An eight-hour drive from Saskatoon, at the end of the lone road leading into the community, sits the First Nation’s village of Sandy Bay, Saskatchewan. At the centre is Hector Thiboutot Community School, a hub of the community and home to President's Choice Children’s Charity’s first Power Full Kids | Future Growers program location.
The residents of Sandy Bay have experienced decades of flooding brought about by resource projects that have damaged the land and destroyed homes. With the lack of healthy soil and the nearest grocery store two and a half hours away, the hydroponic container farm included with the Future Growers program has been a welcome addition to the Sandy Bay school community.
“The container farm allows us to control our environment, which is very important,” says Svitlana Tulchynska, Science Teacher and Future Growers program lead. “For many students, it's the only experience they will get growing things because the northern climate and soil is not good for growing things outside.”
The Future Growers program uses technology to complement land-based food systems in communities where Indigenous food sovereignty is challenged - empowering students to use innovative growing techniques to nourish themselves and their community.
Nathan Ray, the principal at Hector Thiboutot Community School, sat in the same science program 25 years ago and believes the Future Growers program is vital to the development of students and their community.
“The program totally aligns with our way of life here in the north. Before we had grocery stores, the land was our grocery store,” Nathan explains. “Times are changing – technology is changing and we have to change along with it. The opportunity for students to work in the farm – it's like they're harvesting from the land, but with technology.”
Not only does the farm provide a consistent food source, but it also brings science to life in ways students wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to experience. “Our students don’t see a lot of technology or how they can use it in their daily life. [The farm] makes science more relevant to their everyday lives,” Svitlana explains. “When they go fishing or hunting and they learn those life skills… we're also learning how to grow the food using technology in our class.”
Svitlana’s students are excited to discover and try new foods – making the connection between pizza and the smell of basil, an herb most have not ever seen. In a community where students have few conveniences, the ability to share food they’ve grown with their elders, family and friends has brought newfound confidence.
“My mom gets excited when I bring home spinach because it's so hard to get here,” says Kenyon, student, and master grower. “We make salads and use it on burgers. It makes me happy to help my family and see them happy.”
To learn more or apply to the Power Full Kids | Future Growers program, visit https://www.pcchildrenscharity.ca/pfk-future-growers/