Air Ronge company works to find balance for harvesting and selling traditionally used plants
Randy Johns started Boreal Heartland to create jobs for local workers and to share the many uses of plants found in the North.(Holly Giesbrecht)
Randy Johns started Boreal Heartland to create jobs for local workers and to share the many uses of plants found in the North.
“Every stage of the forest and every different kind of forest, there’s different plants and there are uses for all those plants,” Johns said.
This fall, Boreal Heartland, based in Air Ronge, shipped close to 5,000 kilograms of dried fire weed to a company which uses the plant as an ingredient in products like shampoo, skin creams, and sun tan lotion. But a harvest that large isn’t possible with every plant.
“We won’t take on a harvest for anybody unless it’s a sustainable harvest,” Johns said. “By sustainable I mean that the plant is going to grow back. That it’s not going to reduce the population (of the plant).”
Although Boreal Heartland is fairly new, the idea behind it is not. Indigenous people have traditionally used plants medicinally for hundreds of years.
Johns enlists the help of Indigenous knowledge advisors to help strike a balance - marketing these plants while respecting their traditional use.
Though Boreal Heartland products are not marketed as medicinal, Johns does bring in school groups and guided tours to help educate people on the medicinal uses of these plants and how to harvest them sustainably.