Jackie Milne has proposed that the GNWT fund a seed bank to help increase food security in light of the Covid-19 crisis and to help her organization offer online agricultural classes in small communities.

Milne is the president of the Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI), which is based at a farm campus in Hay River.

Jackie Milne, the president of the Northern Farm Training Institute – pictured holding a carton of seeds in a greenhouse – has proposed that the GNWT fund a seed bank to help increase food security in light of the Covid-19 crisis and help her organization offer online agricultural classes in small communities.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

She expected an increased demand for seed when the Covid-19 crisis began, predicting it would become the next toilet paper.

“I knew it would happen, absolutely,” she said. “Because it’s instinctual. It’s like the animal part of us immediately starts to think about the most essential. And seeds are a little small inexpensive packet, so it’s really easy to hoard and take more than you need.”

Milne noted that some seed companies in Canada are no longer accepting orders because of the demand, or there are delays in having orders filled.

“So a month ago, I immediately wrote up a proposal and asked the GNWT to invest in purchasing the seeds that we need,” she said, noting she suggested government invest about $100,000 for a seed bank.

“And that seed would be enough to grow 25 per cent of the Northwest Territories’ caloric needs,” she added. “Not that we’d have to plant it all, because if we purchase it and we put it in proper storage that seed would be there for next year and it could last.”

Milne narrowed the seeds down to nine kinds.

“So I’m not talking about growing every single type of vegetable,” she said. “I’m just focusing on the nuts and bolts.”

They are potato, leek, onion, parsnip, beet, carrot, radish, salsify and rutabaga.

Once you have the plant, you can grow the seeds, said Milne. “It’s not like you’d have to purchase it all the time.”

She said she is not even suggesting the government give NFTI the money for a food bank.

“I’m just saying someone needs to buy this,” she said. “I gave them the information. I’m fine with them doing it as a direct purchase.”

The second part of Milne’s proposal involved GNWT support for NFTI to continue delivering agricultural information and supplies to smaller communities over the internet, instead of having people travel to Hay River.

“They don’t have to feel afraid or worried, because the small communities aren’t going to want people going out and aren’t going to want people coming in for a long time,” she said. “So how are we going to help them? It’s very serious. I want to be able to send in critical supplies – seeds, live plants and tools.”

Plus, Milne noted she already has contacts in many communities with residents who have already attended classes at NFTI.

Milne said she submitted the proposal to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, but has not yet received a response.

The Hub requested a reaction to her idea from the GNWT last week, but had not received a response prior to deadline.

As a backup to funding online courses and supplies for smaller communities, NFTI has also started a Go Fund Me page with a goal to raise $25,000.

“This year we have developed a NWT Collaborative Growing Plan which includes activating our past students as Local Food Ambassadors in their home community so that we can send them seeds, bedding plants, tools and supplies for producing local food and administer training through online lessons that follow the season,” the appeal states.

The Go Fund Me page was created on April 4. As of April 19, the initiative had raised $1,080 from 17 donors.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

Join the Conversation

1

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

  1. We support PRIVATE donations to NFTI and user-pay fees. NFTI should offer FREE online courses in return for the millions of tax dollars they have already received in past years. NO more tax dollars to NFTI.