North

Small N.W.T. community wants to grow all its own veggies by 2020

A greenhouse will be installed next summer and will cost roughly $400,000. The project manager says it will help reduce the cost of living.

Fort Good Hope could cut produce costs with $400K greenhouse, says project manager

A file photo of vegetables. Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., is three years into a pilot project that's been looking into whether the community is able to grow and harvest its own produce. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

The N.W.T. community of Fort Good Hope plans to be completely self-sufficient by growing and harvesting all its own vegetables by 2020, said a project manager with the local agricultural project.

A 600-square-metre greenhouse will be installed next summer and will cost roughly $400,000. According to the project manager, Rares Ungureanu, the funding comes from the community and from the federal and territorial governments.

Ungureanu said this greenhouse will lower the costs of vegetables for residents and give the community better nutritional options.

If it sits more than 10 days on the shelves, its nutritional value is garbage.- Rares Ungureanu

"We will produce all of the [vegetables] over there and we can store most of the potatoes and beets and carrots over the winter," he said.

"[Residents] are going to have access to much better-quality food, which is organic, and they're going to have access all year round and for bottom-price dollar."

Fort Good Hope is three years into a pilot project that has been looking into whether community members would be able to grow and harvest their own own produce. Ungureanu said after studying permafrost and topsoil production in the area, it was determined it was possible.

The community of Fort Good Hope already has a community garden. By next year, they hope to have a greenhouse. (Fort Good Hope Community Garden/Facebook)

Ungureanu said the greenhouse would drastically change the quality of food, compared to what residents currently get in stores.

"Technically, it's expensive garbage," said Ungureanu. "If it sits more than 10 days on the shelves, its nutritional value is garbage."

He added, "It takes about three to four weeks for a vegetable, from when it's harvested, to reach the shelves of Fort Good Hope, and by that time it's rotten and has no nutritional value."

Food prices 'not affordable' in region

In 2015, the N.W.T. Bureau of Statistics released the average prices of food across major communities in each region.

In Fort Good Hope, the average cost of a 750-gram bag of mixed vegetables was roughly $5.60, the second-highest price tag in the Sahtu region. The same bag costs about $3.60 in Yellowknife.

It's not affordable. Any product at the local stores is highly expensive.- Anne Jackson

Resident Anne Jackson, 37, says food prices are too expensive in the community of about 500 people.

"It's not affordable. Any product at the local stores is highly expensive," said Jackson.

"When you don't have full-time employment and with the cost of living, balancing with food, it sets you back."

The community of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., has a population of about 500 people. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Jackson said decades ago, the community used to harvest its own food. She thinks the greenhouse could allow people to get involved again.

In May, the federal government announced it was investing $5.6 million in agriculture throughout the territory, of which about $50,000 went to the Fort Good Hope project, according to Ungureanu. He said funding also came from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) and the N.W.T. Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod could not be reached for comment on Monday.