Standing tall over Inuvik’s downtown, the Community Greenhouse means a lot of different things for a lot of different people.

It serves as a social club for some, a potential source of sustainable food for others, for others still it’s the best place to get fresh eggs in town.

But for executive director Ray Solotki the benefits of gardening go well beyond fresh food. She said one of her biggest priorities this year was getting people back to growing.

“If you’re a returning member, you can get your plot back,” said Solotki. “New members, we’re going to be collecting a list, putting people in little pods and helping them grow together. So for people first season at the greenhouse it will be more of a communal grow, but seasoned veterans will be able to garden as they wish.

“This is a space to offer food security and the great mental health benefit of gardening to everybody. We really want to see our members back in the greenhouse. We all could use the mental health boost of a little bit of soil therapy.”

While the finer details were still getting worked out, Solotki said the Greenhouse intended to continue the programs it initiated in 2020 as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now with an contained, environmentally controlled greenhouse to grow crops all-year round, the focus is on getting gardeners’ hands back in the dirt.

Greenhouse worker Adi Scott comforts Henrietta the hen as co-worker Kenny Stewart opens a small pen for her to stroll about it. The Inuvik Greenhouse’s fresh egg program is back on track for a second year and is hoping to expand the flock.

With a more robust supply chain in 2021 allowing for a greater variety of plants to be sold in May, Solotki added the much adored chicken coop would also be back in operation selling eggs, and the hens made it through the winter.

“They’re alive and well and living in my garage,” she said. “They’re still producing eggs. I’m looking after them over the winter, but there will be chickens at the greenhouse this summer and we’re looking at expanding their flock.

Noting the greenhouse’s business plan ended in 2017, Solotki said it was important to make sure the Greenhouse society and residents were on the same page on how the building should fit into the community and what changes it may need to make to be more inclusive.

Among issues she’s gotten feedback on, Solotki noted a barrier to membership is the building’s association with the residential school Grollier Hall and suggested renovating or remodeling the building, or providing support for the outdoor garden maintained by the Inuvik Native Band, could both be possible ways to help heal bad memories associated with it.

Expanding, improving or even experimenting with new services all costs money, however, and Solotki pointed out the society needed to have a direction in place to be able to take advantage of grants or other opportunities as they came up.

“There’s so much funding out there, but I refuse to apply for funding just to apply for funding,” she said. “I want to have a project in mind. I want to make sure what we’re trying to do fits with the mandate of the greenhouse.

“Right now we don’t know what that is because we don’t have a strategic plan or a proper business plan that I can refer to. I don’t like to do the spaghetti against the wall method of applying for funding.”

An online survey has been posted to the society’s website to provide feedback and both in-person and online open houses are scheduled for March 3 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and again from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. A paper copy of the survey will also be available to fill out at Northmart from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 4.

Giving the greenhouse the feedback it wants won’t just help the community out, however. Anyone who fills the survey out before March 5 at 5 p.m. will receive a small gift of thanks from the society and be entered into a draw to win either $500 in groceries or one of two veggie boxes.

Membership is open to anyone and costs $25 t0 cover insurance.

Eric Bowling

Covering all things related to the Beaufort Delta, Eric Bowling is your editor for the Inuvik Drum. He came north after cutting his teeth in Alberta. Eric enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee.

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