Fostering Food Security Through Local Cultures

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This blog post and announcement by Nicholas Antonini was originally published on the Heritage Saskatchewan blog. Visit their website to learn more about their organization and activities.

By Nicholas Antonini

Over the past year, the research team involved with The Saskatchewan Food, Culture and Heritage Survey has been working on another research project titled, “Fostering Food Security Through Local Cultures.” This project is conducted through partnership between Heritage Saskatchewan, the University of Regina, and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

Beginning in the Fall of 2022, the research team started interviewing key knowledge holders in Val Marie, Muskeg Lake, and White City. The team chose to focus on two primary case studies. The first of which is Val Marie’s farmer’s market – and by extension the Val Marie Grain Elevator. Val Marie is an interesting case because the grain elevator (which has been can be read more about here) has a symbiotic relationship with the farmer’s market, as described by a participant in the research project:

“[O]ur farmers market, you know, not that we sort of planned it that way, but it did really promote our heritage elevator: In that people would come to the market, do their little bit of shopping, and then stay on for another hour to do a tour of the elevator. So, I think because of that, we ended up doing a lot more elevator tours than we ever imagined, which was, you know a real sort of plus that we maybe hadn’t anticipated…” 

(Farmer, Val Marie)

The second case of focus is the Sakaw Pimatan Muskeg Lake Food Forest (winner of a Lieutenant Governor Heritage Award in 2021). Located on the Muskeg Lake First Nation, the Food Forest (which can be read more about here) is a regenerative, sustainable, and innovative practice in permaculture. The Food Forest allows for the cultivation and practice of local knowledges concerning land stewardship and food processing, among other things:

“The food forest program is now supplying a lot of the food and vegetables for the day care for the school, because the school has a lunch program. [For the Kokum’s Cupboard] they’ll bring us a load of carrots and a load of whatever you know, and so they’re helping us in that way. We do bring the youth on a regular basis, and they help plant the trees, they help do all kinds of things.”

(Community Member, Muskeg Lake)

The focus of this project has been to explore how people face issues regarding food security. These issues include, but are not limited to: climate extremes as a result of climate change (such as drought, for example), the role of conventional and organic farming, Saskatchewan’s position in the global food market, and the impact COVID-19 has had on people’s worlds of food from personal practices, like canning and family dinners, to local practices, like farmers markets and community dinners. We have been interested in what ways intangible cultural heritage (refresher here!) may shape and/or be shaped by issues in food security. 

The report for this project is currently in draft form. However, the findings point toward the importance of social capital in community food practices and projects as well as in the work of local producers. Additionally, emphases on the quality of food, the importance of local knowledge and skill, and the value of self-sufficiency suggests that the ultimate goal of food sovereignty – all of which is cushioned in our case studies – suggests that Indigenous food sovereignty is what should truly be worked toward. Indeed, a participant described food sovereignty, and its relationship to food security, succinctly in the following quote:

“So, we can’t have food security, if we don’t have food sovereignty, we need to have control over our own food systems in order to remain food secure, because if outside sources or outside forces control our food systems, then we’re at their whim of whatever decisions, right?”

(Indigenous Sovereignty Advocate, Muskeg Lake)

The research team is excited to announce that following the project report, we will be hosting a symposium to share results and discuss issues around food security and food sovereignty in Saskatchewan! The symposium is scheduled for Thursday, October 12th and will take place at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Please be sure to save the date — we welcome all to attend! Further details to follow; information regarding the project symposium in October will be communicated via the Heritage Saskatchewan newsletter and blog.

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