Vision & Missions | What's a Food Forest | What's Permaculture | Big Dreams | Locate Us | Meet the Board
Vision & Missions
A Healthy Community in Ecological Balance with a Thriving Environment
Our Mission has 3 streams:
1. Habitat: Regenerate and conserve bio-diverse ecosystems
2. Food: Produce healthy food sustainably for humans and wildlife
3. Education: Connect students of all ages with a thriving natural landscape
Strategic Directions for each Mission stream
Habitat: Regenerate and conserve bio-diverse ecosystems
Conserve water by applying permaculture principles to landscape design
Regenerate bio-diverse forest, pond, wetland and prairie ecosystems, emphasizing local flora and fauna
Apply eco-forestry to sustain existing rare Assiniboine oak-ash-maple river bottom forest
Food: Produce healthy food sustainably for humans and wildlife
Cultivate bio-diverse, self-sustaining ecosystems that feed the widest possible variety of living organisms, including humans,incorporating diverse nut-, fruit-, berry- and seed-producing plants.
Create minimal-maintenance perennial and annual garden beds for all Brandon residents to enjoy and harvest.
Respect ecological principles by using organic and holistic agriculture techniques.
Education: Connect students of all ages with a thriving natural landscape
Provide opportunities for self-propelled, minimal-trace recreation, including wildlife viewing, picnicking, biking, skiing and more.
Partner with university, college, public schools and others to conduct and apply research in biology, ecology and permaculture.
Host workshops and cultural events on diverse artistic and scientific themes, including gardening, permaculture, ecology, wildlife biology, music, heritage, health, and more
What is a Food Forest?
A food forest is a metaphor describing a form of land management that mimics a forest.
There are seven layers to a food forest garden as illustrated.
Forests are the most productive terrestrial ecosystems on the planet, and have existed on their own without human management since time immemorial. There is much evidence to suggest, however, that we need forests in order to survive. What if humanity were to adopt an ethic of ecosystem conservation instead of our historical habit of clear-cutting forests until cultures collapse? Perhaps a central purpose of human life on earth is forest regeneration and conservation. Are we destined to be Mother Nature’s caretakers? At Assiniboine Food Forest, we imagine that the answer to that question is “Yes.”
Using permaculture techniques, food forest builders try to copy nature’s patterns in vertical and horizontal space, weaving food-bearing trees into a matrix with native species of trees found naturally on the local soils. Shrub, forb, and ground cover layers are incorporated, again mixing human food-producers with a wide spectrum of native species. Ideally, the design of a forest is not an enterprise for a single mind, but is rather a collaboration of the widest possible cross-section of humanity. After all, how often has this ever been attempted? Who can pretend to expertise in such a complex domain? Since the science/art of forest design is so young, we must do our best to include the visions of many stakeholders. Be sure your family and friends join our team of forest-loving members, biologists, researchers, permaculture students, and food growers. Get involved with food forest planning!
A food forest will take many years to plant. But once finished, it is hoped that a web of stable, beneficial relationships results, creating a diverse and beautiful community space that supports not only humans but the widest variety of native wildlife. Once established and mature a food forest, like any forest, should be self-sustaining. A central premise of food forest creation is that we are a part of nature, and we work with nature, using natural, sustainable means. All is connected … life gives life.
What is Permaculture?
Permaculture is characterized by the use of organic methods, applied systems ecology, eco-forestry, and water conservation. It has proven to be a highly effective method of restoring damaged and depleted landscapes. Permaculture is like agriculture in that food is ultimately produced, but in permaculture the soil is never broken after the initial planting. Only organic/holistic techniques are used, never chemicals or pesticides. And permaculture, like Mother Nature herself, conserves all precipitation falling on the landscape. For this reason, permaculture projects often perform earthworks at the outset … small ditches on grade, called swales, or earthen dams are used to capture runoff before it can escape, doing the job that a natural ecosystem does on its own.
On the AFFI parcel, thirty acres of former mixed oak woodland, after clear-cutting and 60 years of non-intensive grazing, is no longer the natural sponge it once was. Every spring the snow pack melts, accumulates in the central basin, and then runs off into the river, so step one of our vision is to build an earthen dam across the draw at the outlet. A small pond excavated above the dam would anchor an upstream wetland of amazing bio-diversity … small fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and uncountable insects … a thriving prairie pothole ecosystem! The pond and wetland would also increase accessibility of ground water to the roots of trees to be planted after earthworks are finished.
