Master gardener Pablo Vimos explaining vegetable production in planter boxes to Klemtu community members in 2019. (N-EAT image)

Master gardener Pablo Vimos explaining vegetable production in planter boxes to Klemtu community members in 2019. (N-EAT image)

Growing food sovereignty at Klemtu

Greenhouse and grow boxes help create circular food economy for Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations

The Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations in Klemtu on B.C.’s central coast are working to develop food and nutritional resilience through greenhouse gardening and home garden boxes.

The project started in 2018 with a team from Simon Fraser University (SFU), and has just received a fresh injection of funding from the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and two private foundations.

The money will be used to double the amount of planter boxes for families in Klemtu to 36 from 18, develop a business model for the produce grown at the community greenhouse, and work on connecting traditional food knowledge with modern growing methods.

Klemtu’s food is delivered via boat once every week or two. Produce isn’t super fresh by the time it arrives, which leads to a reliance on processed foods which have a much longer shelf life.

“In general, our ancestors were healthy, well-built, athletic people,” said Isaiah Robinson, an elected councillor with Kitasoo. But as food and economic systems were disrupted over the past 100 years, health issues have risen, particularly diabetes and obesity. It’s a chronic struggle for First Nations, he says, often being in remote locations with end-of-the-line deliveries.

“We get lettuce that may last a couple of days; we may get milk that lasts five days. So the life span of produce is very minimal. So then we have to default to things such as juice, such as high calorie foods.

“Our goal is to provide our own food for our own community and create a circular economy.”

Klemtu’s restored greenhouse (N-EAT image)

Long-term, they plan to heat the greenhouse to grow fresh food year-round. Robinson is also looking at a hydroponic system called the Growcer that can support high productivity growth in nearly any climate. For now they’re concentrated on helping people learn to garden in Klemtu’s climate. That itself is a variable, Robinson says, as climate change has made the growing season more erratic than it used to be.

“Summer was always very hot and long … this year we basically had two weeks of summer. The rest pretty much rained.”

This year, the coronavirus pandemic exposed more weaknesses in the community’s food supply. Bi-weekly food deliveries were cancelled when the community closed itself off to non-residents, fearing what an outbreak would do to their limited health resources.

The lockdown worked against COVID-19, but fresh food became scarce.

READ MORE: COVID-19 tests come back negative in remote First Nation community

READ MORE: First Nation praises BC Ferries’ ‘phenomenal’ grocery delivery service to community

Dr. Zafar Adeel, a project lead and professor at SFU says the project — Nutrition through Engagement and Agricultural Technologies — aims to get Klemtu’s food security to the point where nutrition isn’t interrupted when external shocks hit.

Klemtu has had two growing seasons with the refurbished community greenhouse and individual planter boxes. The greenhouse produces cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, radishes, squash, peas, melons, lettuce, pumpkins, strawberries, sunflowers and more, and sells the food through the band store. Carrots, peas and lettuce have been popular in the individual grow boxes that are rented out annually for a few dollars.

A primary focus this year will be to develop community resources and knowledge sharing so that people know what to do with a fresh squash, or how to protect against veggie-loving slugs.

Klemtu community members building planter boxes with the N-EAT team. (N-EAT image)

The N-EAT program has sent master gardeners to Klemtu to train people how to garden vegetables, and the lead botanist, Fiona Chambers, is knowledgeable in traditional growing methods as well as more modern technologies. Education is a core component of the program.

“…this is a new thing for this generation. First Nations people have always been able to deal with agriculture in their own way, and of course, we no longer do that as much as we used to,” Robinson said.

Coordinating with the school has helped to engage the younger generation, which he hopes will take the initiative to develop food sovereignty in Klemtu.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


food securityIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Prince Rupert lawyer, Donald A. Silversides has been appointed to the BC Liberals Election Organizing Committee, announced the party on Jan 21. (Contributed photo)
Don Silversides appointed to BC Liberal election organizing committee

Prince Rupert lawyer is the current BC Liberals acting president

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Rose Sawka, a 91-year old Acropolis Manor resident received her COVID-19 vaccination on Jan. 20, one day after an outbreak was declared at the long-term care facility. Her son Terry Sawka visited with her through the window, like she is seen in an Oct. 2020 photo. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Acropolis Manor COVID-19 cases jump to 20 confirmed

Prince Rupert long term care facility received vaccinations

Illicit drug use has spread in the Northern Health region and overdose emergency calls increased in Prince Rupert by 29.5 per cent from 2019 to 2020. (Photo:THE NEWS/files)
Overdose emergency calls in Prince Rupert spikes by 43.6 % in five years

Northern Health issues illicit drug use warnings

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read