Community garden in Winnipeg seeds hope and nurtures tradition

Access to fresh gardens is not always possible for people living in urban settings, and access to traditional agricultural knowledge is sometimes even harder to come by.

That’s what one community garden near downtown Winnipeg is trying to change.

Despite it’s location on a busy street corner in the city’s West Broadway area, many fail to notice the garden amongst the gravel parking lots and apartment buildings.

It might not look like much but beneath the leafy green lined pathway lies thousands of years of ancestral growing practices – and a variety of vegetables ripe for the picking.

Audrey Logan built the urban garden from the ground up in 2014.

“We don’t have to water much; we don’t have to feed much. We just guide it along and enjoy,” Logan told APTN News.

The garden started out as nothing more than a patch of cement.

In the past five years it has flourished into a greenspace rich with food and teachings.

Logan practices regenerative agriculture, a form of growing which emphasizes recycling and composting.

She said it’s all about putting in what you take out.

“We give back in the fall a lot of leaf material that we bring in…then the worms eat during the winter and spring. They create soil with their waste and they help permeate any kind of clay materials,” Logan explained.

“It’s just such a more natural way.”

These practices are traditional to Indigenous communities.

According to Logan, when colonization occurred Europeans brought over invasive styles of growing such as digging, stirring and overturning soil.

Logan said these ways fail to protect Mother Earth.

“I’m not going to slice her open, expose her to the sun, sterilize her and not cover her for winter,” she said.

“When you look at it as a living entity…then you need to treat it as such.”

Logan spent her life learning the different ways of gardening and farming.

It started out with her time as a child in the welfare system when she lived with non-Indigenous farmers.

Then it provided a sense of survival when she was on the streets as a teen.

“When you’re a homeless kid on the street what are you going to do? You can’t go to the store and steal. I didn’t have that kind of temperament,” said Logan.

Logan would go door-to-door and offer her services to people in her area. She would tend to their gardens and would accept food or money in return.

Logan now shares her knowledge with others during weekly drop-in classes at the West Broadway Community Organization, where the garden is located.

Jozef DeBeer started attending them three years ago.

He said the traditional way of working with nature makes gardening more enjoyable.

“I do think it is slowly growing and people are talking about it and there are more and more yards popping up.”

DeBeer has since taken the practices he’s learned and started his own garden at home.

It has connected him to something bigger – a community who delights in learning more and doing more.

Logan has regulars, like DeBeer, who help tend to the garden.

She hopes the teachings help reclaim the position of Indigenous people as agricultural people.

“To help people learn a bit more about the Indigenous cultural aspect of our food has been for me very important because we need to reclaim that,” she said.

Drop in classes run Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.

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