Resilient Rurals attended GISC2022 as tradeshow exhibitors and had a front-and-center view of the exciting developments in the industries responsible for greening our yards and putting food on our tables. We extend a huge thank you to everyone that stopped by our table to learn more about the Resilient Rurals project—it was a wonderful opportunity to share! Now, let’s turn the spotlight onto some of the coolest things we learned about as we explored the tradeshow floor:
Making the most of compost - City of Edmonton Compost
We weren’t the only municipal climate-centered organization that came to GISC2022. The City of Edmonton hosted a table dedicated to the City’s urban composting program, which is a free service for Edmontonians. Not only has composting been a great way to reduce how much food waste ends up in the City’s landfills, but it’s also brought back nutrients to soils and gardens in and around Edmonton. Residents get to access the compost program for free, but anyone can buy their compost for $88/tonne (see information about buying Edmonton compost here). Compost can help improve the soil by releasing nitrogen back into the ground, and Edmonton compost has a neutral pH so it won’t impact your garden's natural pH. Adding compost can also help protect against drought and safeguard plants during hot summers.
Digging into new innovations - Doug Gardens Inc.
If you prefer raised garden beds, or know anyone whose garden could use a little mulch, Doug Gardens Inc. is a company offering both! Have you heard of the ‘easy-growing garden’? That’s Doug. A Doug Garden is an easy-assembly raised gardening kit, which can be delivered directly to your front door. Paired with the company’s soil subscription service, it takes out the guesswork of building and maintaining a healthy garden—you’re started off on the right foot and sent seeds, soil, mulch, and fertilizer needed to maintain your garden over the season. These kits also include irrigation and come in zero-waste packaging. Right now, the kits and subscriptions are offered in Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton, and we were told they’ll soon be expanding to Vancouver.
Doug Gardens doesn’t stop with raised gardens, though. The company is also making notable strides in mulch innovation. Unlike wood chippings or plastic mulch that is commonly used, Doug Gardens created a new type of mulch that is safe for all organisms, soil regenerating, moisture regulating, and temperature regulating. The mix combines worm castings, wool, straw, humic acid, and biochar to create mulch capsules that expand to cover a much greater area than you would assume based on the size of a 20-square-foot bag. The best part is the wool absorbs water from the air—even in the driest months—and releases it slowly back into the soil. This simple solution has fantastic water-saving implications.
Garlic? On a tree farm? - Purple Springs Nursery
Purple Springs Nursery brings sustainability to another level. The nursery uses regenerative agriculture principles to support the trees they grow, such as companion planting to improve soil health. By focusing on the holistic health of the trees they grow, Purple Springs has cut their use of chemicals by 85%!
The interesting thing we learned was that Purple Springs Nursery also grows garlic. As they told us, garlic is a quick cash crop that can be used as an alternative source of income while Purple Nursery lets the soil rest between trees. It relies on a complimentary set of nutrients, which allows it to grow alongside trees while boosting their health and the health of the soil. We were lucky enough to take a couple of samples home.
Where the food won’t grow - Green Iglu
Food security and sovereignty were also topics of conversation at GISC2022. Ensuring a reliable, local food supply is especially important in remote, northern communities, where 57% of homes in Nunavut are food insecure (2020). We met some of the team from Green Iglu, a non-profit working with affected communities to amend this injustice. Green Iglu builds greenhouses tailored to providing technology, education, and training to northern communities. Each one is specialized to the needs of the community. If a town needs a space to gather, Green Iglu will design their installation for that purpose!
Green Iglu also focuses on supporting diverse diets and local cuisines. One of the ways they do this is by growing vegetables in the greenhouses that people will enjoy eating and are culturally appropriate. Potatoes, which are expensive to ship to northern communities, are a commonly grown staple because they provide lots of nutrients at an affordable cost.
Green Iglu not only seeks to address the problem of not having enough food. They also want to reinforce food sovereignty by shifting control of food availability away from tedious supply chains and back into the communities and people managing the local greenhouses.
Our seat at the table - What Resilient Rurals shared at GISC2022
Unlike many of the exhibitors, Resilient Rurals isn’t a producer. We don’t grow plants or trees to supply your favourite greenhouse. We aren’t raising healthy crops or livestock to feed your family.
We are focused on climate-smart resilience measures, so we chose to bring information on the benefits of native plants to GISC2022.
Our native plant resources are tied to climate-smart gardening, which means cultivating landscapes that are responsive to the local climate. Native plants can thrive in both droughts and flood conditions because they are prepared for the fluctuations in Alberta weather.
Some of the producers and companies we met at GISC2022 were excited to see us talking about native plants and even selling native plants and trees themselves! TreeTime, an Edmonton nursery, is well-aware of the benefits of planting native trees and shrubs, and sells edible varieties as well as ornamental varieties. And Foothills Nurseries near Calgary also hosts a wide variety of native trees. Leaf Ninjas is an ecological restoration group working with native plants daily at sites throughout Calgary.
We also found this topic was new and exciting to many producers—some had never considered selling native plants, while others found it difficult to find information on the topic. Many people had heard about the benefits of native plants, but they didn’t know what species they could offer that are beautiful, easy to grow, accessible, and appropriate for growing in a garden. We were happy to provide some information and connect with countless new networks!
Next steps - Resilient Rurals’ comprehensive native plant lists
GISC2022 was a fantastic opportunity to connect and collaborate with folks working in the areas of agriculture, nurseries, landscaping, and greenhouses. We met and learned from many different people and companies.
Our team is excited to connect with more innovative companies and organizations in the future. Soon, we'll be releasing two comprehensive lists of plant species native to Alberta with drought-resistant and/or flood-tolerant properties. We hope these resources will support some of the companies we connected with and other people across Alberta to identify and select the most suitable species for their future projects and operations.
We are thrilled to continue to grow alongside a positive, welcoming, and forward-thinking industry as represented by GISC2022!