LED Smart Farm in Opaskwayak Cree Nation
Tucked away in a corner of Opaskwayak Cree Nation you will find two women with a big passion to share with everyone they meet about the Opaskwayak LED Smart Farm they manage. Joan Niquannicappo and Stephanie Cook are the main overseers of this project. Always enthusiastic to share about the the activities of the factory, they talked about the ways the plant factory has been an answer to community concerns. In Northern Manitoba where there are issues such as food security, and limited access to fresh produce, the LED Smart Farm produces a harvest in 2-3 weeks.
Food sovereignty in the north is something Joan is passionate about, sharing that ’This (the farm) is all about food sovereignty - why would anyone want food if they don’t know where it comes from, if they’re injected with chemicals, are touched by herbicides and pesticides. Here we know where every plant comes from and what goes into the plants.” Stephanie was also excited to join in on this conversation, sharing that the nutrient content of the plants produced by the smart farm can surpass those of traditional farming methods. Stephanie shared they’ve sent their plants out for testing and “The kohlrabi has been scientifically shown to have 36 times more beta keratin than store bought.”
The farm serves the community in a number of ways. The nutrient dense, pesticide, herbicide, chemical free plants are distributed among the community with every harvest. Those who access this service come from various areas of OCN. The plant farm has served diabetic patients, cancer patients, mothers, nursing mothers and local schools. The two are proud of the service the farm has provided for the community as over one million dollars in produce has been shared in the community over a three year period. The plant farm also works with restorative justice in the community where youth can come do community service hours. They have seen many youth go through personal transformations as they work directly with the plants. Joan says the young people have shared with them that the plants give them a sense of calmness, and it is often the students want to come back even when they’ve completed their community service hours. The students who enjoy their work at the farm are encouraged to pursue the sciences or agriculture so they might take over the farm in the future. Joan and Stephanie hope to see the farm taken to new levels of innovation through future generations.
The LED Smart Farm in OCN has a number of goals for expansion. They hope to harness this technology go see it benefit other northern and remote communities as they continue to grow. It is the goals of the LED Smart Farm are to become 100% sustainable and to also ensure that the Smart Farm is lead by young people from the community. The possibilities are seemingly endless and Joan and Stephanie can’t wait to see how the future unfolds as more young people join them in their work.