Environmentally-conscious Youth Group Makes Garlic Self-Sufficiency Their Goal
by Carol Marriott
Do you have a little bit of land, a garden plot, a small yard, a patio, or access to a community garden? Would you like to join an enthusiastic group of young people making a difference? Then, how about becoming a garlic farmer for the Saskatoon Garlic Self-Sufficiency Project? Or, maybe you would just like to purchase some delicious locally-grown, chemical-free, fresh garlic!
Melissa Gan is a young volunteer and board member with We Are Many or WAM, an innovative, award-winning youth-run arts and environmental organization with a focus on practical outcomes. (www.wamsaskatoon.com) She has been involved from the beginning of the garlic project which started in 2008. In the past few years she has learned a lot about garlic, including the wonderful medicinal qualities garlic provides, as well as how it will grow bigger if companion-planted along with roses, Saskatoon berries, and cherries.
Almost all of the garlic that Canadians buy is imported, travelling thousands of miles, when it can grow in abundance right here on the prairies! According to the Saskatoon Garlic Self-Sufficiency information, garlic yield is approximately 30,000 bulbs per acre in the prairies. Saskatonians import up to a million bulbs of garlic annually. The Saskatoon Garlic Self-Sufficiency project has a goal of making Saskatoon garlic self-sufficient by 2012. In 2010, through a North American funding contest with www.350.org, WAM won a significant number of votes and received funding for the garlic project. Last year they planted their first garlic crop throughout Saskatoon in 20 garden plots which were donated by many volunteers and supporters, who also provided them with tools, resources, information, and lots of volunteer time, including much valuable mentoring from garlic growers Anna and Darrel Schaab, located near Yorkton, SK.
Melissa says the best part of the project for her is the actual planting days, for the feeling of community and the fun they have together, and how more connected and aware of food one becomes when you plant and harvest your own.
The Saskatoon Self-Sufficiency Garlic Project has two major goals that they will focus on going forward. One is to engage the community in a bigger way, including partnering with all of the community gardens, and become a model for other similar size cities, and the second is to increase the amount of garlic grown to take it to a commercial scale for a larger market.
The information below is an except from the WAM website:
“Fall was a busy time for garlic (and the WAM team)! We harvested garlic from yards all over Saskatoon—graciously donated by community members who share our dream for readily available home-grown food. Bulbs were planted last fall with the help of yard donors and fantastic volunteers representing WAM, RoadMap Saskatoon, Rooted, Transition Saskatoon, and Oxfam.
“Our beautiful 2011 crop is currently drying in preparation for replanting and winter storage. Some will go back to yard donors, some will be distributed to local organizations (TBA once we have a better idea of the final product we’re working with), and the rest will go back in the ground for an even MORE ridiculously huge crop next year.”
Local garlic is healthier, safer, more environmentally friendly, and more ethical than our current supply, most of which comes from China.
Saskatoon Garlic Self-Sufficiency is:
- Practical: garlic is hardy and grows well in the prairies. A relatively modest amount of garlic is needed for self-sufficiency, and the project already enjoys community support; with advice from local garlic experts, 50 volunteers planted nearly 6,000 cloves in donated yards, experimenting with soil composition, mulch, and garlic varieties.
- Healthy: grown naturally and available fresh, local garlic is chemical-free and more potent than far-flung varieties; it is also packed with antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal compounds. Rosebushes, great companion plants for garlic, support healthy local bee populations.
- Ethical: this project employs young people at fair wages; workers in China receive slave wages to grow and ship our garlic 7,000 km. Some garlic will be contributed to CHEP’s Collective Kitchen, Saskatoon Food Bank, and donors of lawn space; the rest will be planted in Year 2 or sold to Steep Hill Co-op, Museo, and Caffe Sola to support the project.
- Delicious: local garlic is fresh, clean, and more potent; the difference in taste is enormous.
You may still be able to purchase garlic by donation, for eating or for planting by visiting the WAM website at wamsaskatoon.com/garlic.
Carol Marriott is a Certified Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) Specialist and the “Lead Mare” at Ravenheart Farms near Kamsack, SK. For more information, workshop dates, and/or private
or group sessions call (306) 542-3557,
email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit: www.ravenheartfarms.com. For information on Ravenheart’s 2012 workshops see the display ad on page 21 of the 17.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal