Saskatchewan First Nation’s novel solution to welfare: organic veggies

Just an amazing, all-around awesome story out of the Muskoday First Nation in Saskatchewan, courtesy of The Star-Phoenix. The article details efforts by the community, in partnership with Heifer International Canada, to pursue “Indigenous organic gardening, agroecology and organic food entrepreneurship” via the Muskoday Organic Growers Co-op.

According to the Star-Phoenix, the Co-op’s roots (no pun intended) date back to a 1999 initiative that used “training grants to hire every employable welfare recipient in the community to work on [a potato] farm for six months.” So successful was the project that “only five per cent of these people went back on welfare,” according to Joe Munroe, Heifer’s First Nations field co-ordinator and Muskoday resident.

As the article goes on to explain, that early success went nowhere, a false start that the Co-op now seems poised to overcome; in fact, they’ve added even more veggies into the mix.

What a great story: a win-win for everyone in my books. For more on the Co-op, check out these articles from and the Prince Albert Daily Herald.

6 thoughts on “Saskatchewan First Nation’s novel solution to welfare: organic veggies

  1. Statistics Canada has crunched the numbers and there is definite evidence that low socioeconomic indicators is leading to poor health incomes for First Nations. Statistics Canada took data from a longitudinal study that followed the health outcomes of more than 2.7 million Canadians from 1991 to 2001. This group included 56,700 “Registered Indians.”

    The study found that for those who live to the age of 25, life expectancy for Indian men is 4.4 years below that of other Canadian men, while Indian women live 6.3 years less than other Canadian women.

    The basic observation was that First Nation men and women were much more likely to die prematurely from all causes of death, including infectious diseases, chronic diseases and even accidents.

    The study has a silver lining. It found that improvements in income, employment and education led to improvements in tackling premature mortality. It also found that socioeconomic differences explained many of the differences in mental health outcomes as well.

    I got this from Star Phoenix

    This all means that the struggle over First Nation economic development is intimately tied to the struggle for First Nation health in all its dimensions, including propensities towards suicide.
    Improving the economic climate and the educational opportunities for First Nation communities should be the number one priority.

  2. I think your point illustrates the holistic, it’s-all-connected understanding of wellness that is now emerging. Health is socially, economically, ecologically and culturally determined, for sure. Throw in historically for Indigenous peoples and you get a much fuller — and more useful — picture.

  3. Economic development is definitely tied to our health, for sure. A good economy is essential for every functioning society. But I think “Economic security” might be the more appropriate phrase. “Development” suggests that we have to buy into Canada’s economic system, so we can literally shift our” low-income economy” to a “high-income” one.

    Canada desperately wants us to go down that route (it’s a part of their long-term socio-economic plan ) – but we don’t have to. However, we can build our own economy. And to build on Rick’s comment, one that compliments our values, empowers our cultures and enables us to live rich, healthy and fulfilling lives on our own terms.

    One thing I’ve been looking into lately is Ecovillages. As described by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), “Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.” In effect, “Ecovillages are living models of sustainability. They represent an effective, accessible way to combat the degradation of our social, ecological, and spiritual environments.

    They also represent a way for us to become actually-sovereign Nations. Never mind so-called Tribal sovereignty.

    That said, some aspects of ecovillages are a little too “new age” for my taste, but there’s nothing to stop us from adapting the eco-village model to suit our needs and cultures; something that just can’t be done with the colonial model.

    We can also look to the Maya People, and the endless stream of projects they’re carrying out in the Zapatista autonomous zones.

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