Guided by Our Vision
Guided by the strategic directions for each of our mission streams, there are many projects underway at the Assiniboine Food Forest, with others being worked toward through advocacy and fundraising.
We also work with our neighbours to build and maintain accessible and sustainable trail systems for minimal-impact recreation in a thriving natural setting.
Our trails are dog-friendly, but we do ask that doggos please be leashed for the safety of all.
Habitat: Preserve & Regenerate
Food: Produce Sustainably
Education: Nature's Classroom
Dana's Garden: Prairie Restorations
Each fall we harvest wild flower seed locally to be stratified over the winter months. In the spring, the seed is sown in beds for future transplanting.
The long term goal is to establish thriving native wild flower gardens to sustain pollinators all over the AFFI landscape. Our first effort, Dana's Garden, will be getting a makeover in 2020 ... come check it out!
Treesblood Farm: Maple Syrup Tours
Visit Brandon’s only working sugar shack, go on a guided tour of the sugar bush, and learn first‑hand how this traditional Canadian delicacy is produced! Dave Barnes, Chair of AFFI's Board of Governors, is also a syrup maker with roots in Quebec, where he learned his craft. Every April, the big woods at AFFI come alive with visitors celebrating this most Canadian of all traditions ... come with the entire family and join the fun!
Following a one‑hour tour, participants are welcome to stay and roast hotdogs around the bonfire or enjoy pancakes with fresh‑made Treesblood Farm maple syrup. Pre‑book for this tour in March by keeping up
with the Food Forest online!
Nesting Boxes: Habitat Provision
Over the years, numerous partners have joined in the effort to create safe nesting spaces for songbirds, water fowl, and other wildlife at the Food Forest.
Most recently, in the spring of 2019, we partnered with Betty Gibson Wild student club to build and assemble 12 nest boxes for bluebirds and tree swallows. Each was signed and decorated with the names of its builders. The students later attended the Food Forest to install the boxes around the Legacy Orchard fence.
To our great satisfaction, every nest box was utilized by native birds during the summer - including Tree Swallows, Eastern Bluebirds, and House Wrens. The Bluebirds actually raised two broods, and then spent most of August and early September loafing around the orchard, teaching their offspring to forage and self-sustain.
Fun Fact: An orchard is preferred territory for this species, who love to forage in short grass for grasshoppers and other insects.
Tree Tubing: Forest Production
In September 2019, a crew of volunteers staked vented tree tubes around 120 young saplings along the riverside trail. These tubes will protect the young trees so that they can mature for future generations to enjoy! We covered maple, ash, elm, a few precious oak, willow, and even a single cherry tree! Tree tubes are British technology, field tested for decades in environments where predators are absent and deer abound. We are pumped to watch a new maple bush grow at AFFI where deer have kept everything pruned low for many years.
UPCOMING HABITAT PROJECT
The Red-sided Garter Snake is Manitoba's most common snake, and it appears to have a stable population at AFFI. This snake has suffered great habitat loss over much of the province due to gravel mining, pesticide use, road construction, snake harvesting, and wetland drainage. Ideal summer feeding habitat includes large undisturbed areas, ample ground cover, moist conditions, and an abundance of prey such as amphibians and invertebrates. Garter snakes seek underground dens to overwinter, often in spectacular numbers. In conjunction with Brandon University, we are planning to construct a hibernaculum for local snakes, essentially a large underground chamber below the frost line, where snakes can hibernate safely. Although the project is still in early stages, watch for further announcements in 2020!
The Leafy Spurge: A Battle of Wits
In 2016, AFFI joined forces with Mae Elsinger of Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, to launch a stewardship program of a widespread leafy spurge infestation that had been neglected up to that point. In 2019, after four summers of work to manage the population by introducing leafy spurge beetles, we are proud to say that this project has not only had remarkable success in eliminating/reducing the presence of leafy spurge, but it has also generated new discussion in the local scientific community, and spawned similar projects in other nearby green spaces!
There is sure to be an ongoing effort to manage and control this invasive weed species at AFFI, but we are elated with the success of our efforts thus far!
A heartfelt and sincere thanks goes out to Mae Elsinger, Rangeland Biologist with Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada. Mae spearheaded the work, and her methodology on our spurge has had such amazing success that her report based on the project opens up new questions to the local scientific community about why it was so successful. Spurge beetles have never been known to hit a spurge infestation so hard! They certainly make a difference but pasture managers do not expect them to outright eliminate or have a major effect. Beetle release efforts are often combined with intensive grazing by sheep/goats (who love to nosh on the plant)... still no one expects to wipe it right out! At nearby Sprucewoods Provincial Park, 20-30 years after beetle release, and without the assistance of grazing sheep/goats, the effects are still quite subtle. Mae's work at AFFI is nothing short of spectacular!
