Only a small part of our population today (about 2%) are involved in the commercial growing of all of our food.  Of this small number, only a much smaller fraction currently work within an organic or ecological oriented framework.  We are encouraged where and whenever we see home gardeners who have and practice their skills for themselves and sometimes those around them.  However we are still left with a disconcertingly limited number in our culture who carry the knowledge and abilities to grow food, particularly good, healthy and nourishing food – so much has been lost in the few generations since subsistence agriculture was the norm and most everyone could be self-reliant in feeding themselves.

We think it’s pretty important now, as a society, for reconnection to how and where our food comes from, along with rediscovering the skills and knowledge to be able to participate more in the process ourselves.  This is especially poignant given how much our food has changed as a result of the nature of the industry it now comes from, and how little we really know about it because of our separation from how/where it comes.

We try to encourage opportunities for experience and learning – both individually and in groups – in a number of ways here on the farm. We encourage participation in the garden by our CSA members.  We have hosted at times various visits from school groups, organizations such as Canada World Youth and Katimavik, and have been listed as a WWOOF Canada (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) host.  We have also provided seasonal apprenticeship opportunities since 2008.

In 2011, Heather offered many opportunities for gardening education in communities across Manitoulin Island. Some of these were:
January 2011 – Direct Marketing of Garden and Farm Products – presentation and discussion with the Wikwemikong farming group coordinated by the Indian Agriculture Program in Wikwemikong.
April 2011 – Starting the Spring Garden: Seeds, Seedlings and Living Soil — public workshop, presentation and discussion in Little Current
May 2011 – Basic Gardening for Living Soils: community workshop presentation and discussion in M’Chigeeng
May 2011 – Starting Seedlings for Container Gardening or Home Gardens; three hands-on workshops – Wikwemikong Wellness Fair, Sheshegwaning Health Centre, and Zhiibaasing Community Centre
June 2011 – Composting: How and why — public presentation and discussion on composting as part of the Manitoulin Trade fair educational workshop series in Little Current.

Also, from April through October 2011, Heather spearheaded the creation and coordination of the Mindemoya Community Garden (initiated by Manitoulin Family Resources, with extensive participation and hosting by Central Manitoulin Public School). Garden produce was harvested for the Manitoulin Food Bank and the Central Manitoulin Public School Breakfast Program and Fall Feast. Free workshops associated with the Community Garden included:
May 2011 – Hands on starting of seedlings in containers, and traditional First Nations teachings from Dorothy Kennedy, with grade 7-8 students at CMPS
June 2011 – Spring planting of the garden, with bedding plants and direct seeds, by CMPS students of various grades, Mrs. Davy`s class. Thank you to these students for all their work throughout the spring and fall in the garden!!!
July 2011 – Tomatoes, potatoes and other gardening basics — Hands-on Intro to Gardening workshop.
– Two cooking workshops with Tammy Albers of Noojmowin Teg Health Centre – using summer garden produce
– Basic steps to saving your own seeds
August 2011 – Learning About the Insects and Weeds in your Garden- some are helpful and edible!
– Arts in the Garden, together with Sophie Edwards, 4elements Living Arts
October 2011 – Tasty Cooking on a Budget with fall harvest foods

We Grow Here – A most creative and exciting educational initiative happened this year at LoonSong, the We Grow Here farm-based theatre project of Elisha Sidlar and Bill Shawanda.
LoonSong was the 4th of four farms during the growing season of 2011 to host Bill and Elisha in July as artists in residence for two weeks, during which time the duo created an original theatre piece based on the conversations and hands-on learning they engaged in at the farm. Four shows were put on at LoonSong in early August, literally in the field, featuring humor and political insight and awesome audience participation! Huge thanks to Bill and Elisha for taking up the adventure of learning, and then helping us and the community to learn in new ways about the foods and farms around us!!