As greenhouses expand across the NWT, greenthumbs are beginning to realize that the North can be a great place to grow food.
“The climate is actually not that big of a challenge,” said Brittany Wever of Sahtu Gardens in Norman Wells.
“I can’t grow tomatoes outside, but I couldn’t grow them outside in Edmonton, either, as well as I can in a greenhouse. And there are less pests than down south.”
Wever’s family started this business four years ago, taking over from Produce North, which had existed for close to 10 years prior.
“At the beginning it was just the flower greenhouse and we’ve almost doubled the amount that we sell out of that,” said Wever, adding they’ve also doubled vegetable production.
They sell starter plants, such as tomatoes; eggs; live chickens and live pigs, which are butchered in a communal fashion; vegetables such as zucchinis, carrots and cucumbers; and they’ve recently put in haskap berry bushes and a strawberry patch.
“Every corner of our yard is now in production of some kind,” said Wever.
Sahtu Gardens is one of several greenhouse and garden projects around the territory that are proving to be successful.
A 1,500-square-foot greenhouse was built in Gameti in 2016, adding onto the community’s thriving garden space, which has grown to 1.5 acres this year. Between 2014 and 2018, the operation has produced close to 8,864 kilograms of potatoes, 445 kilograms of pork, 130 kilograms of poultry and more than 2,000 dozens of chicken eggs.
The Peel Garden Society, offering various classes out of its greenhouse, has doubled its membership to 14 since 2017.
The Inuvik Greenhouse, perhaps the territory’s best-known, keeps going strong, too.
“They’ve built a real sense of community around that place and that they’ve been selling locally grown food there for quite a while,” said Joel Holder, director of economic diversification at the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
Holder says the reputations of the territory’s greenhouses have extended out of the NWT and into the academic world, with researchers coming up to look at greenhouse operations in a cold climate.
That research not only helps Northern greenhouses become more efficient, but lets other communities learn from the NWT’s successes.
“They learn from the successes the greenhouses have had and take some of those success stories and move them to other northern communities across the country,” said Holder.