With thick snow now blanketing Mount Currie, the Lil'wat Nation reserve near Pemberton, the Lil'wat Community Garden Project is in resting mode after a busy year of, literally, growth.
"All is quiet at the moment and we'll be starting again in the spring," said Lisa Fisher of the Ts'zil Learning Centre.
"The garden is resting for sure, but the students of Ts'zil will be planting seeds at the end of the winter. Things are coming in most of the summer and well into the fall, everything starting with strawberries quite early and then to kale and cabbage in the late fall, until it snows."
Shawn Wallace, the Healthy Lifestyles Manager at the Mount Currie band, began the garden and saw it as an opportunity to work as a community to focus on healthy living. The Lil'wat Community Garden Project was the opportunity to learn about food security, land stewardship and conservation of native plants.
Fisher said the garden is half an acre of traditional plants and herbs with a traditional medicine wheel at the centre mapped out with rocks. The rest of the garden is in raised boxes that fan out from the centre. The plants and herbs in the centre correlate with each of the quadrants of the medicine wheel.
"Each quadrant is represented by different colours that are correlated by the seasons: red, black, yellow and white. What was planted, whether herbs or vegetables, is meant to correlate with each quadrant and in each season in which they can be found growing," Fisher said.
Beans, corn and squash have also been planted. They are vegetables with complimentary relationships that traditionally the Lil'wat would grow together, in what is known today as companion planting.
"The Lil'wat people were doing that a long time, a long time before the term was coined," Fisher said.
"Those three vegetables were used by Lil'wat ancestors because they grew well in the area and they also grow well together. The beans, for example, can grow up the corn stalks. They three together do a good job at repelling insects, and they replenish the soil in a symbiotic relationship."
The garden project was given a grant for $5,000 as part of SHARE Whistler's Environmental Legacy Fund.
Along with caring for the existing garden, students and community members also built a greenhouse and fence, prepared garden beds, planted seeds, created garden access for elders and those in wheelchairs, weeded, and harvested vegetables.
Workshops focused on composting, planting, language workshops, canning, seed gathering, and other topics. Community kitchen meals were held for garden volunteers and community members.
Roughly 100 people from the community of 3,000 have become involved. Fisher said they hope to involve more people in the gardening in 2013.
"I think everyone responds well to hands-on learning opportunities. They get to talk about what they know, passing on traditional knowledge and stories, and this becomes a great learning and sharing experience," she said.
They broke ground for the community garden in 2008, right off of School Road by the Teacherage, a well-known local spot.
Another benefit for the community has been an opportunity to learn and practice the community's Ucwalmicwts language. For four sessions, participants took language classes in the morning and put those new words into practice in the garden that afternoon. The language/garden workshops were merely part of a much larger picture, said Fisher, as a part of a bigger push for language revitalization.
"There's been a lot done with language revitalization here thanks to the garden," Fisher said.
"This was one of the things we were able to do with the grant, to support Shawn and do workshops and other forms of education."
Along with the actual gardening work, Fisher said those taking part learned about seed saving and soil preparation.
Another part of the grant went toward six students from the learning centre creating two digital movies telling the stories of the garden and of the language education side of the project. They will be shown in the community.
Fisher said that the resulting produce was shared in the community and also canned for use later. She said many take the food home or use it at gatherings or in the community kitchen.
This is the fourth in a series of articles on Pique's SHARE Whistler campaign, a five-week campaign that encourages community members to donate online to local charities through the Community Foundation of Whistler. Pique will match donations up to $10,000. Half of Pique's donations will go to the CFOW's community fund. For more information on the campaign please go to www.whistlerfoundation.com.
The primary goals of the campaign are:
• To attract new donors and volunteers to support local non-profits;
• To encourage people 35 and under to get involved in philanthropy and the Whistler community;
• To provide publicity and exposure for a variety of local charitable causes;
• To highlight the CFOW's community fund.
Donate online through the CFOW website or volunteer with one of the 12 charities listed on the CFOW website. Donations of $50 or more, and people who volunteer five hours or more will be eligible for the weekly Prior draw. The draw will be made each Wednesday, at 7 a.m., starting Dec. 5 and continuing through Jan. 2. There is a maximum of five entries per person per week for the Prior draws. All qualifying entries (other than the draw winners) will be eligible for successive draws.
Tax receipts can be issued but those entries will not qualify for the Prior draw.
The second half of Pique's donation will be up to $5,000 to local charity groups based on matching volunteer hours. One volunteer hour is valued at $10. If the total number of volunteer hours submitted by all charities exceeds 500 Pique's $5,000 donation will be distributed based on the proportion of hours submitted by each charity.
Check out www.piquenewsmagazine.com for this week's winner of the Prior snowboard.
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