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Seedlings are a symbol of hope – and the recent transplanting of young plants from the greenhouse to the garden boxes holds special meaning for Mark Brinklow, coordinator of the Tyendinaga Justice Circle (TJC) program.

“The idea is to give our participants the opportunity to work in the gardens and do something for the community,” he says. “We’re hoping this involvement can help boost their self-worth during challenging times as well as build new skills and knowledge.”

Tontakaiê:rine (It Has Become Right Again) TJC aims to provide Indigenous people in conflict with the law with a positive, transformative experience using holistic circle processes – and growing and preparing food fits well within that mandate. Mr. Brinklow believes benefits include enhancing food security, raising awareness about healthy eating and deepening connections to heritage.

“The intent is to honour the old ways,” he explains. “We all have stories of our grandparents, a generation that didn’t waste anything, and these kinds of traditions need to be carried on.”

The two-foot-deep above-ground garden boxes, which allow vegetable roots to thrive in nutritious soil, are located at the aviation campus of FNTI (First Nations Technical Institute), under whose umbrella the program operates. After nurturing the plants to maturity, the produce will be harvested – and food preservation techniques will be taught and applied.

“Obviously, our clients are going through struggles that include financial hardship, and we believe when they can grow their own food, this will provide some relief and contribute to a more positive outlook,” says Mr. Brinklow. “It’s a simple thing to do. It feeds you, and it’s good for your mental health.”

More TJC details at

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