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Alexandra's Bounty - A New Partnership

On December 15, two community groups rooted in similar missions celebrated the new tenants of a community garden in Oshawa.

During the special outdoor event, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Charter Community Council - Oshawa and Durham Region Métis Council (ODRMC) formally took on responsibility for Alexandra’s Bounty, a community garden on the north east corner of Simcoe Street and Hospital Court.

Commemorated with a smudging ceremony and drumming circle, the group celebrated the past five years of work done by Durham Region’s We Grow Food, a grassroots community organization dedicated to sustainable living and eating, and the beginning of a special new partnership between the Council and Lakeridge Health Foundation.

“It is important to us to provide access to food and help people understand where their food comes from,” says Carol Vandersanden of We Grow Food. “It’s about creating communities that can care for each other. We’re opening people’s eyes to sustainable eating and living, helping people garden and produce food at their own home or a shared space.”

We Grow Food’s gardens account for over two acres of land and produce over 25,000 lbs of food. In 2021, their Harvest Tuesday events provided food for 500 families each week.

In 2016, We Grow Food approached Lakeridge Health Foundation about the organization’s vacant land at the corner of Simcoe St. and Hospital Court. A partnership bloomed between the two organizations and once built, Alexandra’s Bounty grows more than 40 different herbs, vegetables and fruits. The garden features a gazebo, greenhouse, cold frame, wicking beds, row covers and bee condos, as well as a pollinator garden and butterfly garden.

“We built this garden in a circular shape to be accessible on all sides. Between 50-75 volunteers, including many from Lakeridge Health helped us build our garden beds in just one day.”

Carol and the We Grow Food Team sought support from the MNO Oshawa and Durham Region Métis Council to take over the garden in 2021 during the pandemic thanks to a pre-existing partnership with the group and Cecile Wagar, Senator with the MNO ODRMC. “I remember when Cecile Wagar joined us at the opening of the garden to perform a smudging. Her involvement coming full circle makes us feel like turning over this garden to the Council, and the success we’ve cultivated here, was meant to be.”

“Our partnership with We Grow Food and Lakeridge Health Foundation helps us stay connected to the land while fulfilling our desire to feed the community through food, education and cultural development,” says Senator Cecile Wagar. “We are very excited to use this space to further our Métis community outreach and continue to engage with Oshawa and Durham Region citizens.”

Alexandra’s Bounty is a large garden with space for the Council to add their own touches including building a teepee frame to support squash, bean and corn plants (three important symbols of the indigenous culture). The team has already added orange ribbons and painted rocks to the area and plan to utilize the space for cultural education and storytelling.

Looking forward to 2022, The Council has a number of initiatives planned including a planting ceremony in the Spring, opportunities for student volunteering, weekly harvest days, culture camps for children, Metis art showcases and a special display on May 5 for Red Dress Day, a national day of awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.