Calgary

'Land of Dreams': a space for newcomers to grow crops and respect Indigenous roots

The Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS), the settlement agency behind the initiative, transformed a 30-acre stretch in southeast Calgary last year into a fertile land for newcomer families to grow herbs and vegetables. 

The 30-acre plot of land is located in southeast Calgary

Volunteers and newcomers gathered in the last week to plant crops. (Sam Nammoura)

The Land of Dreams is a space for Calgary newcomers to rekindle with their roots while appreciating Alberta's Indigenous history. 

The Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS), the settlement agency behind the initiative, transformed a 30-acre stretch in southeast Calgary last year into fertile land for newcomer families to grow herbs and vegetables. 

"It would be a place for them to feel at home because that is a land where they can touch the dirt and they can do a lot of exciting things," said Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of CCIS,

Many newcomers come from farming backgrounds, Birjandian noted.

The land along 84 Avenue is divided into 18 circular plots. (Sam Nammoura)

"They're leaving their small village where they had a small piece of land to work on and now living in a small apartment in Calgary," said Birjandian.

"That piece was missing from their life and we wanted to bring that back to [them]."

Birjandian said about 100 people "jumped" at the opportunity to participate this year with planting efforts already underway in the last week. 

Indigneous roots

The organization launched the project with the blessing and guidance from local Indigenous leaders.

"So, when newcomers come, they understand who was living here and how they lived in this land," said Birjandian.

"I think through this, it's really creating a lot of respect for Indigenous cultures."

Newcomer families are planting spinach, ginger, garlic and other vegetables. (Sam Nammoura)

He described this connection as important because there is a lack of interaction between Indigenous communities and refugee families upon arrival to Canada as they typically steer toward resettlement agencies.

"[The Land of Dreams] makes sure newcomers understand who they are, how they lived and what happened [up to] today," he said.

CCIS leased the land from the province after a three-year application process. 

This year, the organization has enforced physical distancing measures and personal protective gear requirements due to COVID-19.

About the Author

Hala Ghonaim

Reporter/Editor

Hala Ghonaim is a Calgary-based video journalist. She's previously worked in her hometown of London, Ont., as a radio and digital reporter. You can reach her at hala.ghonaim@cbc.ca.

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