An initiative of the Vancouver Native Health Society, the Tu’wusht Garden project has been growing and preparing food at the UBC Farm since 2005. The mission of this garden project is “to provide the support and opportunity for Aboriginal people living in east Vancouver to improve their health and capacity by experiencing the “seed to table” aspect. We will create a safe space for Elders and youth to interact, to promote healing through gardening.” The garden project runs a weekly community kitchen with urban Aboriginal participants who grow, prepare, and eat food while sharing knowledge and skills with members of the UBC community and beyond. Ceremonies and celebrations throughout the year mark important seasonal shifts in traditional food ways, such as harvest feasts and the use of the cedar smokehouse for fish (part of the project’s work to bridge land and sea). This project has an intergenerational focus, bringing elders and youth together to learn and build important relationships. The project hosts a diverse array of groups and urban Aboriginal youth organizations at the farm throughout the year. For more information, please visit the Garden Project website or you can view their project videos from 2008 here and 2012 here.
The idea for the Maya garden began in 1986 when five Maya families came to Canada as refugees from Guatemala. For thousands of years, Our ancestors, the Mayan people have worked the land planting corn, beans and squash (the three sisters). The Maya civilization and culture has evolved around the planting of corn. The main goal of these Mayan families was to keep the Mayan traditions and culture alive by continuing to grow Maya crops in Canada. This has allowed the children to learn about their culture and strengthen their identity. It has reminded us of who we are and where we come from.
In 1999, a friend and supporter of the Maya Indian Support Group and volunteer at the UBC Farm informed us about the possibility of applying for a project plot at UBC. The group welcomed the idea and in 2000, the garden was established at the UBC Farm.
Initially, we planted the three sisters. Later on, we incorporated greens such as amaranth (bledo), yerba mora, and apazote, among other crops. Each season begins with a traditional Maya ceremony to ask permission to Mother Earth and the Creator to break the land and bless the seeds. Before we harvest corn, another ceremony is offered to thank the Creator and Mother Earth for all that has been produced. The garden continues to be a place for cultural sharing and sustaining ancestral practices.
The IAH Garden has been based at the farm since 2007. With an emphasis on teaching, learning, and research, it aims to serve educational and research needs related to Indigenous food security while increasing participants’ knowledge and access to both traditional and non-traditional plants. As with the other Indigenous plots at the farm, the IAH Garden is guided by the principle that ‘food is medicine,’ and thus that a holistic understanding of health and healing includes the food that people eat. In addition to its international, community-based research, the IAH Garden engages with numerous regional Aboriginal Youth school and community organizations. It hosts the Culturally Relevant Urban Wellness program, which brings urban Aboriginal and recent immigrant youth to the IAH garden from March to October. To find out more about the program read the program booklet here, watch the CRUW video here, or find regular updates on the CRUW blog.
Food harvested from the garden is used as part of a monthly community “Feast Bowl” meal, which brings together students, staff, faculty, and members of the public at the First Nations House of Learning Longhouse on campus. To receive updates and information about this meal, you can sign up for the newsletter here. The IAH Garden also grows numerous medicinal plants that are native to the region. These native medicinal plants are used in medicine-making workshops and to share traditional knowledge. For updates about the garden and medicine workshops, sign up for the newsletter here.
You can view a video made in 2012 about the Feast Bowl community meal here.
The Musqueam community operates a plot at the farm to grow foods and medicines. The Musqueam community is also involved with other Indigenous initiatives at the farm in various capacities, such as providing fish for community meals, building the cedar smokehouse, and sharing medicine-making knowledge. As the farm’s existing Indigenous initiatives grow and as others develop, respecting and involving the Musqueam community remains an integral component.
The farm’s Indigenous projects and programming are made possible through long standing relationships with many organizations and individuals, including:
The UBC Farm is open Monday - Friday from 10am - 4pm.