Monday, 3 August 2015

Gardening and Development

By Leah McDonnell, 1st year MDP student

Leah in the garden
With my final days at NorWest Community Food Centre are closing in, I have begun to self-reflect on my time here.  Although I was designated to mainly support the creation of a traditional Indigenous medicine garden, I have been able to participate in many other areas of development through the organization. 

However, one of the biggest learning points for myself to take away from this internship is that I can garden.  I’m actually pretty darn good at it too.  I never thought that I would gain so many skills so quickly. I am lucky insofar as I work with a very supportive staff and the garden manager has decided to use this specific community garden as a learning experience.  What does that mean?  It’s ok to make mistakes (in my case, probably a few mistakes).  However, I have probably learned more by being able to try different ideas and make mistakes than I would have if I was given a strict set of rules. It also creates a very easy-going feel through the community garden itself, allowing people to come out, learn a little bit and relax in a safe and supportive environment.

Weekly community farmer's market in Blake Gardens
During my time at NorWest I have been involved with many different programs that run through the centre.  One of the most effective programs NorWest runs, in my opinion, is the weekly community farmer’s market in Blake Gardens.  The organization purchases, in bulk, various veggies, fruits, meats and eggs. Then sells these products back to community members at cost - for example, 5 bananas for $1CDN, 6 eggs for $1.50, etc.  The prices are kept as low as possible and the market does not make a profit.  Instead, it uses the money made during the week to invest in groceries for next week’s market.  While most of the produce will sell out, any that is left over is taken back to the food centre and is used in community lunches, so there is no waste.   

As there are direct linkages to access to healthy nutrition and development (both mental and physical) this market is able to address immediate needs in the community by providing healthy foods at affordable pricing.  While working at the market, I also got to know a lot of people in the community and made and fostered some great relationships. 

While I am sad that my time at NorWest is over, I have had a wonderful (and resume building) experience.


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