The Garden Girls

The Garden Girls
“I like looking after Mother Nature” Jayla, 8, Garden Girl from Waywayseecappo First Nation

“I like looking after Mother Nature,” Jayla, age 8, told us. As one of three members of the Garden Girls at Waywayseecappo First Nation, Jayla has been practicing her ‘green thumb’ this summer.

“We started going to visit my grandma and she started taking us here to the garden,” Jaelie, 7, another Garden Girl explained. Glenda, their grandmother, has been deeply involved in gardening in her community for the last two decades – revitalizing knowledge and practice that had, for some time, been lost.

Now, with a new partnership with Canadian Feed The Children, that work is being brought forward to reach more community members.

Helping Mother Nature

Jayla, Kaylie and Jaelie water plants in the garden.

Jayla, Jaelie, and 5-year-old Kaylie have been learning a lot. They help with watering the plants, monitoring them as they grow, and picking produce when it’s ready.

“Today we helped Mother Nature by looking for lady bugs and putting them on plants,” Jayla explained. “They are little guards.”

It’s a good way to explain it – lady bugs protect plants against bugs that can be harmful to their growth.

Passing on tradition

For Glenda, it’s meant a lot to spend time with her granddaughters and pass on the things she learned from her own grandparents about gardening.

“I try to teach them to take care of the land. To take care of Mother Earth,” she told us. “It is something that continues on. It’ll always be there. I’m hoping someday that my grandchildren, my girls here, will say ‘remember when grandma used to take us to this big garden we used to work in?’”

A healing garden

Glenda shows granddaughter Kaylie how to tend the garden

Though Glenda has fond memories of her grandparents gardening, for most of her adult life, there weren’t any gardens in Waywayseecappo First Nation.

She rediscovered her love for it after tragically losing her brother in 2000.

“The garden helped me go through my process of grieving – working in the garden, spending time, taking care of plants and stuff like that,” she explained. “Mother Earth took care of me when I needed her to.”

Ever since then, Glenda has gardened each year. She worked closely with the community’s Health Office who provided seed money to start the first gardens.

“And now it is full blown,” she said, proudly. She hopes that gardening continues to expand in the community so that more people become involved. It’s important, she believes, because it brings people together, where they share stories and good food.

An important lesson

As for Jayla, Jaelie and Kaylie – they’ve learned a lot this summer. Not just about gardening and Mother Nature, but about their grandmother too.

“Grandma taught us how to take care of gardens, and how to feed people,” Jayla explained. “And, that it is important to not miss a day of the Garden Girls.”

The partnership with Waywayseecappo First Nation is part of the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds 2020 initiative, funded by the Slaight Family Foundation and generous private donors.

Fresh produce boxes with handy recipe guides and nutrition tips are welcome in Indigenous communities where fruits and vegetables are often unavailable or unaffordable.
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Traditional First Nations activities like food gathering are a fun and educational way to connect students with community Elders and their culture.
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School and community gardens give students hands-on experience to grow, harvest and prepare food from seed to table.
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