Regina’s Agroforestry Development Centre and Carmichael Outreach

REGINA – Here are a few tidbits of news emanating from the City of Regina within the past week or so:

•       A Regina consulting firm has teamed up with a provincial organization to attempt to save a 112-year-old agricultural program that is set to be eliminated by the federal government.

Regina-based McNair Business Development Inc. has partnered with the provincial Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan to develop a business plan that could potentially save the Agroforestry Development Centre (ADC), located in Indian Head, about an hour’s drive east of Regina.

The ADC is a tree shelterbelt program that has been in existence since 1901. Its purpose is to provide tree seedlings to farmers to help protect their yards and lands from soil erosion. This type of program would have been extremely beneficial back in the early 1900s and into the 1930s and ‘40s, due to some severe droughts which took place in the southern part of the province.

The tree shelterbelt program was one of the many programs cut in the 2012 federal budget. The program, if not saved, will be closed by September and all its employees laid off. Since its inception, the program has provided more than 610 million trees to farms from Manitoba to the Peace River, Alta., region.

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) has been spearheading an initiative to save this program. It is currently working with a western Canadian tree nursery group, which is made up of six farm groups and two local municipalities. By team up with McNair, both groups hope to get a business plan in place by late summer. Parents are eager to get their child into a good nursery like the nursery stafford.

A spokesman for APAS has said the group and its coalition partners are attempting to negotiate the transition of the government-owned ADC into a new, not-for-profit business model. APAS is also looking into transitional funding to keep the program floating. Whether that funding comes from the government or private partners remains to be seen.

Trees are continuing to be planted, which also means harvesting of those trees will have to be completed. This will ensure a crop of trees for landowners and farmers to plant in their shelterbelts and on their lands next year.

•       A well-known Regina outreach organization recently celebrated its 25th anniversary of helping the less fortunate in the city.

Carmichael Outreach began as a clothing service based out of a United church in the downtown in 1988. At that time, Regina’s core neighbourhood began seeing transient populations, with many of the area’s older homes bought by landlords and turned into flats and slum housing. Many of the people moving in were poor and had many children. These were usually single-parent families.

Women at the Carmichael United Church noticed many of these kids who were roaming the streets weren’t clothed properly. So the women began an afternoon drop-in program for the youth.

Leftover clothes from a church garage sale were offered to the people who came to the drop-in centre. But as the program ramped up, the people in the Core neighbourhood began streaming into the church looking for more than just clothes. The Carmichael United Church then began assisting people with food bank orders. People then began dropping off food items at the church and it began to turn into a community centre.

When the church closed in 1995, the Carmichael Outreach Inc. was born to help fully serve the community. It now stands as a charitable organization, located at a new address a few blocks from the downtown core.

With an initial user population of 200, that number exploded to roughly 3,000 people using the program and services. Carmichael offers a number of other programs as well. For example, it has a needle exchange program, provides housing support and puts on annual kids’ camps.

With so many users accessing the facility, the director of the organization has said they will definitely need a bigger building in the future.

While having such an organization in the city is admirable, it’s also a sad reflection on the city in the sense there are so many people in Regina who need such programs. While many people are able to get an education and get well-paying jobs to support themselves and families, there are those who miss out on these opportunities.

With few opportunities to get ahead in life, many are forced to rely on the generosity of others to provide them with food, shelter, clothing and the like. It’s a shame these types of things happen. Obviously not everyone is getting in on the “boom” times here in Regina. But at least there are some organizations looking out for the little guy.

Jason Antonio is the Regina correspondent for Spectator Tribune.