top of page


CTV News May 19, 2024

'A special bird': The unbreakable bond between purple martins and humans

Flashes of purple darting across the sky mixed with the serenading sound of songs will be noticed more with spring in full force in Manitoba. Purple martins have returned to North America – including the Canadian prairies – for their breeding season, a celebratory sight for bird lovers in the province. Dave Barnes has admired the bird from a young age and is now one of the many birdwatchers who eagerly await their return every spring. For Barnes, his favourite aspect about purple martins is the connection they have with humans.

The Free Press August 29, 2023

Drumbeat of rebuilding Indigenous men

On Aug. 26, Gobeil co-ordinated the 100 men with 100 drums event at the Assiniboine Food Forest on the outskirts of Brandon. The event was designed to help support and build a community of healthy Indigenous men through cultural sharing and activities. Featuring elders, speakers and food, the main event of the day was the tying of drums by each participant — with materials donated by the Brandon Friendship Centre.

CBC News August 27, 2023

'Great heart' makes anything possible for southwestern Manitoba Indigenous men's group

Nestled in the Southwestern Manitoba's Assiniboine Food Forest, a group of Indigenous men work together to create a brotherhood centred on mens' health and wellness to build stronger communities.

The Saturday gathering 100 Men with 100 Drums was centred on health and wellness for men, said Jason Gobeil. Their goal is to stand united and help men heal traumas they have experienced by reconnecting with their culture and other men.

The Western Producer April 27, 2023

Sweet day in the bush – photo essay

The Assiniboine Food Forest Corp. and Treesblood Farm on the east edge of Brandon held their annual tour of the maple bush and sugar shack April 16. This year the sap run was delayed by an unusually cold March. Temperatures rarely got above freezing so the sap never left the roots. More than 200 people attended the hourly tours to learn how sap is collected and made into syrup. Approximately 40 litres of sap make a litre of syrup.

CBC News Apr 16, 2023

Manitoba's maple syrup season off to a slow start during late, chilly spring

A southwestern Manitoba maple syrup producer says 2023 is proving to be the worst start to a season he's seen in almost 20 years — but he remains hopeful a long spring might still make for good harvest.  Dave Barnes is just starting to check the syrup taps at Brandon's Assiniboine Food Forest — a 16-hectare (40-acre) conservation project in the city's east end that, among other things, aims to produce food for both wildlife and people.

Brandon Sun Dec 9, 2022

Wetland project a matter of ‘wait and see’

Dave Barnes is feeling optimistic.  On Monday, members of the Assiniboine Food Forest shared with city councillors their hopes of turning a weedy field in Brandon’s east end into a wetland, to garner support for the conservation project from the city. The Assiniboine Food Forest, a non-profit conservation organization for which Barnes is the chair, leases a plot of land from the City of Brandon as well as manages and funds it independently. The city, however, has a conservation agreement over the land with Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation

Penticton Herald Nov 30, 2022

Assiniboine Food Forest seeks wetland restoration

Assiniboine Food Forest, a non-profit conservation organization in Brandon, is on a mission to convert an unused field in the city’s east end into a protected wetland after its previous efforts were reportedly thwarted by another organization.  The forest itself is owned by the City of Brandon, which has a conservation agreement over the land with Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation, a private, charitable organization. Assiniboine Food Forest leases the land from the city as well as manages and funds it independently.

The Brandon Sun April 22, 2022

A greener future: Climate change and the desire to be self-sufficient are driving the sustainable gardening scene in Brandon

Gardening for some isn’t a pastime; it’s a way to feed themselves, their community and in some cases, limit their carbon footprint.

One group in Brandon is trying to bring back localized food production through the Assiniboine Food Forest, situated on the eastern tip of Rosser Avenue.  The organization has three parts to its mission: regenerate and conserve the biodiversity of the ecosystem, produce healthy food in sustainable ways for humans and wildlife and teach visitors about the environment in a thriving natural landscape.

