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Pass it On Boys & Bullock Lake Farm: Safe Space for Social-Emotional Learning

November 8, 2022

Bullock Lake Farm is going into its second year as a host location for the Pass it On Boys program. Zack Hemstreet and Eland Bronstein, the facilitators of the program, look back on their first year at the farm and talk about the (social-emotional) learning opportunities it provides for the participants.

It is hard to get a hold of Zack Hemstreet and Eland Bronstein during the summer and the early fall. They are both busy harvesting and getting ready for the winter. But for the Pass it On Boys program, they gladly make time every Friday; as they not only share a passion for farming but for working with youth as well.

Zack Hemstreet

Zack and his wife Molly founded Bullock Lake Farm twelve years ago. They have run their farm for the last ten years predominantly as a Community Supported Agriculture farm, bringing a variety of opportunities, programs, classes, and events to the community of Salt Spring Island. “We heard that the Pass it On Boys program was looking for a home and we were just branching out to education-related programs, like summer camps, workshops and field trips, through our new association Neighbourhood Farm Schools”, says Zack.

Although daily life on the farm keeps them busy, Zack and Molly gladly make time for the educational programs on the farm. “Molly and I have this vision for our farm and we are both passionate to add this extra complex layer to our workload,” he continues. “Luckily, we get a lot of help from our family to realize our dream of being a farm that has tight connections with the community. Pass it On Boys came at the right place at the right moment.”

Eland grew up on Salt Spring and returned to the island in 2012 to help run Duck Creek Farm with his family. When he was asked to partner up with Zack to facilitate the Pass it on Boys program, he didn’t have to think long. “When I was young, I loved being part of sports teams, I was really motivated by working together as a group,” says Eland who played soccer at Capilano University. “I always have been interested in working with youth and intergenerational mentor work. We can learn so much about ourselves through conversations with people at different stages of life. That part of the program really drew me in.”

Eland Bronstein

Bullock Lake Farm is a produce and flower farm spanning 24 acres of rolling pastures, wetland, historic orchards and forest. It offers a playful and dynamic landscape for participants to engage with the outdoors, practice new skills, and develop a sense of belonging through team building, acts of service, and connection to the local food system. Zack: “There are so many small learning opportunities on the farm that requires a lot of patience and can breed a lot of frustration. It is a perfect way to learn how to deal with those emotions.  Small things can be so powerful.”

His favourite activity with the Pass it On program last year is the obstacle course. “We do a lot of physical games,” he continues. “We’ve built a mountain bike course, we prepare food together, and overall, just have a lot of laughs.”

Next to the games and activities, there is also time for conversations. The group has covered many topics last year. “Like videogames, or sports, but also trust, empathy, boundaries, consent, and healthy relationships,” says Eland. “The boys often have questions that sometimes lead them to conversations. We create a safe space so they can talk about anything they like, but they don’t have to. It is often generalized that boys or men, can’t talk about their feelings. We are trying to break that stigma.”

Zack: “The guidance and emotional support in navigating complex issues, shown not only by us as facilitators, but also by the participants for each other, gives me hope for the future.”

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Zack Hemstreet grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, leaving as a young adult to pursue a long and varied path that led him to Salt Spring twelve years ago. Along the way, he travelled the world, seeking exciting adventures and opportunities including working as a research diver in Central America, doing restoration ecology work in Sri Lanka, and working in a youth wilderness and ecology camp in Alaska. Zack attended university as an adult studying Social Ecology and Interamerican Studies at a small university in Burlington, Vermont.

Eland Bronstein moved with his family from Vancouver to Salt Spring Island when he was ten and spent much of his time on the soccer field and basketball court. He graduated high school at GISS, studied Kinesiology, and played soccer at Capilano University. After he finished his studies, he travelled the world, working and volunteering in communities along the way.

Pass it On is an after-school cross-peer group that supports self-awareness and healthy relationships by creating a safe and trusted space for sharing, learning, and practicing important skills. Learn more about our local programs here.

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