It began on a crisp sunny day in January 2009. A group of community members gathered at the White Earth Veterans Center in Mahnomen, MN. Anticipation for spring sizzled in the air. Gardens!, someone said. Food security! said another. Traditional foods, domestic garden food, health issues, time management, garden equipment, skills and experience were discussed and identified. The words sparked an enthusiastic plan to begin a grassroots garden venture.
The plan: to engage and immerse at least 25 families into the arms of Mother Earth and her bountiful gifts. An exciting element of this plan was that although we knew what we were going to do and how we were going to do it, we had no idea where the journey was going to take us. As with any passionate from the heart plan, you do your best and hope for the best.
The steps taken to fulfill the plan: Strengths were identified. Anishinaabe Center, Sah Kah Tay, WETCC Extension and several community members shared what they had to offer. Challenges were identified. Land and soil issues, experience and skill levels, passions and aversions, and time management were discussed and partnerships formed to turn the challenges into strengths.
The journey: An amazing albeit exhausting 10 months of laughter, community building, skill acquiring, food gathering experience! Wide eyed awe showed on the faces of new gardeners and experienced gardeners as new and old techniques were shared and implemented. Some of the techniques used are square foot gardening, perennial gardening, raised beds, hoop houses, companion gardening, container gardening, wild food gathering, and not sure how that happened-but it works gardening. We even had rare Indigenous Plant rescues occurring! (Areas that were being disturbed for development.)
The result: 28 family gardens, 2 community gardens, monthly garden meetings and a Farmers Market. Some of the experiences ranged from tilling up their very first garden to wild food immersion to expanding a family garden into an upcoming CSA. Examples of the educational opportunities include the nutritional, medicinal and utilitarian use of domestic and wild plants, edible landscaping , wild food identification, gardening by the moon, sustainable harvesting, recipe sharing, and taste testing, The knowledge shared was a spectacular demonstration of the wonderful people living here!