Growing Food Justice, the Manitoba Way

Growing Food Justice, the Manitoba Way

This year we supported our first round of community projects. Sixteen projects in all were funded across Northern, rural, and urban Manitoba.  As the harvest of food has come in this fall, we have also been fortunate to receive a harvest of lessons learned and good news stories about food projects across Manitoba. Let us share some of these stories with you.

The rural ‘Homegrown Leaders’ project provided an amazing learning opportunity for 12 rural Manitoban youth. The youth participated in hands-on workshops, farm tours and had discussions about their experiences. They also helped to plan and lead a day camp for children and made presentations regarding rural youth and the next generation of farmers to a University of Manitoba class learning about rural communities.

The Homegrown Leaders group with the completed solar food dehydrators that they built

The coordinator of the Harvest Moon Society project, Michelle Schram said “I was hoping (the project) would raise some awareness with youth about food systems issues and give them an opportunity to be more engaged in their community.” From their feedback it is clear that the youth learned a lot. One of the participants commented “Being a part of this program definitely made me respect small scale farmers and rural communities a lot more”. Another said “I have now made suggestions for my farm to change (based on)…things that I have learned.” After the summer program, many of the youth took on new food related projects. One youth was inspired to get Berkshire pigs and to start raising pastured pork on his farm and another wants to start a community garden in her rural town.

The Winnipeg inner city ‘Community Gardens and Land Tenure’ project led by the Urban Greenspaces Coalition has spent the summer and fall supporting food skills workshops and events such as berry picking, pumpkin canning and the extremely popular Inner City Community Garden Bike and Bus tour. This year because of a community artist incorporating living, growing, plant based furniture into some of the community gardens there were even more excited tour participants than normal.

A group of West End residents picking raspberries

The community gardens visited on the Community Garden Bike and Bus Tour are mostly on city owned land with insecure lease agreements and so the long-term work to support these gardens involves achieving secure land tenure. Thus, the ‘Community Gardens and Land Tenure’ project is researching the possibility of creating an urban land trust for community garden plots in Winnipeg. Robyn Webb, coordinator of the project says “for a group who are predominantly interested in community gardens, it is good that we are now delving into the world of real estate and law.”  Although, they are not yet sure from a legal stand point if an urban community garden land trust is possible, they are learning more about engaging with the city on this issue and have even gone so far as to begin looking into the possibility of changing the provincial Conservation Act to allow for a wider definition of conservation lands that would include community gardens.

The Food Justice Community Round Table hosted by Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng First Nation brought together food-interested folks and Indigenous People from across Canada. Their aim was to bring information together and then to use that information and the experiences and stories in the room to have a discussion about food justice and how it can be supported in Indigenous communities in Canada.  Many powerful stories were shared.

Dace Courchene from Turtle Lodge, who lead the Round Table

Elder Harvey Knight from Muskoday First Nation, Saskatchewan, who came to speak and share his experience, commented that “Part of the agricultural practices of Indigenous people has always been ceremony. People would do ceremony to honour the Spirit who takes care of the plant – prayers would be done for the protection of the plant. This was done with the understanding that when the time came, that plant would give the people life.” This year at the Round Table the group came to a great understanding of Spirit. There are also plans to host another Round Table in the coming year to help create a vision that will lead to direct actions.

The first year of MAFRA funded projects has been really exciting and we are glad to be embarking on that process again. The MAFRA 2012 call for community proposals has gone out and applications are due on January 15th. As in the previous year, each of the three (urban, rural, and urban) regions will be evaluated separately by adjudication committees dominated by community members. However, a fourth cross-regional category has been created in order to support and projects that facilitate networking among these regions, networking that arguably fell between the cracks last year. For more information about the call for proposals or MAFRA in general, contact the MAFRA Coordinator (Anna Weier) at

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