M’CHIGEENG— M’Chigeeng First Nation residents have been casting curious glances at the vacant plot of land adjacent to the M’Chigeeng Health Centre recently. The land, previously home to Adult Education, has been generously donated by Lakeview School to serve as the site for a new community garden.
Over the past couple weeks the plot of land has undergone a noticeable transformation to serve as a different type of educational space. The past couple of days Lakeview school students, along with the employees of the M’Chigeeng Health Centre, notably Crystal Taibossigai-McCauley and Deanna Sampson-Beaudin of Healthy Babies, Healthy Children (HBHC), have contributed their time to birth the garden for the upcoming growing season.
The construction and priming of the space to function as a community garden was made possible with the help of many local organizations. These organizations include the Manitoulin Community Fresh Food Initiative (MCFFI) founded by The Child Poverty Task Force in partnership with Noojmowin Teg with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The hands-on work of planting the starting plants was undertaken by the Lakeview School Grade 6 class. They spent a comfortably cool Monday morning planting a variety of produce including pickling cucumber, basil, tomatoes, pumpkin, and squash. The impressive thing was the Grade 6s grew these starter plants themselves during the last week of April! Lakeview School Grade 6 teacher Craig Cress, an experienced gardener himself, instructed the students on the various planting techniques unique to each species of plant. The students then got their hands dirty with the fertile soil and spent the morning exercising both their minds and bodies. Within the succeeding days, Lakeview School’s Kindergarten class also came to visit. They identified the soil, plants, and pollinators and took notes and drawings of their observations. There was a detectable excitement as the students were thrilled to be out of the confines of the classroom and into the fresh air.
The enjoyment shared by the students highlights one of the main objectives of the community garden which is to enhance food literacy through engaging hands-on activity. The students are able to see their plants grow throughout the summer and learn about the factors that contribute to the health of the plant. To facilitate in furthering the learning of the students, MCFFI is in the process of planning workshops on topics such as soil composition, composting, gardening mentoring sessions, and food preserving methods. By learning how to nurture plants,
the community garden is cultivating a sense of community by having everyone committed to achieving the common goal of a bountiful fall harvest. The garden is further instilling confidence in community members and students to care for their own gardens someday, thereby increasing access to locally grown produce.
The HBHC is looking forward to hosting a grand opening ceremony for the garden as well as continuing to establish the traditional medicine garden within the next couple of days. HBHC encourages you to visit their webpage at www.mchigeeng.ca and the Healthy Kids Manitoulin Facebook page for updates on upcoming events.