Living Rural Communities and Environments
Since it began in 2004, the Harvest Moon Learning Centre has hosted the Living Rural Communities and Environments for 10 days every August. This University of Manitoba course, offered by of the Department of Environment and Geography, is taught by Stephane McLachlan with help from local farmers, traditional food experts and community leaders.
The course examines the relationship between food production, rural culture, and the environment. Students visit multiple farms for an up-close experience with their food system and a comparative look at different approaches to agriculture. Talking with local business owners and entrepreneurs, students are given a unique perspective how rural communities like Clearwater are reinventing themselves.
The course combines lectures and field visits, with the unique hands-on projects that have a meaningful impact on Clearwater and the Harvest Moon Learning Centre. Evening sessions are full of opportunities to learn new skills, such as canning and bread-making taught by local Clearwater residents.
The rural immersion experience of living in a town with a population of 70 gives students time to develop bonds with community members. Some of these friendships have lasted more than a decade.
The Harvest Moon Society collaborates with the Department of Architecture at the University of Manitoba to offer undergraduate- and graduate-level architecture design studios in Clearwater, MB. For decades, farming communities throughout Canada have been steadily depopulating in the wake of industrialize agriculture. As a result, an abundance of abandoned buildings have been left behind. These are most often left to decompose in the weather, or burned before they are buried or sent to a landfill.
University of Manitoba architecture professor, Lancelot Coar, realized the hidden potential to recover reusable materials from these buildings and give them new life. Working with the residents of Clearwater, he and his students reshaped the materials to meet the contemporary need of the community.
With the help of Harvest Moon Society volunteers and residents of Clearwater the architecture students deconstructed the 106 year-old one-room Crystal River schoolhouse that had been abandoned for over 50 years (2007). The material from this building proved to be valuable ‘old growth’ lumber, rich in colour, strength and sizes. This lumber was repurposed for a thirty-foot long pedestrian bridge and a lookout platform on the Lessons From the Land Interpretive Trail (2008).
Architecture studios have also deconstructed a century-old barn (2008) and reused the materials to enhance other public spaces in Clearwater. A screened-in dining porch, that doubles as stage during the Harvest Moon Festival, was added to the Clearwater Junction restaurant (2009). While, the three Clearwater Cabins offer multi-use sleeping, teaching and artist space (2013-2014).
These projects were supported by Manitoba Conservation’s Waste Reduction and Pollution Prevention fund.