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The Botanist

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Fighting food insecurity
Fighting food insecurity

he Bruce Botanical Food Gardens is a laboratory of sorts. The purpose of the garden is to address food security in the region while demonstrating sustainable agriculture and showcasing rare food plants, and it all requires trial, error, 
...and more trial. Persistence is a necessary trait of the people who toil here. “We have a 15% level of food insecurity in 2016 which means almost 1 in 7 people don’t know where their next meal is coming from. So learning about food, how to grow it and use it is paramount to fighting food insecurity,” says Lynne.

“We are addressing that here because it’s one of the most important issues of our times. We are looking for different ways for individuals to produce good food. We are trying to take a leadership role in this field in this particular area of the County.” The organization, referred to as the BBFG,  was one of 50 organizations selected through Food Secure Canada to participate in a video feed of the United Nations report to Geneva on Canada’s report card on food security. “It outlined the considerable amount of work we need to be undertaking. As a small community of 500+, we were honoured to be selected alongside the likes of Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto – all the big names – and there on the location map was Ripley. Imagine that!” 

Local volunteerism helps sustain it. 
Local volunteerism helps sustain it. 

The supportive nature of this community made it possible to bring Lynne’s vision to life. Local volunteerism helps sustain it. It’s indeed the rare experience that draws tourists to this place and it is the donations received from the food produced here that help sustain it from year to year. From its reclaimed bed-spring fences to Mennonite art for chairs, the garden grows and flowers, and educates the young to old.

There’s even room for a business incubator, a space provided for a new food-based business where land, tools, resources and expertise are made available to help a fledgling business evolve. It is currently occupied by an ambitious individual specializing in hydroponics in an off-grid environment...no small feat.

“We need to encourage new farmers and new ways of farming. Those are some of the activities we undertake here. And when this business succeeds and moves on, we’ll find another agricultural entrepreneur and do it again. We need alternatives, we need more farm-to-fork business here and we need to heavily promote the Buy Local campaign.”

We’re all learning...
We’re all learning...

Lynne’s work is focused on exploring options that are more sustainable. The BBFG is open to testing new ideas. For example, they participated in a new crop options project with okra and eggplant and this work spurred on the sweet potato trials undertaken by their Mennonite neighbours. 

“We’re all learning – but if we can diversify what we grow and adapt to the changing population, cultures, and climate of this area, it will ensure continued success.” Lynne adds, “We can become very set in our ways and reluctant to try new things. It’s difficult for farmers. There’s so much risk that they have to take on themselves. We can help take some of that risk away by doing the trial and error here.”

The non-profit organization is also committed to educating young people because its board believes deeply that the next generation is where learning has the most impact. “You engage an interest in gardening in a young child and you can change the course of their life by ensuring they can always feed themselves at the very basic level.” Upon moving to the area from the north, Lynne’s late husband, an economic development professional, kept ensuring her that the possibilities in this county were endless. Lynne said ‘show me’.

“Well he’s not here to experience our successes, but he was very right....the multitude of opportunities reveal themselves every day.”

Learn more about the  Bruce Botanical Gardens and connect at bbfg.org