Garlic from our Garden

By Sandra Dumitras, Farm to Families Coordinator

March 15, 2023


The Farm to Families team with Sandra Dumitras and Julie Forster preparing vegetables from the A Rocha farm. (Photo: Whitney Buckner)

When I first got involved with A Rocha as a sustainable agriculture intern in 2012, I’d never grown food before, and I never took pleasure in making the two dishes I knew how to make: scrambled eggs and vegetable soup. Walking out of my summer internship with not only a new set of skills but pure joy in sharing what I’d learned was a turning point for me. It’s what brought me to the Farm to Families (F2F) program as a coordinator.

Simply put, Farm to Families connects under-served individuals of all ages to gardening and cooking education, shared meals and vegetable donations. But it’s important to know what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t put a band-aid on food security with the donation boxes, it doesn’t assume that participants come empty-handed and without their own knowledge about food, and it isn’t disconnected from relationship-building. I took on this role because I wanted everyone to experience the empowerment and joy I felt while connecting with creation—both the soil and the people around me. And that’s what F2F does: we bring in our proverbial loaves and fish and they are blessed to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

Our F2F team worked with New Hope Community Services Society during the pandemic, to revitalize their small garden which is sandwiched between the building and the parking lot. New Hope provides refugee families with safe, affordable housing and community for the first 18 months of their life in Canada. We transported countless seedlings from the farm to New Hope, along with other odds and ends like drip tape and trowels. Over the last three years, we have harvested copious amounts of garlic for garlic bread feasts, we’ve made beet pancakes in the parking lot, and we have had eager teenagers lead the hummus-making workshops—also on the picnic bench in the parking lot.

“[The garden] can accommodate a mix of kids and adults who don’t speak the same language.

It can handle curious toddlers who revel in digging things out of the ground.

It can be a memorable space for the grandfather and 5-year-old boy who fled Syria and are now planting corn together in the middle of Whalley, one of Surrey’s more rough neighborhoods.”

Dirt, vegetables, Google-translation-supported conversations, sticky fingers eating pancakes. That’s what’s made us friends. The kids are always excited to cook and take ownership of the recipes and the harvest. Last August, when we made garlic bread with giant, purple-streaked bulbs, they marveled: “Is all of this garlic from OUR garden?” They also now feel free to make their own programmatic suggestions: “I think we should make our own popsicles next time!” These kids have been through hardships that many of us will never experience. But the garden gives life, it fuels relationships, and it brings out the fun, creativity, and desire to plan for the future. It can accommodate a mix of kids and adults who don’t speak the same language. It can handle curious toddlers who revel in digging things out of the ground. It can be a memorable space for the grandfather and 5-year-old boy who fled Syria and are now planting corn together in the middle of Whalley, one of Surrey’s more rough neighborhoods.

I hope that this story encourages you to break bread and plant garlic and see what comes of it. May your loaves and fish change our communities!

Garlic from our Garden


F2F staff and participants partake in all stages of food production, connecting them to the earth and each other. (Photo: Christina Weinman)

Featured photo: Hannah Mae Henry

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