids took up carrots and cucumbers Thursday at “farm school.”

As the teachers’ strike dragged on last week, the fields and market at God’s Little Acre Farm in Surrey became a classroom for 30 students from across the Lower Mainland.

“They’re having fun, but they’re also learning where their food comes from,” said Jas Singh, the farmer behind God’s Little Acre, which produces thousands of kilograms of produce each year for local food banks and soup kitchens.

During the week-long farm camp, kids harvested carrots, washed veggies and set up the farm’s public market. They’ve also had time for field games, like hide-and-seek in the cornfield and dirt ball.

Some of the food they’ve harvested will likely end up on their teachers’ dinner tables as it goes to a food bank run by the Surrey Teachers’ Association, said Singh.

“I’m not involved in the politics, but I’m all about helping people who need food,” he explained.

Students Addison Gill, 6, and Georgia Dyck, 8, said it made them feel good to help others, although their favourite activities so far have been the rotten tomato toss and eating as many fresh-picked apples as they wished. “We’re going on a tractor ride next,” said Gill.

Eight-year-old Brooke Smith and her friend Isabelle Dyck, 10, burst into giggles as they recounted stepping into a muddy ditch during a game, but they were also excited about the 2,250 kilograms of carrots the group has picked so far this week.

Volunteer co-ordinator Krishia Cousin said the camp has been a huge success, giving kids a chance to learn about local food and help others, while having fun and making new friends.

Cousin is an education-assistant for the Coquitlam school district. She has been volunteering weekly at God’s Little Acre through the summer. Along with several other volunteers, she helps to keep the camp running smoothly.

Farm camp students pay $150 for a week of school, which runs the same hours as normal classes. They are asked to bring a lunch, although many just eat the fresh fruits and vegetables on offer.

The farm hoped for another 150 registrants this week, which would help to make the operation debt-free after a particularly difficult season. Heavy rains in late spring flooded the farm’s potato and vegetable fields, washing away seedlings and putting the harvest weeks behind. The fields were eventually replanted, but not without cost.

The God’s Little Acre market (at 16582 40th Ave.) has helped bring in extra funds, said Singh, but the farm relies on the generosity of others so that it can be generous with people who cannot pay for food.

For camp details, contact Jas Singh at 604-375-1172 or visit Facebook.com/GodsLittleAcreFarm.