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First pumpkin festival attracts hundreds to Gagne Avenue garden

Midwest Food Resources runs gardening programs and cultivates two acres of land each year.

NORTH BATTLEFORD — Midwest Food Resources held their first Fall Pumpkin Festival Sunday, Sept. 19, and hope the event will return again next year.

The festival was well received by the hundreds of people who came out to support the local charity organization and the host of activities, volunteers and other local organizations that helped to make the festival a success. Vesna Fa, the organization’s executive director, has been with Midwest Food Resources for almost six years and offered a few comments.

“This is our very first event, and we’ve been planning to do it for a long time. There is nothing like this in the area,” Fa said.

The event was held at Midwest Food Resources community gardens at 1262 Gagne Ave. and offered a wide range of activities for families, including horse rides, a bouncy castle, face painting provided by Battlefords Immigration Resource Centre, pumpkin bowling, a pumpkin carving contest and various games brought by KidsFirst, BGC and Battlefords Trade and Education Centre.

Chibogz (Let’s Eat) Food Truck was present, selling authentic Filipino dishes.

Holly Hildebrand, a local artist, donated her time to set up a children’s painting station.

Vendors were present, selling honey, baked goods and handcrafted items.

Rhea Good, local author of Bottle of Grain and Incremental, offered presentations throughout the day on bokashi composting techniques.

“Bokashi composting is a superior form of composting because anything organic can go into the system … anything from bones to napkins, coffee filter paper, even lint from your dryer. The food waste is fermented before it is returned to the soil, which gives the microbes a bit of a head start on the decomposition process, and it’s a great way to recover all of your household food waste,” Good said.

Good explained that bokashi is a form of composting in which organic food and household waste are added in layers to an airtight container and allowed to ferment. Wood chips are often included to absorb accumulated moisture as matter breaks down. A special mix with additional microbes is also added to the pail to speed decomposition and fermentation.

“There is no need for all of our food waste to go into landfill when it can be returned to the community garden. It’s so unnecessary when you can turn it into something so wonderful for your garden, or for your yard.”

Traditional Indigenous knowledge keeper Reilly Checkosis was also present to assemble a teepee and teach Indigenous history.

“It was easy to erect, take down, and carry to the next camp … you use 15 poles, and the wrapping represents the strong relationship between the male and the female, the husband and the wife. This was the family home. At the top there, it looks like a bow, and it represents them asking the creator, God, to send down a child,” Checkosis said.

Checkosis added that when a child was born, it was said to come down through the teepee and out the south-facing door towards the creator so that a new generation of life could begin. After canvas is added, and due in part to the tripod like-structure, the tipi could stand throughout the winter. Teepees can range in height from the eight-foot teepee that was present to more than 40 feet.

“Each pole represents something different; you have either respect, kinship, hope, thankfulness, obedience and so forth,” Checkosis added.

Jay’s Transportation Group and Battleford Flooring Centre donated over $600 worth of gift cards, which were given as prizes to the various winners of the Gardening Contest. Categories included: largest pumpkin, largest zucchini, ugliest potato, craziest carrot, wackiest squash, biggest beet, largest tomato, most impressive corn and an open category. Moon’s kitchen also donated $75 to the winner of the pumpkin carving contest.

A host of local organizations sponsored the event, and the raffle prizes were donated by Gold Eagle Casino, Artrageous, Innovation Credit Union, Northern Nurseries, Peavy Mart, Doug’s Paint Shop, City of North Battleford, Chic & Shabby and Battleford Furniture.

After 2:30 p.m., the pumpkin festival pivoted to an adult-focused event with beer gardens, live entertainment and an on-site pig roast. Local musicians Stevie Dean, Brian McCarthy, the Battle River Bandits, Jeff Dean Arndt, and Lance Whitecalf were present and performed from three to nine p.m.

“Midwest Food Resources is a small, non-profit, charitable organization,” Fa said, which has been in operation since 1997. “We do cooking classes … partner with different organizations and schools, and we do fresh food boxes every second and fourth Thursday.”

The organization runs gardening programs and cultivates two acres of land each year. They rent out community garden plots, fundraise by selling organic produce at the farmers market, and donate food to the food bank, the emergency shelter and other community-based organizations. Early in September, they sent over 300 food boxes to Indigenous reserves around the Battlefords.

When asked what a perfect pumpkin festival would look like next year, Fa said, “I see us growing way more pumpkins and teaching people and bringing awareness about food. Next year should be bigger and better!”