Startup landscape designer honours Indigenous perspectives

For many years Heather Morigeau worked as a fine jewelry designer, until the 2015 gold mine waste spill that contaminated the Animas River in the Navajo Nation.

Appalled, Morigeau left the industry with the intent to start her own landscaping business to affect positive change on the environment inspired by her Indigenous roots. Foodscape is set to launch later this year following Morigeau’s graduation from the first Thrive Incubator cohort.

“Landscaping, especially in cities, has great potential for healing a lot of the earth’s problems, such as climate change and soil erosion.”

A woman of proud Metis heritage, Morigeau uses Indigenous values of protecting the earth to influence her business. She also wants to use her business as a tool for reconciliation by catering to Indigenous wellness practices, such as installing sacred medicine gardens at schools and hospitals to allow Indigenous peoples the opportunity to conduct healing prayers and smudging when needed. A practice that was illegal in Canada until 1982.

Residential landscape design will also be getting the Foodscape treatment. As Morigeau explains, grass lawns are a very colonial practice – having begun as a symbol of wealth in Europe – and serve no discernible purpose beyond aesthetics.

“We terraform yards into more natural ecosystems that are less labour-intensive to maintain,” she says. “I want people to think that they don’t have to mow their lawn every weekend and instead go outside and pick some fresh berries and vegetables from the yard we built.”

As a social enterprise, Foodscape will hire individuals who face barriers to employment, such as those recovering from addiction and mental health issues, to work on its projects. Morigeau intends this line of work to be like therapy for those that need it and is partnering with Freedom’s Path Recovery Society to provide meaningful work to its clients.

Foodscape will also operate as a solidarity cooperative, meaning that the employees take home the profits from a project rather than the owners, and all clients get a share of the company through their membership in the cooperative.

“It’s about sharing the wealth rather than keeping it all to myself,” Morigeau explains.

As she builds her business, Morigeau is looking forward to building a community of problem-solvers while finding new opportunities to be of service to her staff and clients.

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