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Banner year for greenhouse

New funding and the kickoff of a community coordinator program made this season one of the best yet for the Inuvik Community Greenhouse.

Alexandra Neyando, coordinator of the greenhouse in Fort McPherson, teaches a plant winterizing workshop at the Inuvik Community Greenhouse’s fall fair Saturday, Sept. 23.
Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

“This was the best season we’ve seen in my three years here and from what I’ve seen for quite a while,” said executive director Ray Solotki.

It was a stark change to last year, when the greenhouse didn’t have enough employees and Solotki was busy with 15 weeks of travel to community greenhouses over the season.

This year, the greenhouse received funding for three full-time interns, had one volunteer and the coordinator began earlier than usual.

“We have new things happening, new revenue streams, new opportunities for our community members to make money, new workshops, different things and different ways to teach people about local food, about what you can do with what you have in small communities in the Arctic… It’s just been a wonderful season,” said Solotki.

And she’s been able to stick around for it, as the greenhouse requested funding from Industry, Tourism and Investment, not to go to her travel to the seven Arctic communities, but for greenhouse coordinators to be hired over the summer in each community to run their own operations.

Solotki said there had been a gap in support for the community greenhouses between her visits.

“People are tapped out in these small communities,” she said. “People don’t have the background in gardening, or the one person who does gets way too inundated and doesn’t feel like they have the support.”

So instead, ITI funded seven coordinators for 200 hours during the summer to work in the greenhouse.

“It meant there was somebody there every day, they put on workshops, they taught people how to garden, they used us as a resource,” said Solotki.

Alexandra Neyando was the coordinator in Fort McPherson. She was in Inuvik last week teaching a plant-winterizing workshop for the greenhouse’s annual fall fair.

“Usually, people come into our community and teach us how to do our planting and how to harvest,” said Neyando. “Now we have an actual coordinator to do this. It’s easier that way. We can go to our communities and we can teach people.”

Everyone in the community can learn and take part in the greenhouse together with that setup, she said.

Neyando added that many youth and elders have been frequenting the Fort McPherson greenhouse this summer.

“It brings back memories for them,” she said about the elders gardening. “Now we are teaching all the young kids and they’re just having so much fun learning.”

Last week's fall fair marked the unofficial end of the greenhouse’s season, with doors officially closing mid-October. The event was packed with people taking part in workshops and checking out the facility for one of the last times during summer.

Solotki hopes this year’s momentum carries over into 2018, which will be the 20th anniversary of the Inuvik Community Greenhouse.