Hello! My name is Christine and I have just joined the Growing Chefs! team as a Program Assistant on Vancouver island to help support the Victoria programs. I started off with volunteering for Growing Chefs! in 2013 while living in Vancouver taking a year and a half break from my studies at UVIC in the School of Child and Youth Care. I was two years into my degree at the time and I had just come back from a trip to India that had blown my mind in regards to food, health, and the world we live in. My senses were heightened and I was really looking at things differently.
Living in Vancouver at the time, I found out about the Growing Chefs! Program. It was an ‘aha’ moment for me... I could combine my love for working with kids with this whole other world of food that really intrigued me and radiated importance. When I started volunteering with Growing Chefs! I had never planted a seed, and had not grown up thinking critically about where our food came from. However, I did grow up immersed in the food industry as my parents owned a family restaurant and I started working in the industry myself at 14 years old. From a young age, I had the opportunity to spend many hours after school and on weekends in the restaurant and felt very at home in this environment. I was able to witness the power that food had to connect people and build a sense of community. But being able to volunteer with Growing Chefs! was a pivotal moment for me in connecting with food systems on a deeper level. After that first spring session in the classroom with Growing Chefs!, I decided to go back to Victoria to finish my undergrad degree. I moved into an apartment with a South facing balcony, and planted an epic patio garden and we reached out to a neighbour to ask about creating a food garden in their unused space.
I continued to work in restaurants while I finished up my degree, and was saving up money to go on a trip with my partner. We eventually moved out of our apartment and left our jobs to go live and work on a little farm in Hawaii for a few months.
When we returned to BC, we were both looking for jobs and my partner found an opportunity to live and work on Southlands Heritage Farm in Vancouver. We moved into a tiny little home (175 sq. ft) and although I was working elsewhere at first, it was not long before I was working on the farm full-time. My main role was as the Program and Volunteer Coordinator. Southlands Farm offers many school and community programs and I was able to continue to witness the great impact that teaching kids about food, and where it comes from had. It was evident to me that visiting the farm was a very special experience for many kids and families in Vancouver who did not really have the opportunity to engage in this environment otherwise. I loved sharing these experiences with the farm visitors and being able to educate them about different aspects of farming, sustainability and food systems.
While back in Vancouver and living on the farm, I jumped on the opportunity to join Growing Chefs! again in the classroom as a volunteer, and even got to collaborate together on a couple of events with the farm. I really got to see all these passions of mine merging together.
One of my favourite parts of the job was hiring Workaway/WWOOFer’s from all over the world to come and stay on the farm. It was great to bring different cultures into our community, and we had many potluck dinners sharing favourite recipes from around the world. Some of my fondest memories at the farm were our outdoor dinners during golden hour and staying to chat and eat until after dark (normally followed by some music around the campfire).
Growing Chefs! was really the catalyst that started it all for me, in my adult life, and I am very grateful to now be able to support the Growing Chefs! programs here in Victoria. I think that ‘planting the seed’ young is so very important, and I am looking forward to growing the reach of the program here on the island. Not only am I excited about supporting the programs in the classroom, but also to be able to support the volunteer experience. Growing Chefs! was such a game-changer for me, and I really value the opportunities that volunteering in the program provided. I look forward to being able to work with the volunteer teams, in hopes that their experience is as meaningful as it was for me. I really look forward to getting to know you all in the Growing Chefs! community and will always be happy to meet over a cup of coffee and talk all things related to food, farming…and dogs!