Marc Schutzbank, 29

Director, Fresh Roots


Marc ShutzbankEvaan KherajLife Story: Marc Schutzbank completed two bachelor’s degrees at the University of Pittsburgh, one in politics and philosophy and one in finance, before he won a Fulbright scholarship to UBC in 2011. The American was studying the economics of urban farming as part of his graduate work in the university’s land and food systems program when he connected with Ilana Labow, a member of a group called Fresh Roots, which grew food in backyards. After an elementary-school principal invited Fresh Roots to start a garden, the project expanded to other schools. Putting his knowledge of finance to work, Schutzbank helped turn Fresh Roots into a non-profit.

In 2013, after completing his M.Sc., he negotiated a working agreement with the Vancouver School Board to establish and manage educational farms at two schools. Food grown is sold to school cafeterias and to local families that sign up for a weekly box of produce. In the summer, Fresh Roots employs high-school students to garden, sell the food at farmers’ markets, and prepare and sell jams and chutneys. “It’s a ridiculous miracle that this tiny little seed can grow into this gigantic plant,” says Schutzbank, now a permanent resident of Canada. “What the students see is that from small actions come significant change.”

The Bottom Line: With an annual budget of $280,000 (which includes grants and revenue), Fresh Roots grows 3,600 kilograms of food and employs 30 students. About 3,340 students visit its gardens annually.