Fresh produce now being grown by Odawa Freshwater Gardens

Among the fresh produce being grown by the Odawa Freshwater Gardens in Sheshegwaning First Nation is wildfire lettuce.

SHESHEGWANING – The Odawa Freshwater Gardens Growcer system in Sheshegwaning First Nation, which will provide fresh produce and be available to the community on a year-round basis, is now starting to see the growth of these products from seedlings. 

“We’re growing,” stated April Folz, economic development director for Sheshegwaning First Nation, late last week.

“We now have one crop of produce in there already, including for example, spinach, wildfire lettuce, Monte Carlo romaine lettuce, red Russian kale and Toscana kale. And there might be more.”

The new hydroponic Growcer system will provide local stabilized year-round fresh produce and vegetables on a weekly basis and be more affordable than buying these items at the grocery store. 

Ms. Folz explained previously the initial idea for the community getting involved in this program came after she attended a tradeshow conference in Quebec with a group of Sheshegwaning First Nation representatives. “I was at a conference in Quebec with Chief Dean Roy and Leonard Genereux in February. It was held while outside there was a huge snowstorm, but The Growcer had a hydroponic container farm display and they had fresh food and vegetables that they were growing. It was amazing to see fresh, edible greens in amongst the displays.”

“We didn’t think about this system again until COVID-19 hit,” said Ms. Folz. She noted that members of the community grew concerned that they wouldn’t be able to access fresh produce when the nearest grocery store is about 45 minutes away in Gore Bay. The First Nation was having a tougher time providing the fresh produce and vegetables to residents of the community. 

The idea was investigated further and Sheshegwaning made the decision to get into the container hydroponic equipment farming concept, and took out a loan to purchase the Growcer farm. The unit was delivered to the community in June of this year. 

The Growcer adheres to other models of container farming that start with a shipping container and add hydroponic growing equipment and LED lights to create a self-contained, closely monitored system that allows for year-round growing. 

Seeds are nurtured using a combination of nutrients, water and lighting, and crops are ready to be harvested after about four to six weeks. And with the staggered planting system, crops grow all the time.

There is a 24/7 clean water system that is constantly running, but uses 97 percent less power than it would for a normal farm.  

Four-hundred and fifty heads of greens will be harvested on a weekly basis. For $10 a week, residents taking advantage of the fresh products will be able to get a subscription box, which will guarantee them five heads of greens of their choice delivered to their home. As well, a portion of the harvest will go to Mkwa Catering for use in their dishes.