David Ramsay: Success of the Small Scale Foods Program in all Regions

Mr. Speaker, the high cost of living has been identified as a significant concern for Northwest Territories residents.  The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to addressing the many factors that contribute to this challenge, including the high cost of food in many communities.

One of the ways we are doing that is by supporting the production of local food.  I am pleased to report that the Northwest Territories’ agriculture and small-scale foods sector has grown significantly in the last decade.  With renewed interest and commitment toward re-establishing Behchoko’s community garden, I can share that all 33 communities in this territory now have established community gardens or greenhouse projects.  

With the installation of greenhouses in our northern-most communities of Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour and Paulatuk, we have a small-scale food production sector stretching the length and breadth of the NWT. 

The Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories have provided tremendous support and leadership for the expansion and support of this sector.  This sector has also been championed by individuals and organizations committed to diversifying their own food baskets, increasing the availability of locally grown and produced food, and reducing the cost of healthy, freshly-grown food alternatives in their communities.

As we approach the Thanksgiving weekend and the traditional harvest season I would like to highlight some of the success stories.

Mr. Speaker, every Saturday throughout the summer, the Inuvik greenhouse hosted an arctic market that sold fresh, organic produce.  The Inuvik greenhouse was the first community greenhouse in the Beaufort Delta and remains the hub for agriculture above the arctic circle.   

Tsiigehtchic, meanwhile, is one of the fastest growing gardening communities in the Beaufort Delta.  Thirty of this community’s 120 residents are currently growing food in raised garden beds outside of their homes.

Mr. Speaker, thanks in large part to the work and dedication of the Whiteman family, Norman Wells has held the unofficial title as the NWT’s potato capital for a number of years.  This year, however, there is a challenger in the North Slave. 

The community of Whati’s 40-by-70-foot community garden, under the care and guidance of community volunteers like Mr. Jim Stauffer, this summer yielded 1,013 pounds of potatoes.  It was a phenomenal harvest that was shared, in the same collective spirit that it was grown, with more than 50 families and individuals in that community.

In Gameti this spring, a pilot project saw the purchase of 38 chicks for harvesting.  I would like to recognize Mr. Judo Dominicata for his passion and leadership on this project, even housing the chickens in his own home while infrastructure was being completed at the community farm.  Mr. Speaker, healthy fresh chickens are being processed this fall, at approximately half the cost of a frozen chicken in Gameti.  Community residents are looking forward to repeating this project on a larger scale next year and expanding it to include egg-laying chickens.

In August, residents of Fort Simpson enjoyed the second annual arts and crafts workshop and demonstration, and community trade fair, which was hosted by Industry, Tourism and Investment’s Dehcho Regional Office.  This year’s event also included gardening workshops on composting, animal husbandry and soil fertility.

Mr. Speaker, the Fisherman’s Wharf in Hay River, remains a hot spot where residents and visitors can buy fresh northern produce from the likes of Ms. Helen Green and Ms. Jackie Milne.  Jackie, of course is also well-known to northern growers for her work with the Northern Farm Training Institute - envisioned as a vital component for an emerging NWT agriculture sector that will eventually contribute to ‘home-grown’ products displacing the high volume of imported food into the NWT.

 We are currently working with CanNor, the Territorial Farmers’ Association and the Town of Hay River to build a campus for the Institute that, through training, will help to establish agricultural employment in farming, greenhouses and livestock, and related employment in value-added areas. 

Finally, Mr. Speaker, Industry, Tourism and Investment’s North Slave Regional Office hosted an Agricultural Awareness and Planning Workshop earlier this week in Yellowknife. It was an opportunity for government program delivery and resource staff in the North Slave Region to share their experiences, challenges and success, and to add to their skills and knowledge base to support even greater growth in this sector next year.  Furthermore, it afforded us the opportunity to collaborate with the Yellowknife Garden Collective on October 3rd to also share this information and expertise with local gardening enthusiasts in a public event.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy, released in 2013, recognized much of the potential that I am highlighting for Members today.  It identified the NWT agricultural sector as one in which investment, economic growth, employment and income opportunities for NWT residents all exist.

This summer, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment led community engagement visits to inform the development of an Agriculture Strategy that will guide future investments and initiatives in this area.  At the appropriate time this afternoon, I will be tabling a report of what we learned.

This report will further demonstrate that the NWT’s agriculture and small-scale foods sector is growing and thriving, and in a position to be a contributor to the sustainability, health and economic potential of NWT communities.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.