39 Reasons: She's a Farmer


4:00pm on a typical Monday

I pop my head out to see if she might be on her way

Across the school yard, I can see her walk towards me, her backpack heavy, pulling her shoulders back

I welcome her in, offer her a snack and sit down beside her

After two years of meeting with me every week she was at ease and finally ready to share with me

She told me about the forest

She told me about living on the land and how farming was life, a way to practice language and culture while feeding the village

I learned that not having land had made it difficult for her to find “home”

So, together we set out to find home

Literacy and English came slowly, but planning a way to find home came more easily

It was enough to bring her back week after week – it was my opportunity to develop this connection

Each time, she brought more of her peers to learn project management skills

From planning to grant-writing and budget-design, they sparkled as they got closer to the concept of home in Vancouver

This deeply rooted passion was met with success when the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Award and the Vancouver Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council awarded them with funding

I shared the plan with a trusted principal and she helped to secure the space

I connected with a teacher who believed that any student could learn carpentry  

The sound of table saws grinding away and their giggles drew a crowd around them

Together, they built the frame of their garden that would grow into so much – the seeds of a new community and a place in that community had been planted   

Their garden brought chilies, limes, greens, and ferns to the invisible hill in front of the school

Parents, siblings, elementary students, and children as little as 2 came to harvest, weed and water

Her longing for home took root and grew into a community

As an adult and educator, I found myself making choices

Even on days when she was late or couldn’t make it, I made a choice to trust her and believe in her

I’m back at that table, my lips burning from the spices in the salad she made with the chilies they grew,

I’m sitting beside her as she navigates the world of high school education to reach her career goals

She’s a farmer, and through her, I took the time to understand what that meant, to learn how she connected land with home

I learned that valuing the knowledge and lived experiences of young people breathes life into learning