Urban farming at Inuvik’s Greenhouse is proving far more viable than expected, with the non-profit facility establishing a chicken coop and growing so much food workers are now making jams, pickles, chutneys and even giving the food away in some cases.
Greenhouse executive director Ray Sol0tki the greenhouse had harvested 300 kilograms of food by mid-July and still have two months of growing to go — and so far they’ve only gotten to the light crops.
“This year we’ve been running the greenhouse as a farm, and we weren’t sure how that would go,” she said. “In our best years we’ve harvested that much in a whole season — this year we started harvesting five weeks ago — and we haven’t even harvested the heavy stuff yet.
“Bumper crop is probably the best way to describe it.”
With sales as abundant as the harvest itself, Solotki said the greenhouse has both acquired a temporary food permit and expanded its days of sale to four, from its normal farmer’s markets on Thursdays at 4:30-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to include an ‘odd box’ sale on Tuesday — a small box of two-to-four vegetables and other goodies left over from the Saturday markets for $6 each and available to people who may have missed out on the ‘veggie box’ subscription the greenhouse offered at the start of the season. Excess bags are also available for $2.
The boxes are available from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and all transactions are cash only. Any food left over from that sale is available the next day on a ‘pay what you can’ basis.
“If your family’s donation is a thanks, that’s all we care about,” said Solotki, who added any food left over after that was donated to the Inuvik Food Bank. “We’re trying to make sure anyone who wants our food can get it, though obviously we have to make some money to pay our staff and keep the lights on.
“But there’s nothing sadder than wasting food in the Arctic.”
On top of a record-breaking harvest, a second food security effort the greenhouse has been finding great success with early on is its chicken coop.
Now housing 22 hens, the coop is well protected against the local wildlife such as foxes and ravens and Solotki said they were getting an average of six eggs a day from the birds.
Residents can purchase the fresh eggs at $1 an egg.
“This is a pilot project year to see if it works,” said Solotki, who added the greenhouse was looking into establishing workshops for eager urban farmers who would like to set up a coop of their own. “The hope is that the community can learn from us next year. I actually thought having chickens was going to be a heck of a lot more work than it has been.”
“A bird is $20, so there’s no reason why people in Inuvik couldn’t have a couple birds in their backyard.”
While most of the hens are expected to end up as chicken soup in the fall, Solotki added she was looking into options for wintering a few of the birds for the spring to get an established population of poultry in the Beaufort.