The Hay River Reserve is planting the seeds of food security, with classes at Chief Sunrise Education Centre taking the lead in setting up a community garden project.
“We’re going to be able to offer a plot, soil, and help maintaining their garden throughout the summer,” said Nathalie Diaz, whose class is one of two spearheading the effort, at a community meeting at the school last Friday. “We can help each other, that’s the great thing about doing this as a community.”
About 20 people of all ages turned out for the meeting and more than a dozen signed up for plots in the cleared area behind the school. Diaz said the Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment was contributing wood for the boxes that will contain the plots, as well as soil and seeds for the entire community. For the time being, a plot in the garden is free to any resident of the reserve, but Diaz said whether fees would be levied in future years would be up to a committee yet-to-be-formed that will govern the project.
“We want to make sure everyone has fresh food,” she told The Hub. “We’re starting with the school, but it’s really for the whole community.”
Diaz also said part of the plan was to teach children the basics of growing their own food so that they could then take that knowledge home with them and in turn teach their families.
“I hope the kids get to learn about where food comes from, and that good food can be accessible to everyone,” she said.
Fellow organizer Ruth Stadelmayer said the key to the project is to get the community support and involvement needed, as both she and Diaz will not be around to lead the way next summer.
“It won’t run without the community,” she said.
So far, in addition the support of ITI, many groups have agreed to help with donations and in-kind work. The school itself is donating an unused water tank and local companies have contributed to clearing the land. The most pressing issue, according to Diaz, is a fence to keep stray dogs out of the gardens.
“Whether we have a fence or not will really depend on what donations come through at this point,” she said when it was brought up at the meeting. “It would be really great to have to keep dogs out of there.”
Students will be involved in all aspects of the garden, including building the boxes which will get underway this week. They have also already begun growing plants inside, which should be ready for transplant by the time the garden is up and running.
“It’s all about the community coming together to get healthy food to more people,” Diaz said.