Forests that feed: Inspiring youth to connect with nature

February 2023 — When most people think of a forest, they picture a large area of land with big, tall trees. But not all forests are the same. There is even one type called a food forest, which can be planted almost anywhere, will teach you about local agriculture and can help enhance your long-term food security. This low-maintenance strategy for food production redefines the typical vegetable garden and can be a legacy left for future generations. 

Last year, more than 200 students at 20 high schools in urban, rural and Indigenous communities throughout Saskatchewan learned how to plan, design and plant a food forest thanks to a youth program called Notice Nature. Coordinated by the North Saskatchewan River Basin Council and sponsored by Cenovus Energy, the program inspires youth to connect with nature through fun learning opportunities, such as planting and gardening.

“The Notice Nature food forest project connects students with each other, their natural environment and their community,” says Alana Gunsch, Watershed Technician, North Saskatchewan River Basin Council. “Students work together to design and plant the forest on school grounds using fruit-bearing trees and shrubs that will be in season when students are in school. When the plants begin to produce this year, members of both the participating schools and local communities will be encouraged to pick and enjoy.”

Unlike a vegetable garden, which is typically planted in rows and consists of fruits and vegetables that need to be replanted each year, a food forest is planted in layers that mimic nature’s patterns with long-lasting trees and plants that grow a wide variety of food year after year. An established food forest will act as a self-sustaining ecosystem and can produce fruit, vegetables, herbs and nuts that regrow each year.

“Supporting Notice Nature demonstrates how Cenovus’s approach to social investment aligns with our environmental, social and governance priorities and our commitment to strengthening the communities where we operate,” says Wafa Kadri, Manager, Social Investment at Cenovus. “The program’s food forest project is not just an exercise in environmental sustainability, it gives students the opportunity to gain new skills while helping keep their communities healthy, safe and resilient.”

Members of the participating communities are looking forward to using the new forests as an outdoor learning space, expanding on the variety of edible plants grown and sampling what they produce. In some schools, the fruit will also be used as ingredients during cooking classes and as part of breakfast programs. 

“When the students were working on their forests, many of them discussed what the forests would look like in 30 years,” says Alana. “Not only will the food forests benefit members of the schools and broader communities today, they’ll also be a source of healthy nutritional food for many years to come.” 

Social investment at Cenovus
Creating positive social impact is integral to how we do business. Learn more about our Social Investment Strategy.
Forests of the future
What happens when we bring together hundreds of tree seedlings and Cenovus environmental professionals? Read the story to find out.

Learn more about Cenovus’s biodiversity ESG targets.

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