The food produced in the forest is donated to charities across the city. Board members also perform wild foraging in the summer months, gathering plants such as licorice, mushrooms, nettles, burdock root and saskatoons.  So far, they’ve had some success with their Legacy Orchard project, planting fruit trees and berry vines in a fenced-in area to prevent deer from decimating them, said board chair and property owner Dave Barnes.  They have been working on this project since 2017, when they received a grant from the Brandon and Area Community Foundation to plant the orchard.

Toronto Star April 12, 2022

Maple syrup tours making comeback

With the weather warming, the sap in the Assiniboine Food Forest is beginning to flow and tours will soon be available to the public, allowing them to learn firsthand how maple syrup is created.  The syrup-making season lasts about three weeks, said Dave Barnes, chair of Assiniboine Food Forest Inc. He said the collection of sap to render into syrup will keep him and apprentice Maeve Cederstrom, 14, busy from sunrise to sunset. July 12, 2021

Brandon Riverbank the swallow capital of Manitoba

In partnership with Assiniboine Food Forest Inc., Brandon Riverbank Inc. would like to officially proclaim itself as the swallow capital of Manitoba!  The proclamation comes after an in-depth swallow bird count of the Riverbank area recently, where Riverbank officials anticipate approximately 1,000 young swallows will be fledging this summer – a number that Dave Barnes, a local nature enthusiast and outdoorsman who is the chairperson and founding member of the Assiniboine Food Forest, believes is accurate. “The reasoning was because the habitat is absolutely ideal for swallows at the Riverbank,” said Barnes.

The Brandon Sun March 24, 2020

Tappers embrace great outdoors

While humanity deals with the intense blow that is the novel coronavirus, Dave Barnes reminds Brandonites that nature isn’t cancelled.  In fact, natural spaces can be the perfect antidote for anyone having a hard time adjusting to the collective’s altered reality. This past weekend saw families and friends observe outdoor social distancing with Barnes, the owner of Treesblood Farm and chairperson of the Assiniboine Food Forest, a 40-acre property owned by the City of Brandon which surrounds his on two sides.  “We are tapping maples,” Barnes said.   Sam Farough, left, Poul Jensen prepare to lift the sap tank onto its platform deck at the sugar shack at Treesblood Farm. 
“We just finished tapping today. We’re ready for sap to flow. Sometime soon it will happen. I don’t believe we’ll get any today. Maybe a little bit tomorrow. I’ll start boiling maybe Thursday, maybe Friday. I’ll be busy in the sugar shack here.” Barnes and his visitors have put out approximately 300 taps. According to the mathematics of the maple grove, he said, every tap, under ideal conditions, can yield one litre of finished syrup. That magic happens in the sugar shack, where Barnes boils the sap until the water evaporates and a sweet and heavenly syrup remains.

The Brandon Sun Feb 22, 2020

Assiniboine Food Forest launching reforestation project

The Assiniboine Food Forest has a new plan to help regenerate the city’s forests while letting people put their name on a tree at the same time.  Called the Legacy Tree Initiative, people can buy a food-producing or leafy tree to commemorate a birth, death, anniversary or any occasion, said food forest chairman Dave Barnes.

CBC Radio "Abandoned Manitoba"  Sep 15, 2019

Gordon Goldsborough's engaging CBC radio column from 2019 explores the honey wagon shed, offering a fascinating perspective on its history. Despite not physically visiting the site, Goldsborough skillfully presents the story based on testimonials from Manitoba Historical Society members. The radio clip, available at, provides an insightful glimpse into this abandoned Manitoba site.

Brandon Sun July 18, 2019

Food Forest dam plan hits snag

The plan to build an earthen dam at the Assiniboine Food Forest hit a snag Monday evening as Brandon City Council voted to keep the property’s conservation agreement in effect.  Dave Barnes, chairman of the food forest, first went to council on June 4 to ask the city to make a declaration in support of water conservation. This would help Barnes get a land-use permit, which is a step in convincing the province to allow a water-retention dam to go up.  The property’s conservation agreement with Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corp. limits the work that can be done on the land and protects the existing plants — even if they are invasive.

