Thursday, 26 April 2018

Healing the Land, Healing the People

Prince Albert Food Bank’s Co-op Community Oasis 


Wes Clark, the Prince Albert Food Bank’s Executive Director, is passionate about land reclamation and he’s not afraid of a challenge. With help from the community, he’s turning an abandoned piece of land, almost a brownfield, into a demonstration garden that promotes healing and food security. 

In 2015, the Prince Albert Food Bank hit a turning point. They’d been operating two different food programs – emergency food baskets and a hot meal program – but there just wasn’t enough funding and they were forced to make some tough choices. A series of stakeholder meetings encouraged the Food Bank to move upstream helping local residents to become more food secure. In addition to meeting emergency food needs, the Food Bank would establish a demonstration garden. “There’s a real disconnect,” Wes Clark says. “People don’t know where their food comes from.”

Reclaiming the Land 
Wes and his co-workers settled on the old Molson Brewery site, next door to SHARE (Self-Help and Recreational Education). Having a next-door neighbour would be a huge advantage as there would be storage space and people to keep an eye on the site. However, the soil was very poor and would be hard to work as a brick storage facility had been torn down and simply buried.

Back to Your Roots Soil Solutions generously donated supplies and tested the soil. The land was safe for food production but contained below optimal macro nutrients resulting in low fertility. Wes wasn’t discouraged. “We’re a food bank,” he said. “We’re used to challenges,” and began enriching the soil with everything from calcium and phosphates to fish oil and compost tea.

Seeds don’t germinate well in the poor soil, so the garden takes advantage of leftover bedding plants from local greenhouses. There were some successes. The garden’s magnesium-rich soil doesn’t work well for most plants, but tomatoes thrive in it, producing a bumper crop of super-sweet tomatoes.

From Food Waste to Compost 
The Prince Albert Food Coalition was concerned about food waste and curious to find out what quantity of fruit and vegetables were being thrown out by local grocery stores. Lake Country Co-op offered to sort and collect its fruit and vegetable waste for pickup by the Food Bank. It was a generous offer as it is easier and, at $67/ton, cheaper, to simply cart everything off to the landfill.

The plan was to turn the waste into compost to enrich the garden, but they quickly reached capacity in their bins as the grocery store produced 4 tons of fruit and vegetable waste in just 3 months. Wes started trench composting; Amy and Aron McInnes demonstrated hugelkultur; and the Prince Albert Parkland Permaculture Guild demonstrated sheet permaculture. A tractor, obtained at the end of the 2017 season, should lighten the task this summer.


Water Recapture 
Rain falling on the large roof of the SHARE building has been going straight into the storm sewer. This year the Food Bank plans to capture it in large tanks to water the garden. “There’s no chlorine in rain water, which the garden will like,” Wes says, “and SHARE won’t have to pay the City to pump the water out.”

Community Involvement 
Education and community involvement were key features of the garden from the start. From local police officers who helped plant the 2017 garden to U of S nursing students who organized a Pumpkin Trebuchet Composting Event, the Food Bank has been able to count on local support.

Workshops on composting, container planting, and hugelkultur were well received, while 242 local children were involved in the daily children’s program. Shelley Essaunce has been offering children’s program in Prince Albert’s west end for many years so her involvement was key in bringing local children into the garden for daily activities. This coming summer, the Food Bank hopes to hire an early childhood educator to work with the younger children, providing greater capacity to offer garden-related activities for the older children.

The Food Bank’s First Nations partners were concerned about the loss of culture in the urban environment. With financial support from the Prince Albert Community Foundation, elders and educators provided plant-based cultural programming. The Kistapinanihk program established a medicine wheel garden incorporating tobacco, sage, and cedar and offered 9 workshops. Prayer ties, talking sticks, and creative writing were particularly popular.


