My name is Timothy Drew, and I am from Miawpukek Reservation, which is also known as Conne River. We are located on the South Coast of Newfoundland. I was born, raised and now live here as a working member of the community.
Before obtaining my role as a coordinator for the development and management of the Miawpukek Community Garden in 2019, I first gained experiences as a traditionalist. At the age of 12, as the Mi’kmaq culture began its re-introduction within my community, I began learning about the Sweat-lodge, Traditional Drumming and some Traditional Plant Knowledge.
As I got older, I began to learn a few skills in carpentry and plumbing from my father, who worked as a carpenter. Eventually, I earned an Electrician and Automotive Mechanic certificate and then a Bachelor of Education degree.
When I first took on the role as a coordinator, there was no developed land to permanently host the community garden.
But with a few plastic barrels, a little bit of general knowledge, and access to the backyard of the Nutrition Center, the 50 Plus Group, Women’s Group, and Youth Center had what they needed to make a garden. Another group, the Four Winds Daycare, located raised-beds next to their establishment.
Each group had five raised beds to grow six types of crop: potato, kale, cabbage, turnip, and strawberry.
Although we were a bit late in starting our gardens, and though the gardens were in two different locations, we all had fun and we managed a successful growing season.
While crops were growing in the Nutrition Centers’ backyard and at the Daycare, the official Miawpukek Community Garden was being developed. During the summer of 2019, trees were cleared, fence was built, and stumps were removed with the aid of an excavator and dump truck.
By 2020, 67 raised-beds were built along with four wigwam-style strawberry planters. These were situated in a planned configuration meant to mimic the Medicine Wheel concept with a twist of traditional farming practice.
As in any project, it is very important to pay tribute to those who have made this process possible:
First, Miawpukek (Conne River) made available the land, office space, heavy equipment and key human resource personal when needed.
Second, from 2018 to March 2020 we partnered with Food First NL to help connect the community to the community garden and lay down the foundation to develop the garden plan. They also contributed by hiring a coordinator, by influencing the idea of an advisory board, and by purchasing materials, hand tools, transplants, and seeds used in the blue barrel raised-beds.
Last, we partnered with the Faculity of Medicine, Memorial University, and the University of Toronto, initially in 2017 to identify possible locations to establish a community garden and to test the soil for heavy metals and nutrient capacity. By late 2019, they were back and ready to plan for the spring of 2020.
Under the advisement and leadership of Dr. Leonard Tsuji, Dr. Atanu Sarkar and Dr. Meaghan Wilton, we were able to access financial support from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR).
This funding allowed us to hire a coordinator and support workers, to test more soil samples, to purchase soil, tools, building materials, and equipment, and to rent equipment needed to landscape, plant, grow, and harvest crops in the Miawpukek Community Garden.