Root Camp 2010

I recently had the pleasure of being invited to participate at an event in Leaf Rapids where the focus was the care and tending of plants from seed through to harvest. Root Camp 2010 was a two day initiative of Frontier School Division and Food Matters Manitoba. The Root Camp was open to teachers, elders and community leaders from communities all across Northern Manitoba. Over 50 participants came from more than 10 communities. The format was a Train the Trainer combination of hands on workshop and instructional strategies participants can use in their classrooms and communities.

Topics of the workshops included potting and garden soil preparation, fertilization, cultivation, cold frame construction, raised bed construction, IPM in the garden, garden planning, planting techniques, seedling care, transplanting, composting, harvesting and freezing.

As part of the hands on workshops participants were encouraged to take their work home with them. Seeds were planted in trays and found their way to all the communities represented at the Root Camp. Bulk seeds were distributed to gardeners who will take their expertise and enthusiasm home to share with the youth of their communities. 1,000 strawberry plants were distributed to the workshop participants courtesy of the Prairie Fruit Growers Association and Anthony Mintenko. Those in the know see fruit production in the north as a huge opportunity both in the garden and as a potential for commercial u-picks.

Participants preparing for their turn at seeding.

Chuck Stensgard is the point person for Community Gardens with FSD.

The instructional strategies focussed on developing the students’ skills in seeding, planting and garden care. How to connect gardening to the arts was a popular session dealing with the motivation of students. The health and nutrition benefits of vegetables were a major focus for the participants not only in presentations but in the dining room.

Meals were prepared by community volunteers and served by students of the Leaf Rapids School. There was a literal smorgasbord of traditional and ethnic dishes served to the participants. Caribou and moose stews, whitefish in sauce, pan fried walleye, bannock, with salads and oriental vegetable stir fries combined to make the meals number 1 in the evaluations.

At the end of the first day a special presentation of And This Is My Garden was screened in the community theatre. The film documents the success of a community garden program in the northern Manitoba community of Wabowden. Following a full season of growth and harvest, Mrs. Stieffenhofer primarily chronicles the work of teacher Eleanor Woitowicz as she orchestrates the gardening program and is shown as the central figure of this community wide effort. The innovative project incorporates health and science curriculum with hands on chemical-free gardening, but is also notable for the way in which it builds character and community. Students develop valuable skills in sustainable food production and healthy lifestyle choices, but they also are tasked with tending to their very own gardens, the care of which becomes a source of great pride and self-esteem.

A concert was featured in the theatre to wrap up day one with singers and dancers from across northern Manitoba. It was a fitting celebration of communities coming together for a common goal.

The two day workshop was also an opportunity to showcase an innovative building design that has the potential to be used as a season extender for gardeners in the north or even as a community greenhouse. The building is a very simple yet sturdy geodesic design that uses plates and carriage bolts to construct the building in a very short time.

The Plate that holds the pieces together

With lumber pre-cut and drilled construction time 35 minutes

All pieces of lumber used are of equal length cut at the ends at a standard 31° angle with a carriage bolt and lock washers inserted through the lumber at each end. Jigs are used to ensure the proper angle for cutting and drilling of the holes. The design of the structure allows for a variety of covering materials from solid panels to flexible plastic poly wrap.

An example of a quick wrap in 10 ml poly.

We see this structure as being well adapted to northern conditions. It is a simple yet functional design and can be constructed using local materials. All you need is a saw, a measuring tape and a cordless drill.

Participants were asked for their opinions on the two day event in an evaluation. All facets of the workshops, seminars and session leaders scored 10 out of 10 but there were some who voiced dissatisfaction with the Root Camp. Participants felt that the two days should be extended to three or four.

Prepared by: Brian Hunt, BDS Greenhouse & Alternative Crops
May 2010 edition of CROPS E-NEWS (subscribe)