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Three agricultural projects share in $400,000 government funding

Kevin Wallington, who works on business development with Choice North Farms/Polar Egg and also serves as chairman of the Territorial Agrifood Association, welcomed the Feb. 23 announcement of more than $400,000 in government funding for three agricultural projects in Hay River. NNSL file photo

The federal government and the GNWT have announced more than $400,000 in funding for three agricultural projects in Hay River.

The recipients are Riverside Growers ($118,642), Greenwood Gardens ($111,174) and Choice North Farms ($180,000).

The funding, under the Canadian Agriculture Partnership, was announced virtually on Feb. 23 — Canada's Agriculture Day — by Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod and territorial Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Caroline Wawzonek.

This is the first time in the NWT that government funding has been made available under the partnership specifically for commercial growers, and to support large-scale development on established and growing farms.

"Local food producers in the Northwest Territories play an important role in establishing a resilient food supply for their communities," said McLeod on Feb. 23 from his home in Fort Providence. "The funding announced today will help these growers scale up production to bring more of their safe, nutritious foods to grocery store shelves and kitchen tables across the territory."

McLeod was representing Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

Wawzonek also noted the importance of the funding.

"When the Government of the Northwest Territories introduced its first agriculture strategy in 2017, we noted that, to increase the production of fresh, healthy, safe and affordable locally-grown food, we must first establish a commercial food-growing industry," she said.

Wawzonek said the three commercial farming businesses in Hay River will invest in projects to clear new land, build new greenhouses and storage facilities, and invest in new technologies and equipment.

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments to strengthen the agriculture and agri-food sector.

Funding recipients are required to contribute a minimum cash equity of 10 per cent.

Nine applications — six from the South Slave, two from the North Slave and one from the Dehcho — were accepted and reviewed for possible funding under the Agriculture Major Projects Fund.

Riverside Growers is increasing production capacity and improving processing flow. Through the Agriculture Major Projects Fund, it will effectively double its growing space while streamlining processing and packing lines for greater efficiency. Riverside Growers is also investing in multifunctional processing equipment to support a broader array of products, and provide a new level of value-added support for other local producers.

Greenwood Gardens is planning a significant expansion of its greenhouse production, enabling the operation to grow more high-value crops, including tomatoes and cucumbers. The energy-efficient greenhouse will allow for an earlier start and extended growing season, which is 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 regional markets.

Through the Agriculture Major Projects Fund, Choice North Farms will be installing a redesigned in-line grading station on site to increase quality control of its eggs, improve operational efficiency and open up new markets in the NWT.

Kevin Wallington, who works on business development with Choice North Farms/Polar Egg and serves as chairman of the Territorial Agrifood Association, was part of the Feb. 23 announcement and welcomed the funding.

"This announcement is a significant step in the continued growth of the commercial food sector and sets the Northwest Territories apart," said Wallington. "It allows our operations to grow, to reach new markets, to explore new technologies and seek out innovative and creative ways to do so."