From Field to Plate 
Food security encompasses both food production and consumption. The Prince Albert Food Bank hopes to integrate both aspects by establishing a full-time paid position shared with the Prince Albert Community Kitchen. During the summer, the focus will be on the garden, while in the winter the coordinator will offer school cooking programs. Using food as a unifying force, the Prince Albert Food Bank is healing the land and healing the people.

See Also 
Co-op Community Oasis Project: 2017 Report, Prince Albert Food Bank

Four Seasons Urban Agriculture Project, Regina Food Bank

The Garden Patch, Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre 

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

EcoSask News, April 24, 2018

crocuses

Upcoming Events
CPAWS SK Meet and Greet, Apr. 25 (Saskatoon)
Meet the folks from the Saskatchewan chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society at 7 pm, Apr. 25.

South Sask River Watershed Stewards AGM, Apr. 27 (Osler)
The South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards will hold its annual general meeting from 12:30-4 pm, Apr. 27.

Wildflower ID, Apr. 28 (Fort Qu’Appelle)
Learn to identify local wildflowers at the Fort Qu’Appelle Nature Society meeting at 7 pm, Apr. 28, at the Fort Qu’Appelle Train Station.

Mending Meet Up, Apr. 28 (Saskatoon)
Library of Things is holding a Mending Meet Up with sewing machines and experienced sewers on hand to help you out from 1-4 pm, Apr. 28.

Wildlife Photography, May 1 (Regina)
Join the Regina Photo Club for a presentation on wildlife photography at 7 pm, May 1.

Living Heritage Symposium, May 1 (Regina)
Presentations at the Living Heritage Symposium on May 1 in Regina will focus on how we relate to the land in a changing world.

Global Warming & the Sweetness of Life, May 2 (Saskatoon)
The Stand is hosting a book launch for Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life: An Oil Sands Tale by Matt Hern, Am Johal, and Joe Sacco from 7-8:30 pm, May 2.


Sustainability Awards, May 2 (Stockholm)
The 10th Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) in Saskatchewan Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Recognition Awards ceremony will be held on May 2 in Stockholm.

Financing Energy Projects in Saskatchewan, May 2 (Saskatoon)
Frederick Khonje, Affinity Credit Union, will discuss financing energy projects in Saskatchewan at the May 2 meeting of the Saskatchewan Energy Management Task Force.

Demain, May 2 (Saskatoon)
Cinergie Film Festival kicks off with Demain, a film about pioneers reinventing agriculture, energy, the economy, democracy, and education at 7 pm, May 2 (sub-titled in English).

Bats of Mayfair, May 3 (Saskatoon)
Melanie Elliott will discuss bat ecology and the 260 bats that were rescued in Mayfair at 2 pm, May 3, at the Mayfair branch of the Saskatoon Public Library.

Looking Ahead
The Missouri Coteau: 10,000 Years in the Making, June 21-22 (Beechy)
The Society for Range Management field tour will be held June 21-22 in Beechy and will include plant ID, water quality, and monitoring with limited time and resources.

forestART, July 2-6 & Aug. 6-10 (Ness Creek)
Enjoy a 5-day Art in Nature experience at Ness Creek July 2-6 and Aug. 6-10.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

In the News
The provincial government has posted the planned route for the Saskatoon Freeway (Perimeter Highway). The proposal calls for the northern part of the Freeway (red) to cross the Northeast Swale and the Small Swale very close to the route of the North Commuter Parkway (green). If you have concerns about the proximity of the two routes, please advise your city councillor and MLA. (map courtesy of Northeast Swale Watchers)


Locals provide information about the best places to bird watch in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in Best Places to Bird in the Prairies.


The Beaver Believers is a film about a group of dedicated scientists who want to restore the North American Beavers’ habitat and range.

“There are no jobs on a dead planet” - unions advocate for a clear transition plan to a green economy.