Brandon Sun June 8, 2019

Food forest pond could create biodiversity “explosion”

 Assiniboine Food Forest, located at the eastern end of Rosser Avenue. (Drew May/The Brandon Sun). All the water currently drains into the ...

Westman Journal June 8, 2017

Dana's Garden set to bloom in Wheat City

If you were to step foot in the East End Community Centre in the past several years, there's a good chance you'd either hear the name Dana Austin uttered somewhere in the building or you'd find the longtime community volunteer there herself, helping in any way she can. After so many years of dedicated community service to the east end in a variety of different aspects, that same community has decided to honor her with a butterfly garden — a dream of hers to quite some time. The community garden was a project that was started by her and friend David Barnes, chair and founding member of the Assiniboine Food Forest, a local regeneration and conservation charity organization, a couple of years ago.

Manitoba Co-operator May 3, 2017

Community group looks to merge food production and conservation

For Dave Barnes, chair and founding member of the Assiniboine Food Forest Initiative, it all started with a desire to protect the stands of oak, ash and maple along the banks of the Assiniboine River east of Brandon.  “I saw threats to landscape everywhere,” he said. “I saw these ancient oak trees. I know they’re older than Brandon and I thought it would be so sweet if we could have protection for them.”. March 31, 2017

Maple Syrup Tours in Brandon

Did you know maple syrup is tapped on trees right here in Brandon at our own Assiniboine Food Forest and sold locally? Come spend an afternoon with us and learn hands on how this is done. What a unique way to unplug with your family, get outside and spend a day reconnecting with nature. Tours start with an expert “Dave style” education, maple water and syrup tastings, and end with a roaring warm bonfire.

Brandon Sun June 22, 2016

Wetland habitat study stops in Brandon

Assiniboine Food Forest is one of a new breed of conservation organizations ... The site of the dam and NPS wetland feasibility study are a highlight of the ...

Brandon Sun Oct 16, 2015

Suzuki’s ‘Get Out the Vote’ will benefit Assiniboine Food Forest

Environmental activist David Suzuki will encourage Brandon voters to “Get Out the Vote” tonight.  Suzuki will take the stage at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium at 7 p.m.  “‘Get Out the Vote!’ is Suzuki’s call to Manitoba citizens to get active locally, encourage all to vote, and insist that politicians pay attention to the critical issues of our time,” states the show description.  Brandon-Souris candidates have been invited to give brief presentations. Tickets are $15, with proceeds going to support Brandon’s Assiniboine Food Forest Incorporated (AFFI).  David Barnes spearheaded the Assiniboine Food Forest, which includes 10 acres of oak woods and another 30 acres of land on which the organization plans to recreate a natural habitat on what is now a cleared field.  “We want to gently and with permaculture techniques, reconstitute that into a thriving ecosystem once again,” Barnes said, adding they will also weave in fruit and nut-bearing trees.

Assiniboine Food Forest received unanimous support from city council in 2013, and was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation under the Corporations Act of Canada last year. Now it has a board of directors and continues to work with the city, as it has a five-year lease on the land.

The Manitoba Woodlot March 4, 2015

Woodland foods the focus of rural and urban land use

“I look at food security through an urban lens,” said Wiebe, who sits on the board of the Assiniboine Food Forest Incorporated. “We are looking at permaculture, edible landscaping, and food production for the community.” The Assiniboine Food Forest is a 40­acre plot on the east side of Brandon that was donated by the City of Brandon. A charitable corporation, AFFI was formed in 2014 and is run by a volunteer ­based group of nearly a dozen community members. The objective is to develop an “educational food forest”, which includes rehabilitating the existing forest, incorporating the planting of fruit trees, and developing garden plots. Wiebe said the Assiniboine Food Forest is the city’s first protected space, and they are already looking at acquiring more land.

Brandon Sun May 10, 2014

Council Updates: Barnes provides Assiniboine Food Forest update

Council received a presentation from local resident and environmentalist David Barnes on the Assiniboine Food Forest, a newly formed charitable....

bottom of page