Fond du Lac’s community garden provides fresh produce for community members
Fond du Lac’s community garden began as a pilot project in 2015 by the Fond du Lac Health Centre through the Athabasca Health Authority. Five growing seasons later, the project continues to be a success, providing seasonal employment for two workers and fresh produce for community members that need it. “Fond du Lac is the farthest First Nation community in northern Saskatchewan,” says Tiffany Toutsaint, Manager of Fond du Lac Development. “It is difficult to get fresh produce here, and our community is a great fit for a northern garden project like this.”
The garden is specially designed to accommodate growing conditions in the far north, where soil is closer to sand and summers are short and winters are harsh. Fond du Lac’s garden has two grow tunnels. Over the years, the garden has been expanding, but space is limited due to suitable growing areas.
The garden operates from the end of May to the end of September, depending on the growing season. It is taken care of with the help of summer students where needed and two permanent workers – Julienne Martin has been working with the garden since it began and Renee Adam started in 2017. Tiffany Toutsaint’s role is to look for funds for the garden workers, funds for student summer employment, and funds for any needed upgrades or administration. “To help increase production, we purchased another grow tunnel which is in production this summer,” says Toutsaint. “We would like to convert this into an all-season greenhouse so we can grow our own bedding plants and produce other vegetables into the winter months.”
This year, the garden is growing strawberries, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, celery, carrots, beets, green onions, pumpkins, apple trees and hydroponic lettuce. It also sometimes grows broccoli and even flowers. The harvest produce is given to the health centre to be given to their prenatal/postnatal, homecare clients and distribute hampers of food to residents in need of fresh fruit and vegetables. Some of the produce was used to teach classes in canning, making salsa and preserves.
“A lot of people work together to make this happen, and we’re very grateful for everyone’s contributions,” says Toutsaint. “Chief and Council provides support on a yearly basis. Murray Grey from Murray Gray Farms has been consulting with us on the garden since the start up. The former health director, Tammy Lidguerre, along with her employees and Athabasca Health Authority were instrumental in getting this project going. Can/Sask Job Grants, the Athabasca Community Trust, Athabasca Health Authority, the Northern Lights Community Development Corporation, and Athabasca Basin Development have all provided support. And we are also thankful for the support of our community members, who are so positive and are always looking forward to the garden every year.”
Athabasca Basin Development provided $20,000 in the first year of start-up, as well as $2,000 in 2019 to assist with costs to ship materials for the garden.