Flying Dust First Nation gardening program celebrates success

The Flying Dust First Nation says its Riverside Market Garden program has become a huge success.

Flying Dust First Nation now sells to grocery stores, northern work camps

Worker at the Flying Dust First Nation's Riverside Market Garden during harvest. (Leonard Sawatsky)

The Flying Dust First Nation says its Riverside Market Garden program has become a huge success.

Located just outside Meadow Lake, the program started in 2009 with a handful of workers.

In the last three years, the gardening program has doubled in size. Riverside has signed partnerships with a wholesaling company that provides kitchens at northern work camps, and supplies local grocery stores.

It also has contracts with other First Nations and Saskatoon's CHEP Good Food Inc., a program where food boxes are sold to families.

"This is a realization of a dream we had a long time ago," said Manager Leonard Sawatsky. "To contribute in a meaningful way to food security for First Nations and Metis people."

Northern work camps have become a major customer for the project, purchasing around 40 per cent of Riverside's produce.

"Certainly they bought lots of potatoes," he said. "We got rid of one variety of potato, and we had planted about ten acres of that."

Riverside also has a store front building located on Flying Dust.

"We found that the people of Meadow Lake, the non-aboriginal residents were very good patrons of the store, and that worked out really well," he said.

This year, 18 people from Flying Dust will be hired to work at the garden, with many more people brought on as casual labour to weed and harvest.

Sawatsky said he hopes the program will eventually get large enough to put a dent in northern food prices, which is a problem in many communities.

"In a place like Wollaston, for example, they're paying almost eight dollars per head of lettuce," he said. "And that's just ridiculous. We can do better than that."


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