Agriculture has a short history in the North and the GNWT, while working to support new small operations, is still developing policies for how to manage the industry.
“It’s new to communities, it’s relatively new to government,” said Joel Holder, director of economic diversification for the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
“There are land use plans out there that don’t have agriculture listed, even, as a permitted use.”
Holder said ITI is working with the departments of Land, Health and Environment and Natural Resources to work out the kinks of a new regulatory regime around the industry.
“In working with lands, we currently don’t have land tenure available for agriculture in the NWT. So, they’re looking at making amendments to the territorial and lands act that would be more beneficial for agriculture, working towards an agricultural land tenure.”
He said land use is a lot clearer in regions with settled land claims and, currently, ITI has been doing a lot of its agriculture boosting on sites that are operator-owned.
From the public side, the NWT Food Network has cropped up over the last year, under the umbrella of Ecology North, and will have an annual general meeting this fall to pick a board of directors.
“We are a member-run non-profit organization of farmers and other participants of the (food system) from across the NWT,” wrote co-ordinator Tom Mooney in introducing the organization to the MLAs as it provided feedback on Public Lands Act on July 5.
“Together we promote collaboration and knowledge sharing, and advocate for local food systems.”
Holder said the GNWT is hoping to work with the network to offer training opportunities through them.
“They see themselves as a lobby group and we work closely with them, as they are supporters of the producers of the NWT and a voice for the producers. We use them for a sounding board for initiatives and through them we get feedback from producers as far as government ideas and proposed changes, potential impacts.”
The GNWT released its first NWT Agriculture Strategy in 2017, with goals stretching between then and 2022. The strategy has a list of actions and activities to implement along the way.
Holder said the government is still “in early days” of implementing the strategy, and that it’s using funding from the federal Canadian Agricultural Partnership to do so. It got close to $500,000 from the program this fiscal year.
Canadians can also access funding directly from the partnership to help their own operations in areas such as training, small scale food production, and research.
“One of the things that we’ve been able to achieve in the early days is increasing the number of producers that we’ve got across the NWT and giving them opportunities so that they can participate in the economics of that agriculture,” said Holder.