North

Northern Farm Training Institute gets $400K to train women, youth to farm

The Northern Farm Training Institute in Hay River, N.W.T., will get hundreds of thousands of dollars to help train northerners to produce their own food.

'For us to be so small and to get the attention at the federal level, takes a lot of patience'

A file photo of a greenhouse at the Northern Farm Training Institute. The non-profit organization received $392,920 in federal funding for its pilot project to train northerners to farm. (Jimmy Thomson/CBC)

The federal government has announced it will invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to help train more northerners to farm. 

The Northern Farm Training Institute in Hay River, N.W.T., will receive about $392,920 from the federal government's Agriculture and Agri-Food Department. The money comes from the government's Northern Diversity in Agriculture Program, which hopes to increase the number of Indigenous-run agriculture businesses, according to a government news release Friday.

"The feeling is like a great sigh of relief. We feel like we've been running the longest marathon I've ever entered," said Jackie Milne, president of the institute. "For us to be so small and to get the attention at the federal level, takes a lot of patience." 

The Northern Farm Training Institute is a non-profit. After receiving $2 million in federal funding  in 2014, it has a 260-acre permanent campus where it trains people in agriculture, and is the largest land-based farm in the territory, according to the news release. 

If we had hundreds of people producing food, that's food security.- Jackie Milne, Northern Farm Training Institute president

"I feel it's proof they're taking our northern food crisis very serious," said Milne. "It is a national concern." 

The money will be specifically used for the institute's pilot project called From-the-Land Food Ambassadors — which aims to train northerners to start their own garden, raise and harvest livestock, and become agriculture mentors in their communities.

Milne said the pilot project — which started this summer — is available to anyone from teens to elders, but is specifically targeting people that may not have easy access to agriculture like women, people with disabilities, and Indigenous people among others. 

Jackie Milne, the institute's president, unloads grain at the Northern Farm Training Institute in 2016. (Jimmy Thomson/CBC)

Milne said the program can be customized and catered to each individual's circumstances and needs.

"Some communities don't have restaurants," explained Milne. "[So] what kind of garden ... would really complement [you] if you wanted to start up a little weekend café?"

"It's like a custom-tailored suit."

"If we had hundreds of people producing food, that's food security," said Milne. "Food security comes when more people know how to produce food — that's what we need."

For people living outside of Hay River, she said there are funds available through the territorial government that can help cover travel costs. Once at the farm institute, she said the accommodations and training will be free.

Milne said people can apply for the pilot project by contacting the institute.

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