A report on the state of the world’s birds reveals a biodiversity crisis driven by intensive farming, with once-common species such as puffins and snowy owls now at risk.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Taught by Nature: The Importance of Outdoor Education


“Lead your child into nature, teach him on the hilltop and in the valleys. There he will listen better, and the sense of freedom will give him more strength to overcome difficulties. But in these hours of freedom, let him be taught by nature rather than by you. Let him fully realize that she is the real teacher and that you, with your art, do nothing more than walk quietly at her side. Should a bird sing or an insect hum on a leaf, at once stop your walk. Bird and insect are teaching him; you may be silent.” Johann Pestalozzi (1746-1827) 

As a child, Melanie Elliott spent a month every summer at Long Point Provincial Park in Ontario. “All there was to do was catch tadpoles, turtles, and snakes,” she says. “I remember saying to my Mum, ‘This clam followed me home – can I keep it?’”

Children nowadays have far less opportunity to roam outdoors, collecting insects, rodents, or snakes. There’s more fear and less time. Melanie, a long-time outdoor educator who has only recently retired from the University of Saskatchewan and a founding member of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan, is passionate about reversing that trend: “Kids need to know nature is safe,” she says. “So many kids are scared of bees and wasps. I like to give them a chance to hold a beetle or a caterpillar. Salamanders and snakes aren’t pretty or cute, but they have their own charm if you take the time to observe.”

And time is just what Melanie provided when she took Grade 2 classes to spend a day at Saskatoon Natural Grasslands. She’d have the kids lie down in the grass and “bond to the prairies.” Using all five senses, they could see the wind pulling the grass, listen for birds and insects, feel the sun and know when a cloud passed over it.

Melanie coordinated Ecology Camps for Kids, offered by the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) during summer holidays and Easter breaks, for many years. Bird banding was a favorite activity as the participants could actually hold a baby bird. Other kids held out for the wetland camp. They’d visit a different wetland every day, walking barefoot and feeling the mud squish between their toes. The dinosaur camp went to Herschel where the students would dig in the sand for bones.

Instructors were encouraged to get involved and to look for the teachable moments. “Kids can understand complex concepts if they can see it and feel it,” Melanie says. “If you’re standing on a hill in Saskatoon Natural Grasslands and you see buildings all around you, you understand that the area is an island.”

Ecology Camps for Kids were the only U of S camps that took kids off campus. The University was concerned about safety, but Melanie knew how important it was for kids to be outside. Every day they would go somewhere different – Wanuskewin, Beaver Creek, Pike Lake.

A quote from Helen Keller underpins Melanie’s beliefs:

"Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." 

And, in closing, another one of the quotes that Melanie has collected over the years:

“If you keep this wide-open feeling of always being on the brink of new discoveries, then you will be on the way to becoming a real naturalist, for no one can claim to be a naturalist who does not continually have a seeking, exploring, and thrilling mind.” Vinson Brown, Investigating Nature through Outdoor Projects 

See Also
Outdoor Activities for Children and Youth 
Outdoor Learning: “The Absolute Best” 
Education for Sustainability: A Conversation with Janet McVittie

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

EcoSask News, April 17, 2018

nest building

Upcoming Events
Mad Scientists, Apr. 21 (Moose Jaw) 
Kids are invited to experiment with food, electricity, building supplies, and more at the Moose Jaw Public Library, 10:30-11:30 am, Apr. 21.

A E Wilson Park Walk, Apr. 21 (Regina) 
Nature Regina is hosting a bird walk at A E Wilson Park from 9 am – 12 pm, Apr. 21.

Earth Day @ Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Apr. 22 (Regina) 
The Royal Saskatchewan Museum is hosting Earth Day celebrations on Apr. 22.

Red Squirrels, Apr. 22 (Preeceville) 
Andrea Wishart will talk about red squirrels at the Kelsey Ecological Society meeting at 2 pm, Apr. 22, Club 60, Preeceville.

A Waste-Conscious Life, Apr. 22 (Saskatoon) 
Find out how to lead a waste-conscious life at 11 am, Apr. 22, at Bulk Basket in Saskatoon.

Prairie Falcon, Apr. 23 (Moose Jaw) 
Larry Going will bring his Prairie Falcon to the Apr. 23 meeting of the Moose Jaw Nature Society.

