Last week, on July 3rd and 4th, the last Grow North conference of the 2014 season was held in Fox Lake and Gillam. After attending Grow North conferences elsewhere earlier this year and in previous years, Demian, our OFHC site coordinator in Fox Lake, was excited to bring the conference to the people in his home communities.
The conference took place over two days, with one in Gillam and one Fox Lake, so that residents of both communities could attend without any transportation barriers. Both days started indoors, going over basic gardening, composting and soil development, and an introduction to fruit plants. Participants learned the steps of planning their own garden, from choosing a space, to design, to deciding what to plant and where and how to plant it. Barry Little, our Northern Ag consultant, showed an example of an easy to build raised bed, that can be easily converted into a mini greenhouse to extend your growing season.
In composting and soil development, participants learned the basics of composting, how to build their own bin from scrap materials and where to find good soil in the north (click here for a step-by-step guide to northern composting).
The afternoons were more hands on and took a different shape in the two communities. In both communities, we started out our afternoons by learning the basics of transplanting. Each participant transplanted their own tomato plant into a pot to take home with them.
In Gillam, Demian demonstrated how to take cuttings of fruit bushes such as blueberries, and participants also went home with blueberry cuttings that will hopefully turn into bushes one day! This portion of the day was a favorite with the kids. Their excitement about the topic was demonstrated when a few more kids showed up and one of the girls who was already there exclaimed with glee “you guys, you get to plant your own tomato plants!”
Once everyone had the hang of transplanting, we headed outside. In Fox Lake, we spent the afternoon planting more transplants in the greenhouse beside the band hall. The adults were nice enough to let the kids have most of the fun getting their hands dirty in there!
In Gillam we spent the afternoon visiting the homes of conference participants and either helping them plan future gardens or addressing questions about their current gardens. One participant expressed that she really enjoyed this part, saying “seeing other people’s gardens was a great experience to talk about what is working, etc.”
At the end of the day, everyone went home with a lot of resources and take home reading, as well as a few plants and some fun prizes to help them get started in gardening. Overall, participants in both days expressed that not only had they found the conference very useful and had learned a lot, but they had also had a lot of fun. We sure had a great time facilitating, and are looking forward to seeing how everyone’s gardens are going on our next visit to the area! Thanks to everyone in Fox Lake and Gillam for welcoming us into your community and coming out to learn with us.