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Elenor Siebrig, President, Sustainable Food Edmonton

Elenor Siebrig, President, Sustainable Food Edmonton

Since 1989, Sustainable Food Edmontonhas been working with communities in Edmonton to create strong relationships between individuals, their food and the planet. I talked to the organization's President, Elenor Siebring about her personal relationship with sustainability and SFE's three main programs. 

On her relationship with Sustainability and Urban Agriculture

I've always been huge on sustainability--it's always been a part of my personal interests and I used to work as a consulting engineer so it was always part of my professional practice and I've gardened since I was a child. I think having children has really focused that for me, especially with climate change coming to the forefront. Gardening and sustainability have always been a passion so Sustainable Food Edmonton kind of brought those two things together.

On Sustainable Food Edmonton's Work

We have three programs, one of those [being] the Little Green Thumbs program. We've had 54 schools sign up, and Claudia [Bolli], our facilitator, teaches the master Organic Gardening course and she's a wealth of knowledge. She's in the schools and gets the teachers all set up. 

As an organization, we really believe in getting folks started early thinking about the food cycle and where we get our food from. There's a huge disconnect now with urban folks not really understanding that cycle. 

We run our Community Gardens program with the city. [They] give us some money every year to dole out grants. We have a community board that decides who gets the grants and community gardens work with our facilitators, who work with the different communities. It seems like a really easy thing, like let's just put a bunch of raised beds but it's a lot more complicated. A facilitator has to be very community minded, personable person but also has to have the garden know how. Junetta [Jamerson, SFE's Community Garden facilitator], she's just awesome. We've been really successful this year and we've doled out a bunch of money and got new gardens and we're revamping a little bit. We're trying to make it more of a sustainable program, so now we have grants to keep your garden going, not just for new gardens. 

UrbanAg High is a pilot program. Dustin [Bajer] has been working on this for three or four years. He's an educator himself and he's been trying to think about how to bring urban agriculture in more systematically into junior high and high schools.  There's a lot of piecemeal efforts being made but teachers are already working too much and expected to do tons of extracurriculars, so they'll start these projects but they won't have any resources and they won't have any support. Dustin's just delivered his preliminary report on the pilot program and what he sees Sustainable Food Edmonton doing, so we're going to be tailoring that over the next several months and trying to come out with what that program will look like.

For those looking to get involved

Our facilitators at Sustainable Food Edmonton are always open to questions so if [anyone was] interested in getting [their]own community garden spot I would encourage [them] to get in touch with Janetta. If you wanted to volunteer in the schools, we take volunteers with the Little Green Thumbs program. There's a ton of resources in Edmonton we can put you in touch with. [The important thing] is not fearing to fail.

If you're looking to get involved, contact Sustainable Food Edmonton on their website

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