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Growing Up, Growing Food: A Teenage Farmer to Watch

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Think you don't regret all those high school afternoons wasted at the mall or the skate park? Just wait till you meet Sophia Vartanian, a Vancouver, B.C.-based urban farmer. At 16 years old, her resume is already more impressive than some twice her age. On the day we spoke, she was busy wrestling a solar panel project into fruition, laying the groundwork for a farm at her high school, and gearing up to deliver a TEDxKids B.C. talk titled "Don't Eat Your Farmer."

Vartanian gave me a tour of her high school - or rather, her high school lawn, which currently houses a few sparsely planted raised beds. The sunflowers and radishes had gone to seed, and although it was a valiant effort at community gardening, it was also a far cry from the full-fledged farm she has planned. She envisions a closed-loop system complete with compost, grey water reclamation, and rainwater collection - and, of course, lots of vegetables. "We want chickens and goats too; that's the ideal," she adds.

Vartanian intends that the farm become "a part of the school's fabric, something that grows along with the whole community," an educational tool as well as a source of healthy food for the cafeteria. She admits she's been known to starve when she forgets her lunch because she's uncomfortable with where the cafeteria food comes from. This young farmer's idea of a closed loop doesn't stop at compost. She'd like to see biology students learning hands-on at the farm, and home-ec students putting their talents to the test on freshly harvested veggies, creating a different sort of school lunch - one she would actually eat.


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