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Learning about gardens and greenhouses in the boreal forest

Participants learn about seed saving and how to harvest seeds for planting.

Participants learn about seed saving and how to harvest seeds for planting.

Over the last four years, the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative has been partnering and supporting the Leaf Rapids Horticultural Centre in Leaf Rapids, Manitoba. As part of Tides Canada’s focus on building strong local food systems for healthy people, healthy communities, and healthy environments across Canada, the Collaborative has partnered with and supported various community-based projects like the one in Leaf Rapids to solve local food challenges.

The Leaf Rapids Horticultural Centre has played a crucial role in the region by educating and empowering young northerners to grow plants and healthy food their remote communities and has developed into a well-known northern horticulture training and testing centre.

In late April, the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative co-organized with Foods Matters Manitoba, University of Manitoba, and Frontier School Division, a garden and greenhouse workshop in Leaf Rapids, which brought together over 50 people from 18 Northern Manitoban communities. The workshop enabled participants to acquire additional skills, share ideas, and meet and build connections with people doing similar work. Given that there are specific methods and techniques involved in northern boreal horticulture, this was a great opportunity for others in the region to learn from an established training centre and from each other.

Participants visit the Churchill Nursery, a four acre site that is a reclaimed trailer park. The discussion there centred around how to cover crops for season extension, how to develop and nurture northern soils for food production, and which trees, plants and berries do well in the northern boreal forest.

Participants visit the Churchill Nursery, a four acre site that is a reclaimed trailer park. The discussion there centred around how to cover crops for season extension, how to develop and nurture northern soils for food production, and which trees, plants, and berries do well in the northern boreal forest.

Robert from Thicket Portage and Caroline from Wabowden mocking up a greenhouse design together. Both Robert and Caroline grew up strong in their tradition of country foods (trapping and hunting) and attended the workshop to learn additional ways, like growing greenhouse vegetables, to increase access to healthy foods in their communities.

Robert from Thicket Portage and Caroline from Wabowden mocking up a greenhouse design together. Both Robert and Caroline grew up strong in their tradition of country foods (trapping and hunting) and attended the workshop to learn additional ways, like growing greenhouse vegetables, to increase access to healthy foods in their communities.

Participants were inspired to hear how many community-based food projects are happening throughout Northern Manitoba and meeting others facing similar challenges helped people feel less alone in their efforts. Carl McCorrister and Dennis Sinclair of the Peguis Community Agricultural Project attended and shared traditional tobacco that they had grown; Leon Simard, the First Nations Food Security Coordinator, also attended and shared purple seed potatoes that were grown in Peguis and saved from the previous year’s crop. The teachers leading the Gillam School Garden Project were able to develop a plan for how they will utilize their greenhouse.

Many connections were built between communities and several are planning to return to Lead Rapids for deeper, immersive trainings at the Horticultural Centre. Communities gained a lot of energy by being able to participate in this northern-based workshop designed by and for communities in the north.

Ervin Bighetty of Leaf Rapids teaches Wendy McNab Fontaine how to transplant young seedlings.

Ervin Bighetty of Leaf Rapids teaches Wendy McNab Fontaine how to transplant young seedlings.

Going forward, the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative plans to continue expanding beyond direct granting and support of community projects to also play a role in enabling communities to connect with each other and learn from each other.

Tides Canada is proud to lead, host, and fund the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative. It has been and continues to be a privilege to learn and grow together with the partner organizations, northern advisors, and inspiring communities.

To support the work of the Collaborative, or to learn more about the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative, please contact Julie Price, Tides Canada’s Program Lead, Manitoba.

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