Intro Bicycle Tune-Up Workshop, Apr. 23 (Saskatoon) 
Bridge City Bicycle Co-op is offering an introductory workshop on how to fix your bike from 6:30-8:30 pm, Apr. 23.

Trans Am Bike Race Talk, Apr. 23 (Saskatoon) 
Meaghan Hackinen will talk about her experiences as the first Canadian woman to complete the Trans Am Bike Race at 7 pm, Apr. 23.

Disruption, Apr. 25 (Regina) 
Join Cinema Politica Regina for a screening of Disruption about why we do so little when we know so much about climate change at 7 pm, Apr. 25.

Waste Reduction & Composting, Apr. 25 (Regina) 
Celebrate Earth Day by learning how to reduce waste and compost from 7-8:30 pm, Apr. 25, Central Adult Library.

Indian Elephant Conservation, Apr. 25 (Saskatoon)
Find out about Indian elephant wildlife conservation efforts at 1:30 pm, Apr. 25. Pre-registration is required as space is limited.

Help Find Hawks, Apr. 30 (Avonlea) 
Join Nature Conservancy of Canada on a ferruginous hawk survey the week of Apr. 30-May 4. Previous experience isn’t necessary.

International Dark Sky Week, April 15-21

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Apr. 20, 7-9 pm – members-only Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek Evening Visit
Apr. 26, 8 am – Meacham Artists & Sloughs (Golden Eagles)
May 3, 8:30 am – Chorney Acreage (Golden Eagles)
May 5, 9 am-12 pm – Waterfowl trip to Porter Lake
May 6, 7-9:30 am – MVA Trail Bird Walk
May 10, 7:30 am – Goose Lake (Golden Eagles)
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News
City of Saskatoon's 2018 environmental grants support some great projects, including NatureCity Festival, waste reduction and composting, clean water, and bats

Wellington, NZ, hopes to become the first predator-free capital city in the world. But how can that be? We are all both predator and prey; altering the food chain is sure to have unintended consequences.

Restoration ecology - let nature do its work and don’t rely on biodiversity offset programs - they don’t work

What will we do with all those solar panels when their useful life is over?

Wildlife is adapting rapidly to an urban environment raising questions about the value of wildlife corridors and the use of native plants

Books on urban wildlife - New York Public Library recommendations

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Cathy Watts, Cycling Advocate


“I spent my working life getting one person who’d had a stroke to move,” Cathy Watts, Saskatoon Cycles, says. “Now I’m trying to get the whole city moving!”

As a physiotherapist working in the neurological and geriatric field and an avid cyclist since she was 8 years old, Cathy Watts has always advocated for health promotion and an active lifestyle: “I rode to university. I took my kids around town on my bike. My husband and I even go on cycling holidays.”

“I love Saskatoon,” Cathy says. “It’s the perfect city for fabulous bike lanes and we’ve already accomplished so much. But there’s so much more that can be done. I want to make Saskatoon a safe place for my grandchildren, who are already proficient cyclists, to ride their bikes.”

Cathy’s underlying optimism is a key ingredient in her success as a cycling advocate. Saskatoon Cycles’ progress in less than 10 years is phenomenal.

Saskatoon Cycles
In 2009, Sean Shaw initiated monthly cycling discussions. As the group grew, the organizers decided to formalize the arrangement and Saskatoon Cycles was incorporated in 2010. Cathy Watts has been chair or co-chair ever since.

Maintaining an advocacy organization is never an easy task. Cathy underlines the importance of establishing your purpose and direction through vision and mission statements. “Then you can see a path,” she says.

Another challenge is building your membership and maintaining a strong, stable board with both time and skills. The group’s fundraising efforts have paid off and they have recently hired a part-time operations manager who will focus on communications, fundraising, and event planning, and Cathy believes that will make a big difference.

