Hay River’s Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) says it will be able to build a brand new greenhouse thanks to a donation from a national food company.
Earlier this week, Hellmann’s Canada announced it would be sending $75,000 to NFTI as part of its #MyTomato campaign, which is designed to start a national conversation about the rising costs of fruits and vegetables in grocery stores.
In a statement, the company claims one in five Canadians live in a “food desert” where healthy and affordable food isn’t readily available.
NFTI founder Jackie Milne told Moose FM the donation came as a complete surprise. She says the institute is now in a position to build a brand new, top-of-the-line greenhouse.
“They basically have purchased for us the best quality geodesic dome greenhouse on the market that we’ll be able to build at the site.
“Geodesic domes are really good for our situations in the North because they’re super strong.
“In the winter time, normally, we would have to go out to our greenhouse and knock the snow off but the problem is if it’s -50˚C, pitch black and your skidoo won’t start, you can’t get out to the greenhouse and then it caves in.
“But these types of structures are extremely strong and can endure that and are also very energy efficient.”
Milne says the donation was accompanied by an invitation to this fall’s Canadian Food and Drink Summit in Toronto.
She’s hopeful that will bring some needed exposure to Hay River’s farm-in-the-making and what it’s trying to accomplish.
“The North is so small so if we can get national attention to our food issues, this will be hugely helpful.
“For us to restore our food independence in the North and really restore our food systems it’s really going to be a unique thing.
“It’s going to be lots of people in various regions and communities producing food on small, medium and large scales.
“That isn’t really how we need it to be done south because it’s very easy to have food distributed affordably but not in the North so we have to build a special food system that’s going to help give us greater security.”
Milne is confident such a system is feasible in the territory.
“Young small-scale farmers from half an acre to an acre and a half are grossing $100,000 to $150,000 just in the growing season down south and they are selling their food into a market where the food sells for less.
“The time has come that small-scale efficient, productive food farming is profitable and can be equal to any trade job.
Earlier this year, the institute finalized a land agreement with the Town of Hay River giving it access to up to 200 acres of land.
Milne says the site is currently being cleaned and preparations are already being made to bring in greenhouses and other farming apparatuses.