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  • Blackfoot Elder performs blessing ceremony for Rotary Edible Forest

    The blessing ceremony was a way for the Rotary Club of Chestermere to thank volunteers who helped plant the garden in June 

    Blackfoot Elder performs blessing ceremony for Rotary Edible Forest pic 2
    Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, Chestermere Mayor Jeff Colvin, city councillors, and project partners joined Blackfoot Elder Frank Turning Robe to offer prayers for the Rotary Edible Forest. Photo submitted by Karen McKee

    Blackfoot Elder Frank Turning Robe of the Siksika Nation offered a Blessing to the Rotary Edible Forest community garden project.

    Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, Chestermere Mayor Jeff Colvin, city councillors, and project partners joined Frank Turning Robe to offer prayers for the Rotary Edible Forest.

    “Frank taught us about the Indigenous ways of offering prayers to the four corners of the earth. After each set of prayers, we all planted a gift of tobacco in the garden,” said Rotarian Karen McKee.

    “It was a very moving and spiritual experience. We are so grateful to our friend Frank Turning Robe for his wisdom, his guidance, and his wonderful sense of humour,” she said.

    The Rotary Edible Forest project was presented to the Rotary Club of Chestermere by former club president Jason McKee, who spoke about food scarcity and the need for community abundance projects.

     Jason presented the project to city council three years ago. He received positive feedback from city council and was permitted to begin planning with the city parks department.

    Jason invited community organizations such as the Bee Keeping Society, the Chestermere Public Library, and the Inclusivity and Accessibility Committee to get involved with the project. 

    Michelle Aris of Aris Landscape Design offered her services as a passion project.

    After delays due to site location and COVID-19 gathering restrictions, the Rotary Club of Chestermere members were able to plant the garden in June. 

    Rotary members including Maury Quinney of Along the Lake Landscaping, and Rotary Project Chair Ron McKee, helped to bring the project to the point of planting with over 40 community members who volunteered on planting day and helped plant 420 perennial fruit trees, berry bushes, and herbs, along with bee-friendly plants.

    “We started with good weather but by the end of the day lightning and thunder made its power known to us. We quickly finished cleaning up and dashed home, wet, dirty, tired, but very happy and satisfied with our accomplishment,” Karen said.

    As volunteers and rotary members had to leave so quickly due to poor weather, members did not have time to properly thank the volunteers. 

    “We really felt this was important, so we began to plan a Blessing Ceremony for the fall and invited the volunteers back to participate in the event. We received so much positive feedback from everyone who attended,” Karen said.

     “Thank you to all the volunteers who came out to help us this past summer; we could not have done this without you,” she said.

    One year before planting the garden, the Rotary Club of Chestermere asked residents who owned homes adjacent to the project for their feedback.

    Many residents were happy to hear about the community garden project, and once the garden was planted offered to let volunteers use their garden hoses and help remove weeds.

    “This past summer was very hot and dry, and we had a real challenge keeping the plants alive. After a few machinery breakdowns and some outside work pressures, there were a few delays in getting the site cleaned up. In the end, we got the job done and it looks great now,” Karen said.

    Rotary Chestermere will continue with the project site in 2022 by adding seating, and information signage.

    Without city and Rotary District 5360 approved grants, the garden project wouldn’t have been possible.

    If anyone is interested in participating in the project, contact rotarychestermere@gmail.com.