Strawberries were in full bloom last week as a team of young Garden Advisers from Barren Lands First Nation were visiting the Grow North Facilities in Leaf Rapids. The facility is run by long-time educator Chuck Steinsgard and his team of local gardeners, Lesley, Neil and Christina.
It was a cloudy morning as everyone walked through the Churchill River Nursery, home to 35 test beds, including 12 varieties of strawberries. The first activity of the day was harvesting strawberries, but only the brightest red ones. The strawberries have to be perfectly ripe for sustainable harvesting. In another week they’ll be able to harvest them again. Next everyone walked through the greenhouses and got to see a variety of plants growing at different stages. They also learned what can be started inside a greenhouse. As Indigenous people, growing their own food is part of nurturing their relationship with the land. The walk-through alerted everyone’s senses; smelling, touching, tasting and observing the different plants.
During the two day visit of the Grow North Facilities the group took part in weeding raspberry patches, trimming herbs, transplanting rhubarb, developing soil and harvesting vegetables. Each activity was very hands-on and let the group experience firsthand how to care for a garden. Growing in northern Manitoba can be very challenging because of the short growing season, cold weather and poor soil conditions. The group of Garden Advisers is from the community of Brochet/Barrens Lands First Nation, a remote northern community in Manitoba that can only be accessed either by flight, boat or winter roads. Their main challenge for growing is the quality of their soil, because most of the area is sandy.
The Grow North Facilities was a great place to learn about soil development. Setup around the Nursery were different stages of soil development, from piles of brush, to patches of compost waiting to be turned in to beautiful soil. The young Garden Advisers from Brochet will now be able to pass on this new knowledge to their community and improve their soil quality.