Louise Willow May
It’s been a great pleasure to work for Telpay Inc. on Winnipeg’s Million Tree Challenge this spring. Amidst pandemic fear, nothing beats the hopeful act of planting a tree. Our original plans for a big spring event planting at Elzéar Goulet Park and participating in many Manitoba 150 events, like all aspects of 2020, took a sharp turn and needed to be re-organized.
Instead, I thought, why not work with the fact that people are at home and see if they would like to plant trees in their own backyard? We sent out a message offering trees to our staff, customers and community groups where we have connections. Within 24 hours, we had requests for over 2,000 trees. Over the following days, requests kept flowing in. It’s been a great way to reconnect with the local business community, while we all get back onto our feet.
One of my best connections through this project was with Rodney Sidloski of Help International Shelterbelt Organization in Weyburn, Saskatchewan who has developed and patented a method of starting new trees from cuttings and floating them in dugouts. They can even overwinter in the dugouts and grow out for several years with minimal maintenance, which makes them very economical to produce. I was able to take a driving day there to see his research centre and to pick up 5,000 trees at $1.25 to $1.50 per tree. I picked up three varieties: Prairie Sky poplar, White spruce and Golden willow. Because of the way they are grown, these trees have a great root system on them and have a high survival rate.
I’ve been thinking about how to achieve the goal of planting a million trees economically and quickly. Help Shelterbelt may be able to offer even lower priced trees at larger quantities. As well, Help maintains a base stock of two million trees. I do hope to be able to prove that we can achieve the goal of one million trees for far less than the predicted $43 million and much quicker than the anticipated 20 years. I’m sure everyone will agree that we need these trees the sooner the better. And with all budgets compromised due to Covid-19, it will be important to have a very economical method to plant these trees.
One of the recipients of the Telpay trees is the Dakota Community Club. They are a Telpay customer. They will be taking 250 trees for their own property as well as distributing 500 of them to community members. If we can arrange for all 63 community clubs to be the pick-up points for trees in the coming years, we would be able to distribute many trees which Winnipeg citizens could then plant in their own residential properties and care for at a small fraction of the cost. By the first week in July, these first 5,000 of the trees will be given away by Telpay for under $7,000.
I personally took up the challenge this spring and rooted up willow and poplar cuttings and have now planted approximately 1,000 trees on my farm on the south edge of the City of Winnipeg in St. Norbert. Aurora Farm is a mixed crop and livestock farm promoting sustainable practices. I’ve now signed up for Help Shelterbelt’s Community Research License for their patent and have started a floating garden on my own dugout at my farm.
We’ve re-scheduled our Elzéar Goulet Park community planting event for September 26 and keeping our fingers crossed that we will still be safe to have that event. Meanwhile, we are working on some other plans with exciting news soon to be released. So stay tuned and get involved with Winnipeg’s One Million Tree Challenge.