In Red Deer, I had the pleasure to learn about an incredible project about rethinking our current methods of growing food and restoring land back to a vibrant habit.
An old farm site neighbouring the landfill on Piper Creek, a place where concrete and motor parts were buried under the fields where cows grazed is now getting the chance to heal and regain its natural assets.
When I arrived I was greeted by families working on their lush garden plots in the community garden area. It was an active garden area where children and adults harvested their summer bounty.
Rene Michalak, a local resiliency champion of ReThink Red Deer took me on a tour of the Piper Creek Restoration Agriculture Project on the 25 acre parcel of land. ReThink Red Deer was able to secure funding from Environment Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund to begin work on a five year plan to repair the important riparian land next to the water. Piper Creek is an integral part of Red Deer’s watershed. As community awareness has increased about the issues of water pollution and impacts of land use around water sources, ReThink Red Deer has partnered with a number of supporting environmental organizations to work on this project.
The project is based on the concept of Restorative Agriculture. Rene recommends the book,” Restorative Agriculture” by Mark Shepard.
From the community garden we walked behind the old barn, which is slated to be eventually deconstructed with the old barn wood being reused for signs and site benches, to see the recently planted pollinator garden with its mason bee hotel. I saw the compost and the rain water collection for watering the gardens.
Down through the long grass as Rene and I walked through the fields to the beaver dams, Rene explained how they are working on restoring the land so both wildlife and agriculture can coexist. The project is about creating habitat for beavers and wild birds that are native to the area.
The project intends to be a living lab where sustainable food growing can be taught and people can become more in tune with nature.
Permaculture gardens will not only produce food for the community as the fruit trees and berry bushes mature but the residents and visitors to Red Deer will experience how working with nature can create an oasis in a growing community