The Fort St. John Association for Community Living is growing connections with its therapeutic farm program in Baldonnel.
Work is already underway by volunteers and staff to build a greenhouse, an animal shelter for sheep, vegetable gardens, and more.
Executive Director Joseph Lang says the project is highly rewarding for everyone involved, and he has seen the benefits of similar initiatives firsthand in Ontario.
“We’ve done a lot of it there, and it’s been really wonderful for people with disabilities. There’s tremendous value to have that connection to the Earth and meaningful activity,” said Lang. “Social roles are incredibly important for all of us, we get a lot of pride out of work and the skills we develop.”
The farm is aiming to operate seven days a week, with participants enjoying the outdoors every day.
“I want to give people we support the opportunity to learn develop and grow,” said Lang, noting some of the produce might even make its way to the local farmers’ market.
The project is also supported by the Northern Cohort, with eco skill students lending a hand. Lang says he reached out not long after the project started to take shape.
“They come with environmental science backgrounds, so they know a lot about soil health,” said Lang. “We’re really starting small scale, but it’s a really warm and welcoming community.”
Keira Nichol, a research and development member with the Northern Cohort, says the project utilizes regenerative farming, but the focus will always be community.
“We just want to create a pleasant space to work in and showcase a variety of different ways of growing food and interacting with the landscape,” said Nichol, noting fruit trees and benches to sit will be added as the farm grows.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News