APTN National News
A Saskatchewan First Nation is reaping the rewards of their organic garden operation and is now selling its product to grocery stores across the prairies.
The Flying Dust First Nation started the Riverside Market Garden in 2009 with less than a hectare of land. That has now grown to 23 hectares.
The demand for their organic potatoes has increased which allowed the garden to expand operations.
“I didn’t think we’d have a building like this,” said manager Len Sawatsky. “This year we are expanding our potato storage area to four times the size of what’s in there because Thomas Fresh wants us to expand, they want more potatoes from us, and so we’re happy to comply.”
Thomas Fresh is a national distributor that has partnered with the Market Garden and its product is now being sold on store shelves in Sobeys, Safeway, and other smaller retailers.
“I’d say the sky’s the limit,” said Thomas Fresh Branch Manager Robb McGill. “It will depend on how fast they can grow and how much they can produce and how much they can store.”
Flying Dust first started the garden as a way to curb diseases like diabetes and diet-related cancers and as a way to provide healthier alternatives to its members.
“It was geared towards getting a lot of our people off social assistance, bringing them into employment and job readiness as well as with the focus of healthy living,” said Flying Dust First Nation Chief Jeremy Norman.
Lillian Chatelaine has worked in the garden since it began and said elders from neighbouring communities have begun inquiring about starting gardens of their own.
“They were asking me how we started this Market Garden here and they wanted to know how to go about it from Loon Lake and Waterhen because they really want to grow their own gardens too,” said Chatelaine.
The garden is more than just a way to help feed band members, said Sawatsky. It’s also a way for them to learn about historical and traditional ways of life.
“We treat the land in a good way that we have a relationship with the earth. This is really important that we revive some of the Aboriginal traditions that have become lost because really Indigenous people are the original environmentalists and the original people in terms of organic,” he said.
Indigenous people are the original environmentalists and the original people in terms of organic,” he said.
The community plans to purchase additional modern and efficient equipment to keep up with the demand.