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Harvest Algoma works to create food sovereignty, agriculture economy

Irene Gray knows what community food banks are all about. She’s worked for one in Garden River First Nation.
Now a fine arts student at Algoma University, Gray is spending her summer months as part of a pilot project learning skills to help her in the landscaping, nursery and agriculture industry.
The pilot project, a partnership between Ontario Works, the Indian Friendship Centre and Harvest Algoma focuses on four students honing their skills in the industry and helping Harvest Algoma expand its food resource centre by creating food gardens, which ultimately will provide additional food for those who need it, said Mike Delfre, director of operations at Harvest Algoma.
While Gray said she plans on continuing her education at Algoma U in the fine arts program, she said she’s learning everything from soil health and fertilizers to pruning trees and shrubs, compositing and food security and sustainability.
The group will also learn about traditional medicines, harvesting, preparation and basic cooking and preserving, said instructor Denise Johnson.
Other skills to be learned including marketing and small business skills, WHMIS and safe food handling, cooking, baking and preserving, Johnson said.
“I’m teaching them about the connection to the land. No matter what we do, all of it connects to the land, said Johnson, a part-time instructor of traditional ecological knowledge at Sault College.
Gray hopes that her new-found sills will allow her to return to the Garden River community food bank to help expand the program there.
Meanwhile, Keegan Quart and Chris Allaire are both Sault College Natural Environment Technologist students and participating in the pilot project to build towards the 400 hours of co-op required for their program.
Quart said he hopes to put his skills to good use when he completes his college education.
Allaire said he’s already started his own four-by-seven-foot garden in his own back yard.
“I’ve never done any gardening before and my tomatoes are almost ready to pick and I’ve got kale, lettuce and cucumbers,” he said. “It really helps cut down on grocery costs.”
And that’s exactly what Delfre wants to hear.
While the pilot program is designed to increase the number of small local market gardeners and increase the amount of locally produced food, he also hopes that over time, the local agriculture sector will become a major part of Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma’s economy.
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