A new business hopes to help Timmins area residents improve their own health and also that of their land.
Jennifer Nobel launched Northbound Bloom this spring. She describes the business as an ecological land design service focused on the creation of gardens with a purpose.
“It’s ecological land design. And that can encompass many different things. In short, it helps people create resilient yards, land or outdoor spaces,” Nobel said. “That can look like a couple of raised beds in someone’s backyard if they want to grow their own food. That creates resilience in food security, not being dependant on big box stores.
“It could be a multi-acre project, a farm or a homestead or a hobby piece of land where someone wants to create resilience in a way that is reduced to the risk of fire, flood or harvesting rainwater where it falls so they don’t have a lot of runoff water. It can encompass many different things. But so far it has been mostly food based and helping people to grow food in their backyards or front yards.”
Something as simple a proper gardening can benefit the land, not just the gardeners.
“It’s about improving your personal health, but also the ecosystem around it,” she said. “It is planting native species, pollinator species, species that want to grow in this region. We’re right on the cusp of the Boreal forest, we have so many cool native species that we can be planting here that people are not necessarily planting. Sometimes we just buy plants that we see at the grocery story or at Walmart, but they are not necessarily tailored to this region.
“By planting those (native) species you can get a lot of beneficial insects, birds, the right types of worms in your area to really improve the health of the soil and the surrounding ecosystems.”
Nobel said many of her clients want to grow food to ensure it is not genetically modified and know the supply is healthy and secure.
“(There are) outbreaks of E. coli and store call backs on food, where you’re not always sure if the food you are buying is safe,” she said. “Even if you’re buying organic these days, you need to do your research and find out is it actually pesticide free, is it actually chemically free. If you don’t want to have these concerns, growing it yourself eliminates that completely.
“Depending on how big your yard is and how much you want to grow, you can easily cut your grocery bill in half if you are willing to put that effort in. One of the reasons I came to this business was for personal health. I have a lot of digestive issues. The only relief I found from that was eating locally grown organic food.”
Recently, she also began working with the Black River Co-operative and the Black River Foraging Co. on creating passive solar greenhouses to enhance local food production year round. The project is a great fit for Nobel.
“My background is actually in architecture. I was working in interior design after my degree, while I was living in Montreal. When I moved to Timmins two years ago, it was a break from what I was doing,” she explained. “I wanted to find a topic that was more fulfilling than just sitting in an office all day. I founded Northbound Bloom ecological land design.
“The passive solar greenhouse design is a cool marriage of my background in architecture and my passion for local nutrient dense foods. I have undergone more training over the past couple years, including how to design and build passive solar greenhouses. The co-operative in Matheson is starting to build a co-op farm. They wanted the food security. They wanted to be able to grow food in all four seasons without pumping out great energy bills.
“We can actually design a greenhouse in such a way that we harvest energy from the sun to heat the space 30 degrees warmer than it is outside by orienting and designing the right thermal masses in the space. We just started collaborating on the project. They are hoping to have it ready and planted by the fall.”
This energy-saving, ecologically friendly technology can be easily transferred to individual clients in Timmins.
“If there is a lot of interest in passive solar greenhouses, that might be the direction I take the business,” Nobel said. “The size of greenhouse they (Black River) are doing is for a farm. But there is no reason people can’t build a small 100-square-foot greenhouse in their backyard to supplement by growing kale, or lettuce or Swiss chard all through the winter.”
She is also involved with Anti-Hunger Coalition Timmins and is on the organization’s community gardens committee.
While the concept of ecological land design may be new to many, it has actually been around for many generations.
“It is important to recognize that a lot of the knowledge we are implementing is traditional knowledge,” Nobel said. “It is a lot of information and a way of living that our indigenous communities have been living their entire lives. Although it is new to many of us, it’s not a new concept in the world. We’re finding ways to adopt it in our modern ways of living.”