Story and photos by Sharon Thomas
A variety of fruits and vegetables are being cultivated
at the inner city gardens including beets, garlic,
cucumber, watermelon, pumpkin and more.
SASKATOON, SK – The Askiy Project, put on by CHEP Good Food Inc., is an urban agriculture program that demonstrates to the community of Saskatoon that it is possible to grow food within the city limits and make a profit.
The gardens consist of three sites where six interns and two coordinators have grown a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, along with a new traditional tobacco. The name of the project itself, “Askiy”, means Earth in Cree, which the group thought to be appropriate considering it was the earth with which they were working. Prior to beginning each new garden, the students had the land blessed by an Elder and a church group. The interns, who are mostly of Aboriginal descent, wanted to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into the project.
The sites are located in the inner city of Saskatoon. “Kiscikanis,” meaning garden in Cree is located on Avenue K South and 20th street, directly across from Station 20 West. The X-Plot, located on Avenue X south and 20th street; and the Railside Garden, located directly east of Station 20 West.
Every intern has his or her own educational background, with no particular major in agriculture. “We all had to learn everything about gardening and that was one of the points, to teach people that you can grow food in the city, this whole project demonstrates that,” said Lauren Biem. Through the initiative, the students are receiving an internship wage, which also creates employment for them. Volunteers are also welcome to join the interns during harvesting or with regular maintenance.
“The motion is kind of a resistance to the mainstream food system that consists of unhealthy fast food and the healthy foods at the grocery store that always have fluctuating prices. Costs are getting higher and more and more people can’t afford good healthy food,” said Alexandra Thomson.
With the guidance of other gardeners and a great deal of networking, the project is already headed towards success. The start-up costs alone were enough to overwhelm any entrepreneur, but with the funding from their sponsors provided by The Mosaic Company and the Urban Partnership Program, these interns have had the opportunity to bring their vision to fruition. Although there will not be any profits this year, the interns hope that will change in the years to come. For now, all their produce is for sale. They also accept seeds or plant transplants for donations. Any monies made will be reinvested into the gardens for maintenance, supplies, seed, etc. Their produce can be found at the Farmer’s Market on a weekly basis during the harvest season. You can also follow The Askiy Project on Facebook for updates.