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 Agriculture Research 

CERRI's Path to Sustainable Future

Seedlings in Pots

Welcome - Watchiya

Welcome to CERRI's agriculture research, where we are committed to creating a sustainable future through plant propagation, hydroponics, regenerative farming, and composting. Our passion for the environment drives us to innovate and find new ways to reduce our carbon footprint while producing high-quality products.

Join us on our journey towards a greener tomorrow.

Transplanting

About Our Project

Welcome to Our Community Gardening Initiative

Located in the heart of Chisasibi, the Chisasibi Eeyou Resource and Research Institute (CERRI) is spearheading an innovative community gardening project led by Jason Stevens, our dedicated Environmental Sustainability Specialist. This initiative is part of a broader effort to enhance food sovereignty, promote environmental sustainability, and integrate Cree Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) with modern agricultural practices in our community.

Innovative Agriculture Practices

Our project utilizes advanced agricultural technologies within unique infrastructures like our geodesic dome and double-blown greenhouses. These facilities are designed to withstand the challenging conditions of Zone 1A, enabling us to extend our growing seasons and increase local food production. We emphasize organic methods, avoiding chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, focusing instead on enriching soil health naturally and sustainably.

Educational Workshops and Community Engagement

Education and community involvement are at the core of our mission. We conduct hands-on workshops that teach community members how to start seeds, transplant seedlings, and understand the importance of soil health. Our workshops are designed for all ages and skill levels, providing opportunities for community members to learn, share, and grow together. From children in local schools to seasoned gardeners, everyone is invited to participate and contribute their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Sustainability and Food Sovereignty

By focusing on sustainable practices and local food production, our project aims to achieve up to 80% food self-sufficiency for Chisasibi. This initiative not only addresses immediate food needs but also fosters long-term environmental and cultural resilience. We are dedicated to nurturing a community that understands and values the importance of growing its food in harmony with nature.

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Our Story

Plant Propagation

Nurturing Wiichiikansh:
The Beginning of Our Agriculture Research

Discovering Wiichiikansh

In the heart of North America's coastal tributaries, a hidden gem called Wiichiikansh thrives in the wet soils touched by the highest tides. Known scientifically as Hemlock Water Parsnip (Sium suave), this perennial wildflower holds a special place in the ecosystem and in the traditions of the Cree people. Its roots and corms serve as an essential food source for migratory waterfowl. Yet, despite its prolific seeding, mature Wiichiikansh plants are a rare sight in the wild.

The Germination Quest

In our quest to unravel the secrets of Wiichiikansh, we embarked on an exciting journey to cultivate this elusive plant from seeds. On a bright day in August 2021, we carefully planted seventy-eight seeds from various sources into seedling trays filled with rock wool, a medium soaked in pure tap water. These trays found a home in an indoor growing tent, illuminated by LED lights set to mimic natural daylight for 12 hours each day.

 

Seeds of Hope

Our seeds came from three distinct sources: two from the pristine lands of James Bay (traplines CH6 and CH4) and one from Wisconsin, purchased from an online distributor. After harvesting the James Bay seeds in September, we allowed them to mature and dry before storing them in paper bags and refrigerating them for safekeeping.

 

Blossoming Discoveries

Our dedication paid off as we observed the seeds sprout into life. It took around 60 days for Wiichiikansh seeds to grow into sturdy 15-cm tall seedlings, although the journey was not without its challenges. With a germination rate of 22%, we saw an average of 17 seedlings emerge from every 78 seeds planted.

We also discovered that the right mix of nutrients made a significant difference. Seedlings nourished with a balanced blend of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium flourished, developing more robust roots and better growth rates compared to those that only received nitrogen or plain water.

 

Nature’s Diversity

Our study also revealed fascinating differences between the varieties of Wiichiikansh. The Wisconsin variety stood out with its unique morphology, while the James Bay variety showcased a remarkable resilience against aphid infestations. However, we learned that maintaining a stable environment was crucial, as temperatures above 25°C and poor air circulation in the grow tent adversely affected the plants.

 

A Bright Future

Our successful cultivation of Wiichiikansh from seeds marks a significant milestone in agricultural research. This achievement not only enhances our understanding of this vital native plant but also supports the cultural practices and food resources of the Cree community. As we continue to refine our growing techniques, we look forward to a future where Wiichiikansh thrives abundantly, enriching both our ecosystems and our heritage.

Our Geodesic Dome Greenhouse: A Milestone in CERRI's Journey

Introduction

In late 2023, the Chisasibi Eeyou Resource and Research Institute (CERRI) took on an exciting and ambitious project: building a geodesic dome greenhouse. Despite initial delays caused by forest fires, our team remained resilient, pushing forward to complete this innovative structure, which now stands as a testament to our dedication and collaborative spirit.

Choosing the Geodesic Dome

We chose a geodesic dome structure for its numerous benefits:

  • Weather Resistance: The dome is designed to withstand high winds and heavy snow loads, making it suitable for our harsh climate.

  • Superior Insulation: With a higher insulation rate than traditional greenhouses and an insulated north wall, the dome maintains a stable internal environment.

  • Year-Round Use: We aim to heat the greenhouse year-round to about 10 degrees Celsius, enabling extended growing seasons and diverse crop production.

Building Process and Partnerships

The structure, sourced from Arctic Acres, was built with the guidance of a project manager from Green Iglu. This partnership ensured we adhered to best practices and completed the construction efficiently.

Our team gained invaluable hands-on experience throughout the build, enhancing our capacity to erect similar structures in the future. This project also underscored the importance of resilience and adaptability, as we navigated challenges and learned new skills.

Foundation and Design

We selected a 33-foot diameter for the dome, the largest size that does not require a cement foundation. Instead, we used a compacted gravel ring foundation, providing a stable and durable base. This choice not only reduced costs but also simplified the construction process.

Community Involvement and Impact

This greenhouse is more than just a structure; it's a symbol of community effort and sustainable progress. The CERRI crew, alongside community members, worked tirelessly to bring this project to life.

Special Contributions

We would like to extend a special thank you to the Elder's Camp for providing mulch for our workshop, contributing wood chips for our grow beds, and supporting our composting initiatives. Their ongoing support is invaluable to our projects.

Additionally, we appreciate Ilana Kunelius for bringing local Raspberry plants, which will enhance our outdoor garden area and biodiversity.

Future Prospects

The completion of the geodesic dome greenhouse marks a significant milestone in CERRI’s history. It enhances our agricultural capabilities, supports our mission of food sovereignty, and serves as a model for sustainable building practices. We look forward to hosting more workshops, experimenting with new crops, and continuing to foster community engagement.

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Our Story

Building the Dome

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Join Us

We invite you to join us in growing a greener, more sustainable Chisasibi. Whether through participating in a workshop, volunteering in our greenhouses, or simply learning more about sustainable gardening, there are numerous ways to get involved. 

Leave us your email here to join our mailing list https://forms.gle/1K8ma2mYbCNmc7Ki6

 

Together, we can cultivate a future where our community thrives on the principles of sustainability, education, and shared cultural heritage.

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