Ottawa·Updated

Farmer working to fly potatoes to Iqaluit soup kitchen

Ottawa farmer Mike Milsom wants to send 900 kilograms of potatoes to a food centre in Iqaluit and is getting some help from First Air.

Need for food punctuated by major fire

Crates of organic potatoes in Michael Milsom's garage are ready to be shipped north. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

When Ottawa organic farmer Michael Milsom saw the images of flames engulfing Iqaluit's largest grocery store, he thought the Arctic community would need help to replace the lost food before a bitter winter set in.

Milsom, who operates Mike's Garden Harvest on River Road, called a community food centre and asked if they could used a shipment of recently harvested potatoes. 

"I said if you want them, I can give them to you. The only hurdle is the cost of flying them up," Milsom said.

Milsom surveys his potato fields at his organic farm. (Toni Choueiri/CBC)

The Qajuqturvik Food Centre said yes right away. 

"Even without this crisis, the community is always struggling to get fresh produce," said executive chef Michael Lockley, who is already thinking up menu items.

Farmer Mike Milsom of Garden Harvest is sending roughly 900 kilograms of field potatoes to Iqaluit's Qajuqturvik Food Centre. 0:57

Now Milsom and volunteers are washing, sorting and bagging roughly 900 kilograms of field potatoes with the intention of sending them north as soon as possible. 

Milsom estimated the potatoes are worth $2,000 and the cost of shipping them north on First Air will be $6,000, but on Tuesday the airline said they would waive the cost.   

Organic potatoes, sorted and ready to be bagged. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

"We understand the amount of work and effort that went into preparing this shipment," said the airline's spokesperson Dan Valin in an email. 

"Although it's not something we can always do, we definitely want to be doing what we can to help the community of Iqaluit." 

Before the airline stepped up, Milsom's longtime customer David Davison launched a GoFundMe campaign to help defray the costs of delivering the potatoes.

He said he's inspired by Milsom's actions.

"He's out there working the fields, he has noble aspirations to make life better for people in the north." said Davison.

"He's willing to put in the sweat to make those ideas happen."