Saskatoon Cycles’ principal focus is on advocacy; however, they also hold events as a way to draw in new members. Long before the City of Saskatoon was promoting the winter city concept, Saskatoon Cycles was drawing crowds to winter cycling events, including a moveable feast, speakers, and rides.

The organization also operates the Bike Valet, parking 6300 bikes at 8 festivals last summer. In addition to providing a service and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Bike Valet builds community. Volunteers include new Canadians, people with mental health issues, and individuals who take holiday time in order to help out. “It’s become a small family unit,” Cathy says.


Four Steps to Successful Advocacy
Cathy believes successful advocacy has four key ingredients.

1. Encourage, Be Patient, Stay Positive. Cathy believes that the most effective approach to lobbying on a municipal level is to encourage, be patient, and remain positive. She recognizes that the downtown bike lanes aren’t perfect and the choice of 23rd Street, which passes through the bus terminal, was a compromise, but believes that if you do nothing but complain, you won’t get anything. “We have to support the City planners for what they’ve done with a very small budget.”

The approach has paid off as Saskatoon Cycles has also invested the time to develop strong relationships with local administrators and officials. In recent years, they’ve partnered with Saskatoon Police Service to hand out bicycle lights and to encourage people to register their bikes as a theft prevention measure. In addition, Cathy isn’t afraid to speak out strongly – but she does it in private, not in public.

2. Provide Expertise. One of the first major events organized by Saskatoon Cycles was a Cycling Summit. The organization pulled together 24 experienced cyclists and invited Kay Teschke of Vancouver to talk about the need for safe cycling infrastructure. The group spent a day designing safe routes to downtown Saskatoon from all parts of the city. A City Councillor and administrator attended the meeting and the maps were taken into consideration in preparing the City’s Active Transportation Plan. More recently, Saskatoon Cycles provided City Council with a review of the City’s cycling bylaw prepared by a pro bono lawyer and law student.

3. Establish a Plan. A recent workshop provided Cathy with a template for planning an effective advocacy campaign. The template recognizes that organizations have limited capacity and must use it efficiently to maximize impact, guiding them through the process of identifying their goal, capacity, and allies.

4. Work Together. Saskatoon Cycles was an active partner in Livable YXE prior to the last municipal election. The group engaged candidates in a discussion about the factors that ensure a positive quality of life for city residents, publishing the results of a survey that included questions about everything from housing and climate change to active transportation.

Active Transportation
Cathy and Saskatoon Cycles are key players in advocating for municipal policies that incorporate active transportation into all municipal decisions, addressing the underlying issues of poor road design and car-focussed transportation planning. Their efforts reduce the number of unnecessary deaths and injuries on our streets and promote a healthy lifestyle for all our citizens.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

EcoSask News, April 10, 2018

White pelican

Wild child adventures, a Fairy Hill marsh walk, and poplar potions - spring magic!

Upcoming Events
Poplar Potion, Apr. 12 (Saskatoon)
Walk through Poplar Bluffs and learn about the harvest and preparation of poplar buds from 5:30-7:30 pm, Apr. 12.

Leave No Trace, Apr. 12 (Saskatoon) 
Andrea Nelson, SaskOutdoors, will talk about how to care for the wildlands at 11:45 am, Apr. 12, Innovation Place Saskatoon.

Islands of Grass, Apr. 13 (Saskatoon)
Branimir Gjetvaj will present Islands of Grass at 2 pm, Apr. 13, at the Frances Morrison Library.

Saskatchewan Living Green Expo, Apr. 13-15 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatchewan Living Green Expo festival and trade-show is Apr. 13-15 in Saskatoon.

Birding Field Trip, Apr. 14 (Regina)
Join Nature Regina to look for mountain bluebirds and waterfowl on Apr. 14 along Route 99 and at Fairy Hills Marsh.

March for Science, Apr. 14 (Saskatoon)
March for Science Saskatoon is hosting March for Science on Apr. 14.