The term permaculture or permanent agriculture/culture was first coined by Australians David Holmgren and Bill Mollison in 1978, inspired in part by the post-1930 natural farming philosophies of American Joseph Russell Smith (Tree Crops: a Permanent Agriculture), Masanobu Fukuoka of Japan (The One-Straw Revolution), and Australian P.A. Yeomans (Water for Every Farm). It is a system of land management that mimics and incorporates the design principles found in nature. The three core tenets of permaculture are: 1) Care for the Earth … without a healthy Earth, humans cannot flourish; 2) Care for the People … people must be able to access the resources necessary for their existence; 3) Return of Surplus, or Fair Share … we take no more than what we need, as in Nature, where there is no waste and no surplus, all is recycled back into usefulness.
Little Forest, Big Dreams
Pond & Wetland Restoration
Our proposed pond & wetland restoration is at the mouth of an ancient creek that flowed for thousands of years through deciduous forest and native prairie here. In Brandon's early years the woods were clear cut for timber, and the land was then non-intensively grazed by cattle until the 1960's, resulting in the widespread establishment of European invasive weeds.
Today, with the native forest no longer present, water only flows here in April when a river of snow melt water runs off onto the Assiniboine ice. We want to build an earthen dam in the draw to harvest this annual water loss, creating a pond and wetland on the upstream side, just as countless generations of beaver have done in the past on this very spot. Retaining 100% of annual precipitation on the land is the first and most important step in restoring wetland habitat, and also in food production through permaculture design.
A pond here would anchor a thriving, bio-diverse wetland ecosystem, while at the same time stabilizing the water table and promoting the growth of trees and crops. It would also provide a pristine new home for the endangered Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) that still survives in the neighbourhood.
Watch for announcements on a campaign to achieve this ambitious and beautiful vision for Brandon's families of the future!
When taking the trail from Crow's General Store, you must pass a creek. Please note, this creek can be difficult to pass for folks with mobility challenges.
The Assiniboine Food Forest is located at 201 - 17th Street East in Brandon, Manitoba. To find us, travel east along Rosser Avenue past the Green Spot nursery until you come to 17th Street East. Treesblood Farm and the Assiniboine River form the north boundary of AFFI, while the property is bounded on the south by the CP Branch line that crosses Rosser Avenue East near the Green Spot at Cram's Crossing.
Learn more about Brandon's
East End Experience
Access to the Assiniboine Food Forest
There are two ways for the public to access the Assiniboine Food Forest:
Park at Crow's General Store. Find the riverside trail that connects "Old Crow's" property to AFFI. This trail is approximately 1km, with a creek crossing midway.
Park at the corner of Rosser Avenue East & 17th Street East (being careful not to block access to neighbours drive ways). Walk into AFFI using the roadway located at the southeast corner of the intersection.
Please pay attention to our event listings for notes about how to access AFFI for workshops/special events!
Meet Our Board Members
Introducing the current Assiniboine Food Forest Board of Directors
Dave Barnes, Chairperson & Founding Member
Dave is a retired teacher who has been passionate about nature and the outdoors all his life. He loves to sing and dance, make maple syrup, garden, and lead Nature Walks through the local riparian woodland.
Vickie Hanwell-McLean, Treasurer
Vickie is a lover of the outdoors who enjoys “playing in the dirt”, her two grandchildren and belly dancing. She is a retired lab tech and still works part-time for her self-employed husband, Dave. In the summer she enjoys camping with family and friends at numerous music festivals throughout Manitoba.
Brittany Burch, Secretary
Brittany is a nature enthusiast and visual artist from Brandon, MB. By day, she’s a co-owner & office manager at Burch Law. When not at the law firm, she’s an advocate for local environmental issues, local artists and cancer survivors.
Devan Hahkala, Founding Member
Originally heralding from Ontario's north, this character has spent many years in Manitoba studying and building a career in the public forestry sector.
Jason is a lawyer and advocate on local environmental issues. He and his wife Brittany are co-owners of Burch Law in Brandon, MB. In his spare time he’s a football coach, volunteer and festival organizer within the Brandon area.
Ashley is a teacher in training who is inspired by nature, developing sustainable food systems and outdoor learning. She is a passionate community builder who volunteers with many local organizations.