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

Requests for proposals for the first stage of a water treatment facility project have been issued by the City of Prince Rupert on Oct. 26. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Water treatment facility project in Prince Rupert enters first phase

Prince Rupert seeks proposals for assessment of water quality supply and treatment options

A Shoppers Drug Mart employee in Prince Rupert has tested positive for COVID-19 the company confirmed on Oct. 26. The last day the employee worked was Oct. 17. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Employee of Prince Rupert Shoppers Drug Mart tests positive for COVID-19

No COVID-19 public exposures alerts issued by Northern Health Authority for Prince Rupert

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

North Coast BC NDP MLA Incumbent is seen with her wife Andrea Wilmot and their son Lua, as well as their dog Duncan. Preliminary results on election night Oct. 24 show Rice is in for a third term. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Most Read