Written by: Cole White
A big part of Network of Nature's mandate is asserted in its motto: 'Connecting People With Plants'. From the beginning, we envisioned using the concept of 'Plant People' to shine a light on individuals and groups doing exceptional work. I'm going to profile one such group today, and keep your eyes open for more in the future.
As I reflected in this website's World Wildlife Day post, lately I've been noticing a phenomenon that, although not new, is gaining traction and visibility: smart people are doing vital work with plants that stems from an understanding that an intrinsic, fundamental connection exists between plants and traditional human cultures—and that our future depends on taking practical action in a way that's informed by this knowledge.
The Young Seedkeepers Garden takes ideas of seed saving, cultural knowledge, and empowerment of coming generations, and intends to bring them to fruition in a way that's practical and accessible. Although located in Southern Ontario, their work and philosophy informs a globally-relevant praxis that's worth your time to consider.
The Young Seedkeepers garden is also an applicant for the Gardens for Good grant program, which awards $5,000 to 21 winning entries across the US and Canada. Voting is open until April 7, 2021. If this project speaks to you, consider voting for them. Voting is limited to one vote per email address, so tell your friends too!
Proposed location of the Young Seedkeepers Garden. Graphic by Shabina Lafleur-Gangji.
I first met Shabina Lafleur-Gangji in the late aughts. In the subsequent decade-and-a-bit, her work as an herbalist, educator, writer, and activist has soared ever-upward. It seems like she's always working on something exceptional, and I have so much admiration for her dedication and integrity as a community leader.
Shabina is part of a brand-new venture launched by a group of Black, Indigenous, or racialized (BIPOC) parents and friends, located in Guelph, Ontario, called The Young Seedkeepers Garden. The vision for this project was developed when these parents decided to address a lack of culturally appropriate, affordable children's programming they'd identified during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shabina Lafleur-Gangji, one of the founders of the Young Seedkeepers Garden.
The group plans to facilitate weekly hands-on workshops for kids, sharing traditional plant cultivation skills and teachings from elders and knowledge keepers of diverse cultures and backgrounds. This will enable children to learn about plants, share their cultures with each other, and have fresh-grown food to take home each week.
The project also has an aim of treating the stress, insecurity (both personal and financial), and isolation brought on by living through a pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting underserved communities. The workshops are being offered at a sliding scale. And, they'll be located in an outdoor space that's able to accommodate physical distancing requirements while also letting kids socialize and learn together.
As a non-parent, it makes me so glad to know that something like this is being created by and for families. Another aspect of this project that really impressed me is that it's taking place on only a half-acre of land in a city. So much can be done with even a small area, when the right skills, knowledge and attitudes are brought to it.
If you'd like to learn more, donate, or get in contact, check out the Young Seedkeepers Garden official website.
A selection of links to Shabina's other work can be found here.
To read more about The Young Seedkeepers' Garden's grant application or vote for them, check out their entry on the Gardens for Good page by clicking the button below.
Stewardship of cultural plant knowledge is work that defies measure—if cultural plant knowledge is lost, it's lost—but when communities can perpetuate their knowledge, a radically transformative legacy is created for future generations.
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