Twin Brooks, Edmonton
Yong Fei Guan is an Edmonton artist researching heritage goji berry plants. Yong Fei grew up in Foshan City, Guangdong Province, China, where her family consumed dry goji as a culinary herb and medicine. Ironically, due to the hot and wet climate of Guangdong Province, Fei had never actually seen a fresh goji berry until she moved to Canada 14 years ago.
Native to Northern China, goji require cooler temperatures to thrive and, to Yong Fei’s surprise, are growing throughout Edmonton. Edmonton’s local goji plants have provided a connection to the food and culture with which she grew up. “I was excited to see goji growing in my new home!”
In 2019, Yong Fei contacted Dustin Bajer for help researching the history of Edmonton’s local goji plants. While I was able to propagate goji plants and introduce her to some of the goji growers in my community (McCauley), Fei’s research and cultural knowledge of goji continue to evolve as she works towards a goji inspired art installation.
Yong Fei is still in the early stages of her research project – gathering the history and stories from experienced goji growers. Yong Fei says it’s hard to say what the finished project will look like, but she hopes to create a community art installation to celebrate Edmonton’s Chinese community.
“I want to create some kind of garden with goji sculpture; a welcome space where people will be able to meet or relax. Hopefully a space that can provide inspiration and nutrients for the community.”
Creating Art With Goji
“After graduating from art school in 2014, I began researching environmental issues and climate change; using household waste to create public art installations. I’m trying to send a message to the public that we have a pollution/climate problem and that it’s affecting our way of life and future generations. I have my two little girls and personally suffer from the effects of pollution. How can I reflect these concerns in my art and make my local community more resilient by growing something that can sustain us?”
Yong Fei wants to share the benefits of goji and teaching people how to use and grow it locally.
“The Chinese community in Edmonton is visible in number but is not visible in the history books. People do not know much about our Chinese culture and how they live. There is not a lot of documented history in Edmonton. Many of the stories have not been recorded and the goji is a perfect representation of the Chinese history in Edmonton.”
Yong Fei’s Ask
Yong Fei is looking for a biologist to analyze the goji collected from different individuals across the City. She would like to compare them with each other and with store-bought varieties to learn more about their qualities and how best to use them.
“We want goji to be as common as other introduced fruit bearing plants in the City of Edmonton. They have made their home here and are an important part of our culture.”
Adopt a Heritage Goji Plant
Yong Fei and I have been growing goji from local cuttings and seeds for a goji adoption. Yong Fei is looking for people to adopt her plants to grow them out, hoping that some will return and become part of her community art project. If you would like to adopt a heritage goji pant, please complete the following Google Form.