Community gardens help Waywayseecappo First Nation residents access fresh, healthy foods

When Sarah Cameron moved to Waywayseecappo First Nation four years ago, she immediately noticed it was hard to get healthy food. Fruits and vegetables were either too pricey or far away.

3 community gardens were planted with a wide variety of vegetables

Sarah Cameron, left, and Lincoln Cloud install a fence along a row of peas in one of Waywayseecappo's community gardens. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

When Sarah Cameron moved to Waywayseecappo First Nation four years ago, she immediately noticed it was hard to get healthy foods — fruits and vegetables were either too pricey or far away.

"It was very difficult," said Cameron, a mother of four living in the First Nation about 280 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. "I really had to budget my money very carefully to ensure they had a healthy diet."

Cameron started her own garden the following summer, determined to raise her kids on a fresh, healthy diet. But she realized there was a larger need for easier access to healthy food on the reserve, which has a population of 1,500 people.

This year, two new community gardens were planted in Waywayseecappo. They join an existing garden at the community's band office. They were created as part of a program by Canadian Feed the Children to plant community gardens on First Nations across Canada.

When Sarah Cameron moved to Waywayseecappo First Nation four years ago, she found it hard to get healthy food, which was either too pricey or far away. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

"There is a high demand for healthy food and it's just not easy to get to it," said Cameron, now the regional co-ordinator for the charity. "This was definitely what we needed as a community."

At one of the gardens on Friday, volunteers were busy painting an old shed and tending to the garden plot. Cameron said it wasn't hard to get the community on board.

"It's exciting," she said. "I find when we're all working in the garden, it gets really, really exciting."

The soil underneath Waywayseecappo makes it difficult for people to grow their own gardens in some areas. Some of the soil contains hard clay or has many rocks. 

The gardens contain many offerings, including tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, beets, peas, carrots, onions and potatoes. A three sisters garden also helps teach the cultural significance of growing beans, squash and flint corn. 

Residents will also be taught how to preserve some of the food for use in winter.

Lincoln Cloud has volunteered in the garden every day, first getting it ready to plant, and then with the planting and upkeep.

Waywayseecappo First Nation residents planted two new community gardens this year. (Riley Laychuk/CBC )

"I never heard about a community garden until this year," said Cloud, a resident of Waywayseecappo since 1990. He can't grow a garden in his yard.

He's been flanked by youth on many days he's been in the garden, something he enjoys. 

"Usually they don't see where their food [comes from]," he said. "They go to the grocery store and they buy it there." 

Talking to the plants 

Cloud, a home-care worker, said he hasn't done much gardening and is learning as he goes, like the rest of the volunteers. Along with weeding and watering, Cloud also talks to the plants, something folklore indicates could help them grow better.

"You let them know that there's somebody here looking after them ... they'll grow better," Cloud said, believing he's noticed the phenomenon first-hand. 

Waywayseecappo was the first community to sign on to the Canadian Feed the Children initiative. There are 19 other communities that have expressed interest in starting their own gardens, Cameron said, and they could use Waywayseecappo as a model. 

Community garden in Waywayseecappo

CBC News Manitoba

4 years ago
People living on the Waywayseecappo First Nation in western Manitoba are banding together to plant two new community gardens. It's part of an initiative to make it easier for people to get fresh, healthy food - something isn't always easy in remote communities. 1:22

Cameron hopes to see more community gardens in Waywayseecappo in the future and that they inspire more people in her community to start their own gardens. 

"Once somebody gets into a garden ... that's all it takes," she said. "It's very infectious."