At Muskeg Lake, food security and hope is growing with every tree that’s planted

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At Muskeg Lake, food security and hope is growing with every tree that’s planted

Ed Lucier, Elder and Knowledge Keeper in Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, says the community’s thriving food forest has become a hub of learning and growth.

Established in late 2017 as a pilot program, the success of Muskeg Lake’s food forest led to the creation of CFTC’s Food Forest Initiative 2030, which envisions food forests in at least 10 communities across Canada by 2030.

With his many years of teaching experience, Ed recognizes the food forest’s potential as an educational tool, “not just for children but also for older people, or people who are gardeners, for people who are working within our community, on lands, on governance. Everybody has something that they can learn from the food forest.”

Ed sees the value of the hands-on education that the food forest offers, which helps engage youth and Elders in learning and sharing Indigenous ways of knowing and growing founded on traditional principles. On the practical side, Ed sees how helpful the food forest can be as a way to teach academic subjects like science and math as well as essential life skills to youth.

headshot of a man in a baseball cap

Ed Lucifer discusses the importance of youth engagement as a means to traditional connection.

This project plays a crucial role in addressing food security and promoting self-sufficiency among Muskeg Lake’s residents. Ed emphasizes how important it is for people to learn sustainable practices to grow their own food, especially in the face of challenges like inflation and climate change. He says the food forest and the related programming “is a big part of a value system that we want to encourage. We were once a very self-sufficient people. We lived off the land and I think that, to a certain point, we can use those traditional values to do the same thing moving forward.”

The food forest is a dynamic environment that has broad reach, benefits, and impact. “It changes not only by the season, but sometimes week by week … [depending on] the temperature, on the weather, on the moisture. So many things are involved. Our ability to find answers to those problems depends on our understanding. The more we understand, the more we become knowledgeable about the weather, about climate change, about the ability to create a business based on the food that we’re growing here, the better it’s going to be," Ed tells us.

For these students, it’s a wonderful opportunity. In 20 years, I can just imagine what this place is going to be like. Well, I can’t imagine it – I can only hope!”
ED LUCIER, Elder & Knowledge Keeper, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation

Steven Wiig, Muskeg Lake’s Food Security and Climate Change Coordinator, concurs. He says that “the less we can rely on our global food system, the more reliant we need to be on our  local food system. That’s one of the biggest climate-change related benefits of what we’re doing here. We’re going to be reforesting a lot of the reserve, creating habitat for all kinds of traditional food sources; local, reliable food sources and our ‘family’ – the birds and the bees and the deer and the moose. All these little changes we’re making to improve the land will make the land more resilient and therefore the people more resilient.

Both Ed and Steven see a bright future as the food forest grows food security and hope with every tree that’s planted.