A local program has helped First Nations producers access funding and supports for more than 25 years.
The Prince Albert Grand Council agriculture program works with groups and individuals within the PAGC to help get into farming and coordinate funding for projects through the Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundation. The program also assists farmers with training and education.
Betty Marleau is an agrologist with the program. She said the program works with First Nations producers from the Prince Albert area and across northern Saskatchewan on plans big and small.
“From start to finish … whatever we can do to assist economic development on the different First Nations in the Prince Albert Grand Council area,” Marleau said. “We’ll do anything from helping out with gardening, attending garden workshops, even how to plant flowers in flower pots, kind of smaller projects, right up to the large-scale hundreds of thousands of dollars projects.”
Last year, the agriculture program funded more than 75 projects, Marleau said, including operations involving bison, cattle, haying, grain, wild rice, community and individual gardens. The programs also supported outfitting, poultry, commercial fishing and syrup production, both maple and birch.
“It supports the people and it gives them a living,” she added.
Brian Longjohn raises cattle at Sturgeon Lake First Nation. He got funding from the PAGC agriculture program to get into cattle and grain farming 25 years ago. While he no longer has the grain side of the operation, he still raises 45 head of cattle and also works with the Sturgeon Lake band, taking care of their 300-head bison operation during the winter. Longjohn said support from the PAGC program is important to the success of many First Nations farm operations.
“They’re good when you need a little help for something, they’ll be there to help,” he said.
Marleau added how the agriculture program provides more than just support and access to funding – it offers food security and economic development and builds confidence within their member communities.
“You do everything from soup to nuts,” she added. “A lot of those are smaller-scale projects, but nonetheless they’re important.”
On Twitter: @CharleneTebbutt
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