Claire Legaspi believes that a community garden is more than just a place to grow healthy food.It also serves as a classroom for children and adults, she says, and it teaches people sustainable, healthy and affordable food growing practices.
This summer, the executive director of Midwest Food Resource Project Inc. was able to hire two students to keep its North Battleford community garden thriving - thanks to funding from the CPRA’s Green Jobs Initiative, which is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Summer Work Experience program.
The Saskatchewan-based non-profit organization offers programs that enhance food security and better nutrition in the Battlefords, Meadow Lake, Lloydminster and surrounding areas. It runs the only fresh food box program in the communities, where residents have access to a variety of in-season fresh vegetables and fruits at an affordable cost.
“The Green Jobs Initiative’s funding support makes it possible to have garden assistants regularly helping with gardening duties (instead of simply relying on volunteers during their free time) and making our community garden more productive with abundant vegetable harvests,” says Claire. “This helps our organization make fresh, organic vegetables more affordable and accessible to people in our community through our fresh food boxes and farmer’s market stall.”
“The Green Jobs Initiative’s funding support makes it possible to have garden assistants regularly helping with gardening duties" - Athena Pyettei, student
Athena Payette was one of the summer students hired to look after the community garden.
As a garden assistant, Athena spent her days outdoors cleaning the garden in preparation for planting, planting and growing seeds, transplanting seedlings into the garden, watering plants, weeding the garden, harvesting, composting, and preparing the soil for the next planting season.
“I am surrounded by plant life everywhere I go at work,” Athena says, adding that the job allowed her to spend time in nature. “There are many things I love about my job, but the thing I love most about it is the wildlife I often get to see.”
While Athena loved the opportunity to connect with nature over the summer, her hard work also opened the door for residents to better connect with the outdoors – and, learn a thing or two about growing their own produce.
“Through our garden, we also offer gardening opportunities and skills training to individuals or families who do not have the space to grow their own food,” says Claire. “We do not provide feeding programs, but rather focus on self-reliant programs that build knowledge and skills to allow people to feed themselves. Our Garden Assistants play an important role in making sure that the garden is a conducive place for working with and learning about nature.”
Aside from learning how to grow food, Athena also learned sustainable agricultural practices. She says that the skills and experience she learned this summer will help her pursue a career in conservation someday.
“Through our garden, we also offer gardening opportunities and skills training to individuals or families who do not have the space to grow their own food" - Athena Pyette, student
“This job has given me a deeper appreciation for nature, and I believe that if more people had jobs like mine, they would come to appreciate nature more as well,” she says.
Claire says the organization would love to hire summer students again, if given the opportunity. She says that the Green Jobs Initiative is a win-win for both organizations and students.
“The Green Jobs Initiative is a great way to help organizations like ours give students an opportunity to learn about what we do and become part of our programs,” she says. “It helps them see social issues from a practical perspective, and hopefully makes them want to continue helping with initiatives to address these issues in the future.”
The CPRA’s Green Jobs Initiative supports Goal 3 ‘Connecting People & Nature’ and Goal 5 ‘Recreation Capacity’ within the Framework for Recreation in Canada. The Framework serves as a foundation for the work of the parks and recreation sector.
To read all success stories go to: https://www.cpra.ca/stories