Tsuut'ina green thumbs gather to create community garden for food bank

A dozen volunteers on the Tsuut'ina First Nation are getting their hands dirty for the good of the community.

Everything grown in the garden will be donated to the food bank at the First Nation west of Calgary

Volunteers at the Tsuut'ina First Nation worked with Grow Calgary to create a community garden. (Elissa Carpenter/CBC)

A dozen volunteers on the Tsuut'ina First Nation are getting their hands dirty for the good of the community.

With a little help from Grow Calgary, members of the band have been digging, tilling and planting all week to create a community garden.

Everything grown will ultimately go to the Tsuut'ina Nation Food Bank.

"We can feed about a thousand families come July with what we are growing, which works out nicely because next month will be the one-year [anniversary] for the food bank," said Crystal Starlight.

The garden was originally Starlight's vision, who said the goal of the project is not just to feed local families, but to also return to more traditional roots.

"I actually went and visited elders and listened to them and sat with them and heard their stories about how they used to feed their families, because back then there could be 15 people to one house," she said. 

"They talked to me about how they managed to ration their food amongst all of the children."

She said learning about how her grandparents raised 15 children in a one-bedroom home and hearing stories from other community members helped push her to make her dream a reality. 

"It was a lot of learning for me about how they survived back then and it was something for me that I wanted to bring back. And I sat with other community members and I sat with the elders program and heard their stories," she said.

Stanley Big Plume, a member of the Tsuut'ina Chief and Council, said the council jumped on the idea right away when a community member suggested it. The garden's bounty is a way to bring neighbours and friends together.

"[It's] going back to the old days when we used to work the land as a way to provide for our families. Now everyone seems to do their farming at Safeway or Co-op," he said.

An 4.5-hectare plot of land was also set aside for future use by the food bank, but Starlight said planting that section may have to wait until the thumbs of herself and other volunteers get a little greener.

The first crops are expected to be ready by July.

With files from Elissa Carpenter