Update from Skeena Energy Solutions, Hazelton, BC:
In 2014 and 2015 Thje Kassandra Trust supported Skeena Energy Solutions with their rooftop project, now aptly named "Sky High Greenhouse". Another funded project was a Feasability Study for a Biomass Heating System in Hazelton. Here is an excerpt from the latest update by Kesia nagata, Skeena Energy Solutions:
"This year we are hoping to maintain and expand the reach of our current projects, and to integrate them more deeply into the community. We are having big talks about how to use the information we've gathered (on solar energy production, biomass heating, and energy-neutral greenhouse growing) over the past few years to promote sustainability on a wider scale, and to spark the Community Economic Development we need in the Hazeltons, and in the North. We're working towards a more self-sufficient community that can eventually serve as a model for other areas in terms of energy production, food security, and local economy I am pleased to report, that the project has been a success and is still going strong. The Sky High Greenhouse is entering its 4th year above the homey smells of the Skeena Bakery - this year we're inviting the New Hazelton Elementary school to partner with us and get the kids growing their own food! We're still working on perfecting our heat recovery system but even in the cold of February it's warm enough to warrant jacket-removal as we clean up and prep the garden beds.
The biomass initiative, after about a slow but vital process of community conversation and planning, is poised to go ahead thanks to the thorough feasibility study we were able to commission from Thomas Wunderlin. We've toured the Telkwa biomass facility and reviewed the very attractive numbers in Thomas' report with some of our community leaders, inspiring the Gitxsan Government Commission to find the funds to overhaul the GWES college - meanwhile, local mill owners up the Kispiox are busy drying and storing their waste wood..."
March, 2017: The Kassandra Trust has directed $ 10,000,-- in funding to the Common Unity project; specifically the Earthship Greenhouse project.
The CUP is a multi facetted project around the concept of an "Intentional Community". Although they attract people internationally, they are contributing to the greater Community of the Hazeltons through a variety of venues. They have been instrumental in starting a seed saving group, beekeeping collective and a weekly tai-chi course. They have been working on building a passive solar greenhouse on a neighboring first nation reserve. They are busy building an "Earthship" and have a barter trade network that is evergrowing based on the surpluses they are able to make from living this way. They have offered several free and inexpensive workshops over the years to the community with very positive results and are often a resource for those in the community who need assistance or resources. The Kassandra Trust is pleased to assist in the completion of their building Project "Earthship" to support their sustainable and innovative approach.
March 2017: THE KASSANDRA TRUST has made a donation of $ 7,000,-- dedicated to the Project “Sik-eh-Dahk Greenhouse” .
The earth ship inspired greenhouse is in the construction phase and needs funding for completion. It is to be a self-sustained, year round growing space, open to all. 75% have been completed last year, and the Kassandra Donation will fund the completion of the project. The project hopefully will inspire the community to develop and deliver programs towards self-sufficiency, and eventually serve as a model for other areas.
I am looking forward to hear News and updates as the greenhouse is completed and in operation!
UPDATE Dec 2017:
I received an uplifting email from Energy Coordinator Kasia Negata: "We were able to finish our year-round Earthship Greenhouse and pass it on to the Sik-e-dakh Band Council, using all local labour (our project manager is from Two Mile and his crew were all Sik-e-dakh Band members).
We held 3 cob workshops for the community to learn how to build with cob, and provided delicious lunches made from local ingredients.
The Band integrated the greenhouse into their community garden program and harvested tomatoes into October, while also using it to start seeds for their fall crops. Everything harvested from their gardens gets taken to the band office and is distributed to elders and band members.
The Huels at Huel Pottery kindly donated to us several terracotta tiles with the names of all our funders - as soon as it warms up we will be cementing/cobbing them into the cob walls above the planting beds.
As for the Sky High Greenhouse above the Skeena Bakery, we partnered up with Storytellers Foundation's Upper Skeena Local Food To School program and held a planting day at New Hazelton Elementary before school closed for summer. The seedlings were planted in the greenhouse and in September the kids visited their plants to see how much they had grown, and learned how to save tomato seeds. All the produce was donated to the Community Kitchen program in Old Hazelton.
April 2017: I have visited the project in 2013 for the first time, and I am pleased to see it is still running strong, having a substantial impact on the social landscape in the Hazelton area.
My initial pledge of $ 30,000 was hinged on the Center’s ability to secure grants and additional funding required financing the whole Phase 2 of the project, which has not yet come to the desired stage. Instead, for this year Senden is seeking funding to run a holistic youth program from May-September 2017, which aligns with Kassandra Trust’s values of community, ecology and sustainability, and is a short term goal that we would like to see happening.
