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Paulatuk gets community greenhouse
Structure to house 10 raised garden beds

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Friday, July 17, 2015

Peter Green grew Paulatuk's first head of lettuce in the mid 1980s using some plastic sheeting and a lean-to propped up against the community's mission house.

NNSL photo/graphic

Paulatuk elder Peter Green looks over some of the plants destined for the community greenhouse on May 15. Green, who grew the first lettuce in Paulatuk in the 1980s, is now taking care of the plants while the community's new greenhouse is being constructed. - photo courtesy of Eugene Rees

While lettuce thrived in his makeshift greenhouse, other vegetables he tried to grow didn't fare as well.

"I grew some nice lettuce there," he said. "The other stuff like turnips and cabbage didn't pan out too good. When you grow things you need heat, you need warmth. I didn't have that."

Thirty-five year's after the community saw its inaugural horticultural project, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is aiming to provide those missing ingredients by building a solar-powered, stainless steel greenhouse in Paulatuk this year, said Eugene Rees, the Beaufort Delta's economic development officer.

The project, part of the territorial government's Small Scale Foods Program, is constructing greenhouses in each community in the Beaufort Delta. Paulatuk's greenhouse will be 24 by 30 feet long and will feature approximately 10 raised garden beds. Each plot will be tended by whoever wants to try and make something grow.

"You go in there and you care for it as if it were your own," said Rees.

Materials were delivered to the community last fall and included the greenhouse, lights, about 6,000 pounds of soil, 2,000 pounds of manure for fertilizer, lumber to build the raised garden beds and a solar power generation system.

The greenhouses are covered in a special fabric made to withstand severe weather, Rees said, adding he will return to communities at the end of the growing season to help install the solar power systems. While someone in each community will need to keep batteries indoors over the winter, the batteries will be brought back into the greenhouse in early spring and provide power to small heaters. The heaters will bring the temperature up to about 4 C so gardeners can get started, then the heater will maintain the greenhouse's temperature between 7 and 10 C throughout the growing season, Rees said.

Each greenhouse is also equipped with a 200 gallon, gravity flow water tank, which each community has committed to keeping filled, Rees added.

A gas-powered water pump was provided for gardeners who prefer to get water directly from their community's water source, such as a lake.

Students becoming teachers

Rees and two of the department's summer students participated in the Northern Farm Training Institute's High Arctic workshop in Hay River earlier this year.

The workshop helped prepare the team for the growing conditions in communities such as Paulatuk, Rees said.

They will now pass that knowledge along to anyone in the Beaufort Delta looking to start growing their own food, and if people have questions, Rees is just an e-mail away.

"With today's wonderful technology, they just take a picture, share it with me and I can say, 'Your carrots are planted too close together,'" he said.

Rees and his team are planning to participate in another NFTI workshop in the fall, which will teach the best ways to preserve produce.

By the end of this year's growing season, gardeners in Paulatuk will have an idea of the greenhouse's potential, Rees said.

"I would love this winter for people to call me and say, 'Eugene that greenhouse is a wonderful thing but it's not big enough,'" he said. "If that were to happen, I would be just ecstatic."

Green said he hopes the new greenhouse will help him grow the vegetables his original structure couldn't, such as turnips and cabbage.

"Nature can only go so far and then we have to help it along," he said.

The greenhouse was scheduled to be constructed the week of July 22.

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