Farm to Families
“I am happy when I come to A Rocha because I get to spend time with my family and friends from Bangladesh. I have come to Fun on the Farm for three years. I enjoy cooking more now, and I have learned about new vegetables like swiss chard and kale. I use the recipes that I have learned at A Rocha at home and I’m eating healthier. After learning to grow food at A Rocha, I encouraged my mother to apply for a community garden plot. We grow potatoes, squash, zucchini, spinach and corn, and I help her garden on weekends. I invited my friend Sayeedah, and she has started to come to Fun on the Farm with her three boys. When I come to A Rocha, I feel like I am welcomed into a big family who are polite and care for me. I like it so much that I do not feel like going home.”
-Dilara Gegum, age 17
Dilara visits the Brooksdale Centre as part of our Farm to Families project. Under the leadership of Shauna Anderson, this project reaches out to new immigrants and refugees as well as local Canadians living on the economic margins. Two Saturdays a month, participants get their hands dirty in the garden, learn new cooking skills in our kitchen or at our outdoor cob oven, and explore the natural world around the farm. For many the highlight of the day is the shared noon-time meal in which participants, staff, and volunteers enjoy each other’s company and the fruits of their labours.
It is a privilege to journey with people like Dilara who help us make a tangible connection between creation care, justice and poverty.
Educating For Wonder
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder… he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in”
– Rachel Carson
E.O. Wilson, the Harvard biologist, has a theory called the “biophilia hypothesis.” In short, that humans are innately attracted to nature. However, through lack of access to the outdoors, or being plugged into too many gadgets for too long, a child’s love for the natural world can go dormant or even be extinguished. A Rocha’s education programs attempt to preserve children’s innate love of creation.
We do this through place-based learning programs at our centres in BC and Manitoba and at our new partner-farm in southern Ontario. Whether they visit as part of a school field trip or during one of our summer day camps, children get up close and personal with the natural world. They dip nets into ponds and pull out tadpoles and invertebrates; they peer through binoculars and spot birds; and they go on “habitat hunts,” exploring the fields, forest and wetlands. As a result, they come away with a greater appreciation for the intricacies and beauty of creation and their place in it.
Caring for Creation in the Greater Toronto Area
A Rocha’s work in the Greater Toronto Area begins with stewarding our relationships—with God, our local human communities and our nearby natural spaces. This means joining our neighbours in actively caring for sensitive areas as an expression of worship of the One who creates, redeems and sustains it all. A few of the places where A Rocha is active include:
The Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust’s StarCliff Nature Reserve, where we’re conserving the reserve’s biodiversity (including its monarch butterfly habitat), primarily through monitoring and controlling the spread of invasive plants—especially garlic mustard, common buckthorn and dog-strangling vine. Join us!
The East Don River’s and Taylor- Massey Creek’s ravines, where A Rocha encourages and equips groups to clean up the decades-old “trash caches” (think geocaching).
Asbridges Bay, where A Rocha assists with the Church of the Resurrection’s annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids (a grassroots citizen science program of Bird Studies Canada), where volunteers identify birds, especially overwintering ducks from Northern Canada.
Follow us on twitter @arochaontario and join us in the field
Raptor Explosion in Manitoba’s Pembina Valley
February is not a month Canadians associate with the spring migration of birds. The temperatures are cold and the landscape is frozen solid. What bird in its right mind would travel north from the balmy south into winter’s grip!?
Well, eagles for one! Over the past nine years, A Rocha has been monitoring the raptor migration in Manitoba’s Pembina Valley, about 125 km southwest of Winnipeg. The first day of the 2013 count was set for February 18, but no count was made because Manitoba was experiencing one of its typical blizzards. The next day, however, skies cleared and confirmation that the raptor migration was underway came with a count of four adult Bald Eagles. This was just the beginning of a flood of raptors.
On May 6, the last day of the 2013 count, observers had documented over 18,000 raptors of 17 species. Most raptor species had higher counts than ever recorded for the valley. As usual, Red-tailed Hawks made up the majority (12,500). A new addition to the Pembina Valley count was the Gyrfalcon. One of the most unexpected counts, however, was that of the Peregrine Falcon. On a good year, one might record seven passing through. In 2013, 210 Peregrines were recorded, an astounding number never documented before in Canada during migration! A late spring and lingering winter probably had an effect on the high count for some bird of prey species. The 2014 Pembina Valley raptor count will be an important milestone as it marks a decade of data collection.
Thank you to the Bill and Margaret Fast Family foundation for generous partnership.