The Stellat’en First Nations of Fraser Lake have continued to build and improve on their community garden that is running for the third year now.
The garden is much larger than Vanderhoof’s and is arranged such that it provides a higher yield than Vanderhoof’s might due to their ability to rotate the crops and decide what plants grow where.
But that is because healthy food is much needed in a community where the risk of diabetes is high. Because unhealthy is cheaper and easier to make, many low income communities face the risk of developing some form of diabetes.
Cynthia Munger, the Community Health Representative for the Stellat’en First Nations, has worked to organize the community garden and with the help of some local organic growers, she is bringing healthy eating to the community.
“I’m trying to get our communities back to their traditional ways,” said Munger. “It’s too much commercial food, too much junk and it’s my aim to make it so we don’t have to go to the store to get food.”
Janet Romain is the chief gardener for the community garden, she is the one working hard almost every morning to nurture and gather the fruits and vegetables. Romain gets teased a lot over her name but lettuce isn’t the only thing she’s bringing to fruition in Fraser Lake.
Romain works to keep the garden pesticide free, maintaining organic food standards as much as possible. All the food is meant to be grown in adherence to traditional Aboriginal ways.
“I’d rather have a salad from a garden, knowing there’s no pesticides and that it’s grown natural, than buy something from the store,” said Romain. “What I want to say about it is how effortless it is, because I only spend four hours at the most two days a week. It’s a community effort and the community reaps the benefits.”
Munger is in charge of organizing the garden and organizing the collection and delivery of the produce. Munger always makes sure to go around and drop off care packages to feed the elders in the community. She also makes sure that anyone with children or anybody with a physical or mental disability gets some extra food every week.
The deliveries work on a rotation basis and if a family got some produce one week then they might not get any the next, and so on.
Munger has worked as a care aid, a community health rep and is dedicated to eradicating diabetes in her community. She said she gets her inspiration from her family who suffered from the disease.
The community garden is also an opportunity for Munger and Romain to teach the next generation of community members healthy living skills and knowledge. There are classes every week at the health centre where mothers can learn how to make baby food and kids can learn how to grow their own food.