There is renewed interest in the natural health benefits of herbs wildcrafted from the pristine environment of northern Saskatchewan. Modern medical research is now investigating the effectiveness of traditional and folk uses of boreal plants and now verifying that they are proven to have health benefits.
Whether it’s fireweed and balsam poplar used in skincare, wild mint, yarrow or sweet gale used in food products, or bearberry and wild sarsaparilla for their medicinal properties, boreal forest plants bring natural nutrition and health benefits to consumers while creating a solid economic foundation for small and isolated Indigenous communities.
We are unwavering in our commitment to ensure that the plants we harvest will be available for generations to come. Sustainability of our harvest is paramount. We ensure sustainability through a number of initiatives:
Before we harvest, we provide the Ministry of Environment with data regarding the amount of product we want to harvest, our harvest methods, and the area we will harvest from. Our plan must be approved by the Ministry before we can proceed. Our harvest is monitored, and quantities reported as part of the permit requirements.
We have developed northern harvester training that reaches wilderness safety, plant identification, product handling and care. We work closely with the Herb, Spice and Specialty Agriculture Association of Saskatchewan (HSSA) to provide training and certification to our harvesters. Each year we work with HSSA to provide Good Agriculture Collection Practices (GACP) training and certification in our region.
We formed,and are guided by, an advisory committee of Indigenous northern people to advise us on traditional perspectives regarding harvest of forest plants. The committee includes elders, knowlege keepers from Lac La Ronge Indian Band, Montreal Lake Cree Nation and Sakitawak Metis. The committee makes recommendations and instructs us on harvest, quantities, and methods.
Traceability and Mapping
We record many of our harvest locations using GPS coordinates. We continue to work on plant abundance mapping surveys that will allow us to predict abundance of plants and target harvest areas using that data.