Olivia Obey is excited to start growing her own food this spring in Fort Qu’Appelle’s new community garden. “For one thing it could feed a lot of people that need special foods that they can’t get because they can’t afford it,” said Obey. “So it means eating I guess and being nourished with what you need and what you can’t get.”
The Fort Qu’Appelle Community Outreach Management Centre wants to tackle the town’s food security issue with their new plan to build a community garden. The garden will be targeted towards low income families who aren’t normally able to afford fresh produce from the store.
The garden will be named O wa ju Waste which means “The Good Garden” in Dakota. It will have all the plants labelled with the traditional languages from the area including Dakota, Cree and Saulteaux, as well as English.
The Centre received a grant from the Saskatchewan Synod Aboriginal Fund. The group is also teaming up with people and organizations in the community to launch the garden. Local churches will help by teaching basic gardening skills through a gardening club and the Qu’Appelle Valley Friendship Centre will be doing some of the upkeep for the garden.
Rosella Goodwill-Archdale will also be helping out by teaching people traditional first nations gardening methods that she learned as a child. “By growing your own food one would learn to respect Mother Earth,” said Goodwill-Archdale. “I’m willing to teach the way my mother taught me and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the summer is going to be really great.”
The Outreach has many initiatives and events to address the food security issues in Fort Qu’Appelle such as a Christmas hamper program and an emergency food service. O wa ju Waste is the next step towards their goal of the town becoming food secure, according to Community Outreach board member Ellen Gillies.“We’re working very hard on it, but when we talk to the Regina Food Bank we find that there are still people accessing the food bank all the way from Fort Qu’Appelle and when we talk to the teachers at the elementary school we find that the children are still coming to the school hungry, so I think there is a lot more that we need to be doing,” said Gillies.
Organizers will select eight families from the outreach who are interested in gardening and teach them the basic skills it takes to start and maintain a garden. The hope is by the third year they will be able to take the skills they have learned and start their own gardens at home opening up plots for new families to take part.
As an experienced gardener, Obey is thinking of ways to improve the program for the people who don’t have as much gardening experience as she does, like classes to teach participants to preserve vegetables. “I am thinking of bringing it to Ellen, if she wanted to run a class on how to can foods, for people who want to make their food last longer,” said Obey.
Participating families will keep as much of their produce as they can use, the rest will be distributed by the Community Outreach to other families in need.
O wa ju Waste is going to be 40 feet by 50 feet in size and will be located at the northeast end of Fort Qu’Appelle next to the Friendship Centre.