Dr. Thomas Piggott is the Regional Medical Officer of Health for Labrador Grenfell Health. He is an avid gardener and agriculture enthusiast living in Goose Bay.
A New Beginning
Coming from a farming background on his father’s side, agriculture has always been a part of Dr. Thomas Piggott’s life. His great-grandfather lived on a farm, as did his grandfather. While his grandfather went on to pursue a university education, he still made sure the family connection to farming was passed onto his son, and, eventually, to Thomas.
When Thomas and his growing family moved from Ontario to Happy Valley-Goose Bay about a year ago, they were fortunate to find a home with a garden. Wanting to do the space justice, he decided to take up gardening, which had the added benefit of allowing him to spend the short summer out in the sun. Last year, they grew a wonderful crop of carrots, potatoes, and a variety of leafy greens! They grew arugula and radishes, which they bottled and pickled, and acquired a few chickens, which, as Thomas says, “has been a really fun part of our backyard ecosystem.” This summer, he has expanded his garden to grow other plants like herbs, garlic, and strawberries.
Thomas’ beautiful box of mixed salad greens
Thomas rotates his crops to maximize nutritional value in the soil. For example, in the place where he grew some of his leafy greens last year, he now grows potatoes. Thomas believes that gardening, and growing your food is a long journey, and a learning experience: “You pick up tips and tricks from all kinds of different people. You can read about things in a book, but local knowledge, especially in central Labrador, is invaluable.”
To get ahead of Labrador’s short growing season, Thomas starts his seedlings inside using grow lights. This year he planted his seeds in late February/early March, and transitioned them into his greenhouse when the snow was low enough to shovel. He installed a heater in the greenhouse to keep the plants warm, and transplanted them to the outside garden in early Spring. Although this had its risks, Thomas diligently watched the weather forecast until he thought it was warm enough for the plants to survive.
Garlic, rhubarb, a variety of spices and strawberries!
As the Regional Medical Officer, Thomas views self-sustainability and food security, such as gardening, an incredibly important part of one’s health, and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases from transport. Thomas also believes that when you grow your own food, or buy food that is sourced locally, there is a much deeper connection and appreciation for what you eat: “If I spent the last 12 weeks growing kale, I’ll sit down to that kale salad and appreciate it, instead of buying it at the store and just inhaling it.”
Growing your own food is better for long-term health, according to Thomas, and can help prevent chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancers, which are strongly linked to diet. He goes on to suggest that more local food self-sufficiency by way of gardening or purchasing produce from local farmers, could go a long way to combat the high rates of chronic illnesses in Labrador.
Thomas and his daughter Georgia picking radishes!
Green lettuce, spinach, onions, parsnip, radishes and corn! With marigolds at the end for pest control.