Thunder Bay·Audio

Garden project yields Thanksgiving bounty for Matawa First Nations members

A garden project launched by Matawa First Nations Management is yielding a fall harvest that will be enjoyed by dozens of families in Thunder Bay, Ont. this Thanksgiving weekend. 

A summer garden project is just one food security initiative the tribal council has launched this year

A donated plot of land in the Slate River Valley just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont. served as the site for the Matawa garden project. (Matawa First Nations Management)

A garden project launched by Matawa First Nations Management this summer is yielding a fall harvest that will be enjoyed by dozens of families in Thunder Bay, Ont. this Thanksgiving weekend. 

The garden was started by an environmental services group within Matawa, as well as volunteers from other departments within the organization, explained Matawa CEO David Paul Achneepineskum, 

"Earlier this summer [they] got together and said 'here's a good idea that we believe will be very helpful to our communities.' So we initiated, and we got a piece of land from one of our staff members and we were well on our way to getting some fresh produce for our community."

Recently, close to 80 vehicles pulled up to a tailgate harvest giveaway for Matawa First Nation members in Thunder Bay.

The produce has also been distributed in other ways throughout the summer, he said, including through food hampers intended to help families during the pandemic.

Snap peas, zucchinis, cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes and potatoes were the most successful crops, Matawa said. (Matawa First Nations Management)

"Throughout the summer we have been assisting at least 500 to 600 families in terms of food hampers," he said, explaining that the garden and hampers are among numerous efforts launched by Matawa in order to address food scarcity.

And while some food was transported from Thunder Bay to more northern communities, members further north also reciprocated with a gift of their own.

"We had an opportunity to give out fresh fish – donations that we had received from our communities, particularly up north – so in a way they're kind of giving back to their people here in Thunder Bay through donating fresh meat and fish," Achneepineskum  said.

"That's the thing about Matawa, our communities try to work together and help each other out," he stated.

"We're all in this together, particularly in this challenging time of COVID. We need to help each other. We need to support each other." 

All-in-all, the successful garden project yielded approximately 10,000 pounds of fresh produce from July to September. 

Knowledge was gained from the project that might also be used to inform future garden initiatives in remote Matawa communities, Achneepineskum said. 

You can hear the full interview with David Paul Achneepineskum on CBC's Superior Morning here. 

Apples, carrots, potatoes and pumpkins. Some of the fall bounty Matawa First Nations was able to give away to its members this week, thanks to a summer gardening project. We'll hear about that, and other ways its been tackling food insecurity this year, including delivering hundreds of food packages this summer. David Paul Achneepineskum is the CEO of Matawa First Nations Management. He told the CBC's Amy Hadley all about it. 7:44

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