MUSKEG LAKE CREE NATION, SASKATCHEWAN
On September 21-22, 2019, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation continued with the second phase of its innovative food forest project, in partnership with Canadian Feed The Children and funded in part by the Slaight Family Foundation and the Newall Family Foundation along with generous Canadian donors.
Dozens of community members gathered to help mulch the soil to prevent future rot and assist with preparing trees to survive the winter. Last October, apple, plum and cherry trees were planted in the food forest in addition to Saskatoon berry bushes – all totaling to over 300 plants! As well, various kinds of trees were planted to attract birds and protect against the wind. In May 2019, gooseberry, sea buckthorn, cranberry and raspberry bushes were planted along with grape vines and rhubarb.
“Over 1,000 plants inhabit our food forest. We already have golf-ball size apples on some of the trees planted last October and the grapes and gooseberries planted this year already have some little berries,” says Glenna Cayen, Community Program Coordinator, Canadian Feed The Children.
The food forest was designed with support from Steven Wiig from Holistic Landscape and Design who promotes a nature-inspired design system known as permaculture. Permaculture is founded on lessons observed in nature and from traditional practices, which have evolved into three core ethics and 12 design principles that can be applied to create systems which support nature, while providing for community needs in a sustainable and regenerative way.
In addition to the new trees and bushes, an Elder’s rest area has been built as a space intended for community members to have a place to sit and get out of the sun or rain. In addition, outdoor meetings and workshops take place in this area. .
“Since we launched the food forest last year, it has gone a long way toward establishing greater food security and sovereignty in Muskeg Lake Cree Nation,” says Glenna. “For this phase, we are involving community youth, adults and seniors even more in the design and sustainability of the forest, to ensure that it continues to provide fresh, healthy food options for generations to come.”
While the forest isn’t expected to heartily produce fruit until 2021, the residents of the First Nation are looking forward to the forest bearing its first yields in a few years.
With only Phase Two completed, Glenna, her team and the members of Muskeg Lake are eager to move into Phase Three. Ideally, the food forest will expand to have a playscape for children, walking trails, a year-round solar and wind powered greenhouse, water catchment, outdoor cooking with cobb oven, and compost site.