In addition to, and in conjunction with, the Centre for Small Farms, Just Us! has a farm in its backyard! The Just Us! Food Farm is comprised of four large gardens—a healing garden, farmers-in-residence garden, kitchen garden, and farmer-led research garden—with a circular gathering space at their center.
The Healing Garden
The five sections of the Healing Garden highlight the mission of the Just Us! Food Farm to focus on food security and food justice issues. It engages visitors in conversation around those issues by asking provoking questions with its many informational plaques. These gardens, which make up a quarter of the farm, were created with the hope that people would come out and feel, touch, smell, taste, and experience something as they connect with these issues. The various components of the healing garden are intended to inspire a reaction and a deeper connection; the healing garden is about food and relationships.
The Women’s Garden
The women’s garden started with breastfeeding, as for many women, it is the first time that they really consider the kinds of food they are eating. As a mother who is breastfeeding, what you put into your body also feeds your child. This consideration develops over time and evolves into a question of what to feed their families. A breastfeeding bench in this garden overlooks both the children’s garden and the food production part of the farm, so that mothers can watch their children and be inspired in their thinking about how to sustain and nourish their families. The perennial garden, which was planted entirely from the seeds of other women’s gardens in Tatamagouche, feels like a sanctuary.
Women are the roots of their community and have been traditionally responsible for the food choices made in the home, preserving food, and considering how to sustain their families throughout the winter months. This garden promotes long-term thinking about the future of food and emphasizes the importance of passing down traditions that have historically maintained societies. Women are primarily responsible for caring for our elders, feeding their families, and other types of work that aren’t valued because they are not part of the gross national product, but without them our societies would quickly fall apart. These traditions are being brought back to the forefront in Transition Towns (to learn more about Transition Towns visit: https://www.transitionnetwork.org) by influential women, like Vandana Shiva, Leanne Simpson and Marilyn Waring, who are thinking about food security outside of our current economy model.
The Children’s Garden
The children’s garden is an interactive garden for kids; the space allows children to happily explore and play. There are different components of soil for them to look at and touch, toys to play with, things to dig with and vegetables they can harvest. It is located directly below the women’s garden and breastfeeding bench with the intention that mothers can watch their children run around and play. The children’s garden has also been part of a research project at Acadia. The resulting research article, to be published shortly, explores alternative models for school garden programs, tackling one of the biggest challenges, which is that the growing season happens during the summer months when no one is at school! It looks at whether having a centralized centre where schools can bring the students to do projects is a better model for engagement.
The Indigenous Solidarity Garden
As the Just Us! Food Farm is occupying unceded Mik’maq land, the Indigenous Solidarity garden is intended to engage all visitors in a better understanding of our rights and responsibilities under the Peace and Friendship treaties. It’s important to the Centre that this is a usable space and is available for local Indigenous communities and their allies. The garden was designed by a Mik’maq student at Acadia,, Kayla Mansfield-Brown, and is managed by Mi’kmaq Just Us! employee Fred Phillips. The CSF has been in contact with the local Glooscap First Nation in Hantsport, Millbrook, Bear River, and the Indigenous Students Society at Acadia, with the hopes that these groups will take an interest in the Farm and come visit, connect with us, and maybe even express an interest in becoming involved.
The Acadian Garden
The Acadian garden is really special because the Just Us! Food Farm is in the Acadian sanctuary of Grand Pré. In this garden you will see examples of what were arguably the first food security gardens: potager gardens. Potager gardens are little box gardens used by Acadians as kitchen gardens, where they would grow all their herbs and root vegetables that would last them throughout the winter. The Acadians are teaching us food security in a small, sustainable way. While it does honour the traditional agricultural practices of the past, the Acadian garden makes an effort to emphasize the current vibrant Acadian culture. Just this past year and Acadian farmer from Weymouth, Gilbert Doelle, won a sustainability award from Select Nova Scotia. This year the Food Farm is growing the food in the Acadian garden to donate to the Deep Roots music festival.
The Global South Garden
The Global South garden focuses on asking general questions about food security issues to engage people in asking their own questions and making these connections to their own life by exploring intercropping and biodiversity models practiced in traditional cultures throughout the Global South. These practices are important for maintaining the health of the soil and growing food that provides all of our nutritional needs. It also raises questions about our relationship to the land and demands that we compare what is happening with agriculture in Canada—which is moving towards large-scale monocultures—and traditional models that work to sustain our bodies and our land. Large-scale, monocrop-based agriculture is very unstable and prone to disease and infestation because they rob the soil of nutrients and living organisms that are never replenished by other plants. They exist only with large government subsidies, and by using synthetic fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides. Large-scale monoculture farming necessitates so much external input (which pollutes our environment), and fossil fuel usage (which is non-renewable), that it is an inherently unstable agricultural model. This model of large-scale monocultures is being seen as the future, so not only are we practicing it in certain parts of the world, it’s also becoming the aspiration for other parts of the world who have traditionally farmed in a biodiverse way.
The way forward has to keep in mind the benefit of the people and the land, rather than just big corporations and oil companies. The Global-South garden promotes moving forward with all of the information we have at our disposal to producing nutrient-rich foods in agriculture, and what kinds of technological innovations benefit and support the industry. There is hope that we can find solutions that are good for the environment, our bodies, the farmers, the community, and for economic benefit: and that is what being sustainable is all about.
The Kitchen Garden
The kitchen garden is a demonstration and nibbling garden. There are a wide variety of vegetables growing so that people can see what they look like and how they are grown (Have you ever seen a brussel-sprout grow? So many people are shocked to see them on the stalk!). The food in the kitchen garden is being used and preserved by the Centre for Small Farms for the various programs and events that they host.
The Farmers-in-Residence Garden
One quarter of the Just Us! Food Farm is leased by local organic famers who also serve as the farmers-in-residence for the CSF. This year, the farmers in residence are Sarah, Joey and Mia Pittoello. This piece of land provides a great opportunity for new farmers who may not have access to land and also helps to reduce farmer isolation for new farmers because there are always people out in the garden, ready and willing to help. The goal this year was to provide the Just Us! cafés with food as it is harvested, and the emphasis has been primarily on fall storage foods that can be used for soups and winter specials. A lot of adapting is required when your menu is dependent on seasonal foods, and this mission to provide the café with high quality, nutritional food from the farm has not been without its challenges. The Just Us! cafés are one of the only places around where the food is being grown in the backyard, brought inside, cooked in the kitchen, and served in the cafés! Growing so close to the cafe ensures the quality of the food, a minimal use of fossil fuels, and fresh food. Things are always shifting and changing in the kitchen and in the cafés, but you can appreciate that it is because the food you are being served is fresh, in season, local, and organic. You can even go see your food growing out in the garden before you come inside to eat it!