This is a short description of the program, as provided by their representative, C. Anonuevo:
"During the holistic program, 8 youth spend 3 days a week on site with Senden staff and learn many skills related to food security: growing food, food preservation, selling food at a market stand. Additionally, the youth learn about traditional food from elders: collecting and picking berries, smoking and preserving salmon and hunting. The outcomes of our project are that youth have a stronger connection to self through personal development, youth have a stronger connection to their peers, their families and the wider community and finally youth have a meaningful connection to the land. Youth invite community members on site once a month during the program and prepare a locally grown meal and to share what they have learned related to food security: bee-keeping, composting, locally grown recipes. Through these activities youth are learning self-esteem, leadership and cultural awareness through growing, harvesting, preserving and cooking from the land. The program encourages wild food harvesting and stewardship alongside growing locally grown food. The program supports people to build their capacity to be healthy so that they are able to have an active and meaningful role in a sustainable economy. Included in the program is transportation, an honorarium and food from the garden to the youth that participate in the program."
The Trust is providing $ 30,000,-- in funding to the Youth program.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 2017:
I was invited to the Open House of the Youth program, and not only got to see and taste the amazing foods they produce,
but also noticed first hand the impact the program has on many levels. The participants learn vital job skills and
develop self esteem, and they also go back into their families as role models and initiate change. Their actions have a
ripple effect into their communities. Thank you to Christine Anonuevo and her team, and special thanks to all the participants
for the warm welcome and insightful conversations (and the amazing food).
I am pleased to report, that the Kassandra Trust will provide $ 5,200.-- in funding for a project called “Groundbreakers Wild”. The program is aimed at primary grades, teaching students about our local forest food by going on field trips to forage and eat local food from our local forests. While many of our forests are walking distance from our elementary schools, some require bussing which adds a considerable amount to the costs.
In light of the importance of local food security and the specific challenges and resources in the North, and considering the importance of teaching future generations to live sustainably, I find this project to fit well into the mandate of the Trust. H.Fleury from Groundbreakers explained, that this program would be starting at Muheim School this Fall in a grade 2/3 class. The plan is to 'pilot' this program at Muheim in that grade in the Fall before offering it to the other schools for Spring of 2018. They want to make sure of a few things including grade appropriateness, integration in that grade's curriculum, etc.
The funds would be used for the pilot class this Fall and for the actual program to begin in the Spring at Telkwa, Muheim and Walnut Park schools. For this particular project, the deadline would be September 15, 2017.
Mrs. Fleury explained, that there is a big demand for forest school-type programs and Groundbreakers is prepared to increase its programming to meet this demand, little by little. There has been talk of starting a 'nature centre' out of the Nordic Centre for years, and programs like this could tie in well with such resources.
UPDATE December 2017:
Executive Director, Helene Fleury, sent me a detailed update, the program has been well received and hopefully will continue to 'grow':
"Our first outing was at what I call the "Zobnick Forest", an amazing hemlock forest on the edge of the ski out. We hiked and looked for three forest foods: high bush cranberries, rosehips and spruce needles (keeping in mind that October is not the most fertile of months for edibles in the Bulkley Valley...). Students spent time on the trail and in the forest using their senses, searching for clues as well as helped prepare teas on the camp stove with the collected food items. I had baked some high-bush cranberry cake to serve with the tea which was a hit! Many students did not want to leave the forest and in fact, several mentioned they would love it if school were always like this :) I also later heard that a few students returned to the Zobnick forest with their parents during the weekend to show them its beauty and bounty...
Our second trip was at the Bluff trails, just off of Hudson Bay Mountain Road. Students participated in an activity matching colour swatches with colours we found in that forest. There we searched for plantain, more cranberries and elderberries. We were very successful with finding a ton of cranberries and with a camp stove, made a syrup to serve on crêpes i had made that morning. It was below zero that day and so we built a small fire and enjoyed its heat while learning about some of the properties as well as the First Nations cultural aspects of these plants. All but one student devoured the crêpes with cranberry syrup!
Our third trip took place at the Willowvale marshland area. In addition to the previous weeks' edibles, we looked for Saskatoon berries. Once we had found all our berries and plants, we put them in jars filled with alcohol. We conducted a science experiment by soaking white yarn in the jars to see the colour effects of the different berries. Students predicted which jar would produce the strongest colour. While all the berries did colour the yard, the saskatoon jar was by far the most vibrant of colours (and a handful of students were right!)! We talked about how First Nations people all over the world use plants and berries for colour. We ate saskatoon berry muffins (made earlier) and enjoyed a few nature games to make sure the students were able to identify all the plants we had searched for in the combined three outings.
These Groundbreakers Wild outings were a fabulous way to get students to learn differently--
to ensure different intelligences were used by children, those that may not be engaged in
a classroom setting. With Groundbreakers Wild, we were able to engage students' senses
in a peaceful environment, help develop observational skills, get our heart rates up without
realizing it, learn about our forest foods, their properties and historical uses by First Nations
peoples, create an environment where cooperation exists rather than competition (there is
still lots to work on here...), and develop a general awareness of the natural beauty that is
around us--among other outcomes. "
So far, funds from the Kassandra Trust, for which we are very grateful, have enabled us to pay for bus travel to the different forests, ingredients for the food, supplies for on-the-trail activities and wages for facilitating the workshops.