Abegweit First Nation investing in food security, sustainability with new greenhouse
Goal is to promote nutrition and a connection to the land
Officials with Abegweit First Nation in P.E.I. say a greenhouse in the community will increase food security, promote nutrition and help members learn more about living off the land.
Construction is underway now on the geothermal greenhouse in an open field near the community's daycare centre.
Gerard Gould is Director of Health with Abegweit First Nation. He's overseeing the greenhouse project.
"I think it's just the connection to the land that we want to foster," said Gould.
"Making sure that, not only is it by us and for us, but we'll also get that knowledge and pass it down, generation to generation, to make sure that we are able to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining, within our own community, moving forward."
Gould said the idea for a a greenhouse came from the success of a community garden in recent years. He said some of the community's children and youth really took an interest in growing their own food, and he's hopeful that will continue.
"They had a program where they were engaged with the community garden," said Gould.
"And we hope this will continue with the greenhouse year-round, so we'll try to introduce this with a younger generation and at a younger age."
He said once construction is complete — hopefully by the end of July — the Health Centre's dietitian will get involved with the project as well.
"What we're hoping this greenhouse will do is extend the benefits of nutritional eating, knowing exactly what is going in the soil, what we are planting and what we want to get out of it," said Gould, who expects the project to cost between $70,000 and $80,000.
Gould said the community will be looking to its sister-band, Lennox Island First Nation, for ideas and guidance on running a successful greenhouse.
Lennox Island opened its own geothermal greenhouse last year, and officials there say they ended up being able to keep it running year-round.
'I'd call it a success'
"I'd call it a success for sure," said Mark Ellands, manager at Lennox Island Greenhouse and Gardens.
He said on account of the geothermal heating system, cold, hardy vegetables that were planted in the fall were able to be harvested into the winter.
In March, the greenhouse started helping to supply 25-30 food boxes to community members each week.
"The yields were actually pretty good — everyone loves it. A lot of people, they find quite a difference in the quality," he said.
Ellands said he's hoping to see a second greenhouse constructed in the community in the next year. He said a highlight for him has been watching children harvest beans, cucumbers and carrots, and deliver the fresh vegetables to local elders.
"It was pretty cool just to see the kids get their hands dirty and to know where the food is coming from," said Ellands.