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Thank you, MP McLeod - and thanks for joining us today, everyone.
On first blush, this may seem like an odd time to make an agriculture announcement; especially in the Northwest Territories.
The reality is that by the time the weather warms up and people like you and I start thinking about planting and growing, the folks that make up Canada’s commercial food sector - even here in the NWT - will already be wildly busy.
It is during this “downtime” that agriculture planning is done, seeds are bought, equipment is prepared and investments are made in the upcoming growing season.
It is in this spirit, that we are marking National Agriculture Day – today – by highlighting three key investments that were made during this off-season under the federal Canadian Agriculture Partnership.
Specifically, we were pleased, over the winter months, to support three commercial farm businesses in Hay River by investing in their projects to clear new land, build new greenhouses and storage facilities, and invest in new technologies and equipment.
Riverside Growers continues to respond to market demand by increasing production capacity and improving processing flow. In part thanks to the 188 thousand dollars they received in Major Agriculture Projects Fund investment, Riverside Growers will effectively double their growing space while streamlining their processing and packing lines for greater efficiency. Further, Riverside Growers will also be investing in multi-functional processing equipment to support a broader array of products and provide a new level of value-added support for other local producers.
Utilizing their 111 thousand dollars of funding, Greenwood Gardens is planning a significant expansion of their greenhouse production enabling them to grow more high value crops including tomatoes and cucumbers. The energy efficient greenhouse will allow for an earlier start and extended growing season particularly important for growing frost sensitive vegetables successfully in the north. The greenhouse will also provide an ideal climate for high-quality vegetable seedlings and bedding plant production to service the local and region markets.
And finally - as we’ll hear from directly Mr. Kevin Wallington shortly - Choice North Farms has received a 180 thousand dollar investment and is using these funds to relocate and upgrade their on-site inline grading station to increase quality control, improve operational efficiency and open up new markets in the NWT and hopefully, beyond.
These investments were made thanks to our continued collaboration with the federal Department of Agriculture Canada in the Canadian Agriculture Partnership.
I want to make a point today of recognizing the Government of Canada for its continued support of this partnership. It represents a five year, $5.6 million-dollar funding commitment that is the foundation of our support and investments in the NWT’s agriculture sector.
Since our agriculture strategy was introduced in 2017, the GNWT has invested this funding in planning, training, capacity building, community partnerships and regulatory improvements designed to position the commercial agriculture sector to grow.
The GNWT’s Agriculture Strategy is called: The Business of Food- A Food Production Plan. As you might assume from its title, it is a plan focussed on maximizing the economic potential of our agriculture sector.
Like many things, however, COVID-19 has shed a new lens on agriculture in the North. The pandemic has exacerbated food security concerns in the NWT placing added emphasis on assisting vulnerable populations – and further illuminated the need for regional economic diversification in our territory.
Again, the federal government’s support for food security throughout the pandemic is very much appreciated. Food security is an issue that is foundationally important to the health and wellbeing of the people of the NWT.
While I don’t want to side track today’s announcement, I do feel is it important to say this: the GNWT’s mandate includes a commitment to increase food security through locally produced, harvested, and affordable food.
The growth of our agriculture sector is central to this commitment. Increased local food production can and will support the GNWT’s goal to improve food security across the territory.
I want to end today by saluting those NWT residents from across the entire territory who organize farmers markets, volunteer at community gardens and greenhouses and respond to the unique challenges of growing food in the North.
Most importantly of course on this Canada’s National Agriculture Day, a vote of appreciation to our small and vibrant community of commercial growers and food producers in the NWT who are already planning for the season ahead – and the production of fresh, healthy, safe and more-affordable locally grown food choices.