It was all about bees today, well actually all pollinators, including butterflies, wasps (yes, they are actually very beneficial), flies (they are too) and a whole host of other creatures that help pollinate and grow us food. Thing is, bees are the best pollinator and with honeybees as the only pollinator that actually collects pollen protein to feed the hive. All others are just in it for the nectar (sugar). Marika from Environmental Youth Alliance helped us learn to identify the difference between bees, wasps, and flies with many non bees that look alot like bees, even flies. Even among bees, there are thousands of different species, with many now on the endangered list. Then the youth had a chance to capture some insects and identify them before letting them free, which was a fun activity.
It was all about the birds today starting off with some basic habitat concepts and learning about the birds that frequent the gardens. The youth went for a “scavenger hunt” exploring the forest area and searching for bird and animal habitat features and looking for clues where particular birds and other animals nest or spend time, for example animal tracks and droppings or bird sounds. Strathcona and Cottonwood Gardens are quite remarkable considering their inner city location. In these gardens it feels like we are out of the city. More importantly, the forest gardens provide exceptional habitat for many animals, so provide a fantastic educational opportunity close to where the youth live and go to school. In the afternoon we spent time building chickadee and flicker bird houses with some youth planting in the native plant demo garden.
Special guest Senaqwila Wyss joined us to teach us about native plants and their Indigenous cultural uses. Senaqwila is Coast Salish Squamish so was able to share some important and interesting knowledge about the local specificity of the plants and their uses. Enjoyed learning that plantain which is probably one of the most commonest plants in our gardens and is literally everywhere and which is also called frog leaf, is actually one of the best healing herbs on the planet and used not just to heal wounds as I understood, but also as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, analgesic, and astringent plus are rich in calcium and other minerals and vitamins. We toured the garden and harvested red clover, mint, yarrow, and nettle and made up a thirst quenching ice tea.
Got down to work in the Environmental Youth Alliance garden on a very hot day mostly weeding, watering, and harvesting. Located in the beautiful Cottonwood Gardens, this semi food forest/food garden is a great place to learn about growing food in the city. As a food forest, there are many plant “stories” so to speak and like a forest there are large trees such as apple, mulberry and other trees, with a secondary story of large shrubs or perennial berries including oregon grape, raspberries, dwarf apple and more then with lower, near ground shrubs, like salal and other berries. A special treat was harvesting mulberries and apples which along with (store bought) plums and blueberries, we cooked up to make fruit leather.
WILD MINDS – Day 1. Another year for Wild Minds and we have a wonderful group of 12 youth, many from Britannia Secondary School but also from Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School and Cedar Walk Alternative. The program partnership with Environmental Youth Alliance and the Grandview Woodland Food Connection focuses on rewilding urban environments has the youth learning about native plants and why they are important for ecosystem health. Today we potted up 60 plants including Evergreen Huckleberry, Red Flowering Current, Blueberry, Mock Orange, Dogwood, and Oregon Grape.
Sustenance Festival is an annual city-wide arts, culture and food festival with “local food- inspired workshops, talks, dances and more – all taking place in community centres and public spaces throughout Vancouver”. Sustenance has been supported by the Vancouver Park Board (Parks) Arts, Culture, and Engagement (ACE) Team and numerous community organizations since 2009. Over the years, however, Parks staff and community partners have observed and discussed the need for greater social and cultural inclusion in the local food movement and together with parks, are seeking to build on past successes engaging culturally diverse groups through Sustenance and strengthen it as a platform for cross-cultural connections and relationship building. Food is a universal need but also an exciting means of bringing people together. Approaches to this work include identifying barriers to participation, facilitating new project collaborations, and seeking out existing community food initiatives that have not been recognized as part of the mainstream food movement.
A key strategy for gathering this information is identifying and connecting with community leaders to hear their stories/insights/challenges/successes. This information will be used to determine how best to reduce barriers to participation in the Vancouver food system; to increase food-related initiatives at Park Board facilities and parks; and to connect programmers and staff to a stronger network of partners. This will also set the foundation for a collaborative, more inclusive approach to Sustenance in 2018 and onwards.