Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Mapping the White Earth Foodshed

By Kaitlyn Duthie-Kannikkatt, 1st year MDP student

“What if we woke up tomorrow morning and the entire global food system had collapsed? How well would we be able to feed ourselves? Would our people be able to eat?”

Foodshed map
With this question, my mentor Bob opened up the foodshed mapping network meeting, hosted in the last week of my MDP field placement with the White Earth Land Recovery Project in Northern Minnesota. Along with Bob, I had been working to assemble this meeting by creating promotional materials and doing some background research on foodshed mapping processes in other parts of the country.

Our foodshed consists of everything from the land in which our food is grown to the facilities that store it, from the roads and rails on which our food travels, to the grocery stores in which we purchase it. It is all the pieces of our food system working together to shape the way we eat.

Kaitlyn with freshly picked raspberries

Foodshed mapping is a process that begins with community members physically sticking pins on a map and collaboratively taking stock of the resources they have and the resources they need to be able to improve access to food on the reservation. Through physically and conceptually mapping their food system, WELRP hopes that the community as a whole can begin to work towards assembling and implementing a plan to achieve tribal food sovereignty.

Some of the questions we thought about included:
          Are there farmers markets, or farms that sell direct to customers?
          Are there food storage facilities?
          Are there community gardens, or fruit trees in public places?
          Where are the schools with farm to school programs?
          Do we know of any root cellars? How about canning and preserving equipment?
          Where are the key wild foods places? Is it appropriate to map these out?
          What land could become a local food production center?
          What kinds of programs and connections currently exist to give people the tools to assert food sovereignty?

After presenting some of what I had learned about foodshed mapping and then furiously taking notes throughout the meeting on the rich conversations had among those who attended, I was able to reflect on what a gift it is to have been part of this process at such a critical juncture. I have been really inspired over my time at WELRP at how much is being done to revive traditional knowledge in this community, especially in the way of growing and harvesting food. Seeds are coming back, youth are engaged in gardening, berry camps and rice camps are bringing all generations together to celebrate wild foods…and this process of foodshed mapping is just one more step in what has been a generations-long commitment to community resilience within the White Earth Nation. I am so grateful for the opportunity to bear witness to that effort and to support it in some small way.

Chi-miigwech to everyone at the White Earth Land Recovery Project! Keep fighting the good fight!

Kaitlyn and her mentor Bob Shimek

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