Conservation Learning Centre receives $40,000 grant to improve educational and research opportunities

The Saskatchewan Conservation Learning Centre has secured funding for two new cold frames, also known as high tunnels, which will allow the Centre to improve educational opportunities for local students, and provide more food security for local consumers.

The not-for-profit located south of Prince Albert was one of four organizations to receive a $40,000 Peavey Industries Community Agricultural Grant. Learning Centre manager Robin Lokken said it was a surprising, but welcome, development.

“They had a lot of people apply, and I feel like you hear about these big grants that these companies give out and you just wonder, ‘who even wins these? Is it even possible,’ and it is possible,” Lokken said.

More than 200 organizations applied for a Peavey Industries Grant. To qualify, the applicants had to address “vast and varied needs” of communities located anywhere within 300 km of a Peavey Mart, MainStreet Hardware, or ACE store.

Lokken said the two new cold frames will allow the Centre to start the growing season soon, and end it later. The frames function like greenhouses, but without the heat. It won’t allow them to grow produce in the winter, but can protect against things like frost.

“A highlight of our school tours is to (have students) visit our garden that we have on site, but in the spring, there’s not too much growing,” she explained. “By the time the kids can get out in the fall, we might have had an early frost, so there’s not too much to see. Having that cold frame, extending the season of the crops or the fruits and vegetables, will be helpful for (allowing) the kids to have a greater likelihood of seeing the things growing.”

Local students aren’t the only people who will benefit. The Centre typically donates its produce to local foodbanks, and with the additional space and longer growing season created by the cold frames, they’ll have more produce to donate.

Local gardeners will also benefit. Lokken said they hope to turn one of the cold frames into a community garden, although they’re still working out the logistics.

“I’m not sure how willing anyone from Prince Albert will be willing to travel that distance for a community garden spot, but we have a school program, and so I see a lot of the school groups being able to use the facility,” she explained. “Then, we’re also open as well to any other local groups that could use it. The idea is that the research cold frame will support the community one so that we can offer the service for free.”

While education and community support are major components of the Learning Centre’s mission, research plays a big role too. Lokken said their cold frames will help with horticultural trials as the organization searchers for better ways to grow foods like fruit or peppers in a province with fewer frost-free days than most of the planet.

Lokken added that they hope to have the cold frames up and running by spring. They’ve already picked out a Canadian supplier who has assured them the frames are in stock.

The Saskatchewan Conservation Learning Centre is located roughly 18 km south of Prince Albert, just off Hwy 2.

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