During the warmer months, afternoons and earling evening are often spent foraging wild plants at AFFI... What do we forage? ... We regularly harvest wild Nettle, Bur Oak Acorns, Saskatoons, Rosehips, Burdock Root, Dandelion, Wild Licorice, Motherwort, and a variety of wild mushrooms - to name a few!
Every spring, AFFI volunteers assemble organic materials, including: hardwood chips from local arborists, oak forest leaf litter from our own woods, straw from Crocusview Farms, and chicken manure from Treesblood Farm, to create a community thermophilic compost heap. Thermophilic compost cooks hot and fast, and often needs regular turning in early stages, so it is labour-intensive. But the result is medicinal-quality fungal compost for all gardening and transplanting needs. Join us next year, and take home your own bucket of this superb compost for your own growing projects.
Community groups of all kinds
book interpretive tours and activities at AFFI. Tours sometimes start at Crow's General Store, where parking is plentiful, and proceed along our Self-Guiding Nature Trail loop. Groups may gather round the bonfire under the ancient oaks to share a meal or a sacred circle in a unique and beautiful setting. Your family can choose to celebrate a special day by booking their own private tour. No matter what your group's age level or purpose, AFFI has enough beautiful natural landscape to make you feel at home as you make connections. Our interpreters will help you to see the world through new eyes. Don't miss our seasonal delights ... astronomy under dark skies in winter, maple syrup season in spring, and permaculture, orchard, and tree planting work in summer. Book a tour for your group today!
Reinforce Classroom Learning
AFFI is the ideal outdoor classroom, where students can apply their knowledge in the field and learn to appreciate local nature while they learn! We welcome students of all ages (pre-school through post-secondary) and will custom-tailor our offerings to your needs. Homeschooling? Join the groups that regularly visit the food forest ... we have everything in one place! Field trip season? Book your outdoor experience well in advance, as teachers are now signing up every year for our popular field trip/nature walks. Dreaming of a class project? Contact us for guidance and space to practise your craft. Students leave the food forest with great memories of a day spent in thriving nature!
AFFI supports community education by hosting several annual events such as Winter Nature Walks with Dave at AFFI, Maple Syrup Tours and Seedy Saturday in the spring, and various workshops throughout the entire year.
We also partner with or host other local organizations for collaborative events based on cultural, agricultural, and artistic themes. At AFFI there's always something exciting going on!
Learn more about
This page is currently under construction, and is being developed as a resource to learn more about the nitty-gritty details of projects that occur on site, educational information about the ecosystem of the AFFI parcel, and general information about wild and plant life present here.
Stay tuned for the launch of this page.
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.
Printed copies of our Interpretative Brochures for Self Guided Trail Tours are available at Crow's General Store in the Parlour. Please be sure to return them to the Old Crow's Nest when you are done!
Or download a PDF copy here.
1. Treesblood Pond & Rapids
2. Cathedral Grove
3. 'Honeywagon' Shed
4. Faces of the Trees
5. Ancient Oaks Loop
6. Ancestor Tree
7. Pond & Wetland Regeneration
8. Spurge & Saskatoons
DG. Dana's Garden
L.O. Legacy Orchard
9. Railway Sugar Bush
10. Treesblood Spring
There are also plans to develop a south boundary trail in 2020!
A Canada 150 Project
In 2017 AFFI received a $4 000 grant from the Brandon & Area Community Foundation (BACF) to create a Community Orchard. Further to that, BACF suggested we apply to the Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) for matching funding that was available for Canada's sesquicentennial (150th birthday). Again, success! We launched the Legacy Orchard project in October 2017 with a Reconciliation ceremony and community planting that was attended by over 100 people ... and the fruits of that work will soon be available for harvest!
A major feature of the orchard is the perimeter deer fence, a huge investment in time and labour, that allows our plants to grow and thrive without deer browse. AFFI's deer are so numerous, and so at ease, that they browse every young tree they can access in winter, when grass is unavailable. Without a fence, we could never have an orchard at all.
The Legacy Orchard is a keystone of our food security plans; its yields will be available to AFFI members, food security organizations, and the general public free-of-charge. The orchard will also act as a protected nursery where we can stage young seedling trees before later moving them out onto the wider project. We currently have the following fruit trees and shrubs established in semi-permanent rows: apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, and grapes. But there is still lots of room for more, so we will also plant small fruits such as raspberries, haskap, saskatoons, and others. In fact, the orchard is just awaiting volunteers with experience and vision to carry the plantings forward into a rich community resource for future generations. Want to get involved? Join us and bring your ideas for food security into fruition in this amazing space.
Water Conservation & Wetland Restoration
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!