Climate Crisis Implications & Solutions, Apr. 16 (Regina)
Jared Clarke will discuss the climate crisis: implications and solutions for Saskatchewan at the 7:30 pm, Apr. 16 meeting of Nature Regina.

Environmental Society AGM, Apr. 18 (Saskatoon)
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society will hold their annual general meeting on Apr. 18 starting with a wine and cheese at 6:30 pm and a presentation by Christopher Spence, Global Institute for Water Security, at 7 pm.

Life in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Apr. 19 (Saskatoon)
Dr. Patricia Thomas will discuss Life in the Exclusion Zone: Chernobyl, Swallows, Wild Horses, Fungi, and Cesium-137 at the Apr. 19 meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society.

Permaculture Saskatchewan AGM, Apr. 19 (Saskatoon)
Permaculture Saskatchewan will be holding their annual general meeting and showing the permaculture film Inhabit on Apr. 19.

SK Breeding Bird Atlas Workshop, Apr. 21 (Saskatoon)
The SK Breeding Bird Atlas is offering an introductory workshop on bird identification and using your birding skills to contribute sightings to the Atlas from 9 am-noon, Apr. 21.

white pelicans

Looking Ahead
Chaplin & Reed Lake Shorebird Survey, May 1-June 14 (Chaplin Lake)
The 4th annual Chaplin & Reed Lake Shorebird Survey is looking for volunteers to help them track the migratory shorebirds that travel through Chaplin Lake.

Nature Grandparenting, May 1-June 18 (Saskatoon)
Witness seasonal changes in nature with your grandchild during the spring session of Nature Grandparenting hosted by Wildernook Fresh Air Learning and SaskOutdoors on Tuesdays (2 sessions/day) from May 1-June 18 in Saskatoon.

Would You Like an Upcycled Art Workshop?, Sept. 23-30 (Saskatoon)
Medha Batt, an artist from India, will be travelling through Saskatoon from Sept. 23-30 and is interested in offering workshops or presentations emphasizing local environmental issues and using household discards to create art. Medha can be reached on her professional Facebook page.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Reading & Listening
Take a look at the new, Saskatchewan-based SLIP Channel, Canada’s weekly green living news magazine.

Happiness by Aminatta Forna is about the unseen residents of our cities: the foxes, coyotes, and parakeets but also the street sweepers, doormen, and dishwashers. Do we welcome these immigrants to our cities or do we reject them? Who is part of our community? (highly recommended by Penny)

Listen to a Defender Radio webinar on protecting coyotes and other wildlife and keeping human park users safe.


In the News
A Wild Child Adventure School for 3-12 year olds is being set up at Wild Spirit Prairie Sanctuary. The school will offer mini adventures for 3-5 year olds, after-school adventures for 5-12 year olds, and homeschooling Fridays.

The Lower Qu’Appelle Watershed has issued a Quality and Quantity Review providing a useful overview of the factors affecting our water supply.

"There’s a stark choice to be made: stick with GDP growth as our Prime Directive and continue to unpick the web of life, or evolve beyond it and create new possibilities for human and planetary flourishing."

The gigantic data centers that power the internet consume vast amounts of electricity and emit as much CO2 as the airline industry.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 5 April 2018

2018 Natural Areas Clean-Up Grants

Untitled

Raising money for your club, sports team, or voluntary organization? EcoFriendly Sask is offering a limited number of $500 grants to clubs and voluntary organizations for cleaning up a natural area in or around their community.

Apply by sending us an email telling us about your group and your clean-up plans. We’ll let you know whether or not your grant application is approved. Groups that are approved for a grant will be sent a cheque once we’ve received a photograph of your clean-up crew and the garbage you’ve collected.

Saskatoon residents can participate in the Meewasin Annual Clean-up Campaign. City of Prince Albert is hosting a Pitch-in Week from May 7-13. Pitch-In Week campaigns are being held in various other Saskatchewan locations from April 22-29. You can also join or lead a clean-up as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up.

EcoFriendly Sask informs, encourages, and supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication and EcoFriendly Action Grants. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).