Written by Marnie Klassen

The Farm to Families team had a dream. Farm to Families partners with local nonprofits to make gardening and cooking education available to as many vulnerable community members as possible. Until recently the dream of intergenerational programming was yet unrealized. Thanks to a one-year Active Aging grant from United Way, ideas gleaned a long time ago are now being planted and piloted right here at the Brooksdale Environmental Center.

Two groups have merged to learn together. Girls in Action is a program run by Surrey School District’s Community Schools Partnership that focuses on giving girls from grades 4-6 opportunities to engage in the community, and to develop self-esteem and confidence. Meanwhile, the other group comes from Evergreen Baptist Campus of Care, a local assisted-living facility for seniors.

Marie from Evergreen Holds Pond Net

A typical visit from these two groups always starts with singing. As girls sing and try out new actions to well-known songs like Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Garden Song, the seniors join in. Some remark that they are glad to sing songs so familiar to them.

After singing comes snack. It’s during this relaxed time of eating garden-sourced goodies together that conversations really begin.

“They ask you questions and it’s fun answering,” one girl said about interacting with seniors.

Many of these girls don’t have grandparents or other extended family in Canada. Similarly, the seniors from Evergreen often experience some level of isolation. To spend time with each other is a rare treat.

“They’re asking questions and it’s really good to be with them,” commented a participant from Evergreen.

The group then heads down to the pond. Ruth, one of A Rocha’s Environmental Educators, instructs participants in using pond nets to fish around and explore. The girls and the seniors all participate as they are able, fishing bugs, tadpoles, pupa, and other aquatic flora and fauna into buckets for further investigation.

Girls in Action and Evergreen Seniors make Salad Together

Finally, the group treks up to the cob oven next to the education garden. There they learn how various plants grow and what they are used for, even eating some samples. Shai, another Environmental Educator, helps the participants make a salad, and they learn about each plant as they harvest it. They sing songs as they circle around the picnic table, taking turns putting ingredients in the big salad bowl and mixing the dressing. And what a pretty salad it became!


One older lady is in a wheelchair and unable to participate in many of the activities. But she is content to be wheeled around with the group and take in the fresh air. The property reminds her of her birthplace in Germany, and at the end of the day she is so happy she has been here, and gives big kisses to the staff. She says she would think of it forever as the best day she’d had in years, and would go to bed hearing the songs we’d sung.

Now that sounds like the beginning of a dream come true.

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