Thousands of pounds of northern gold seed potatoes were given out for free to anyone who brought their own bag to the Yellowknife Co-op on a cold and wet Monday.
The spuds came from the Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) in Hay River, which received 50,000 pounds of the root vegetables from Sunny Crest Farms in Alberta as part of a food security project.
“Potato growers won’t be able to deliver or sell as many potatoes this year. It doesn’t mean the demand for the food isn’t there, but it means the supply chain is broken,” said organizer Cat McGurk, who’s also the constituency assistant for Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson.
“When the Covid-19 pandemic started to impact food systems, the NFTI was really trying to find a way to increase food security in the NWT. The idea is that if we can give seed potatoes to as many Northerners as possible, they’ll be able to cultivate their own potatoes and even save their own seed potatoes so they can grow their own potatoes from seed in the future.”
McGurk, her three energetic volunteers, and NFTI’s operations manager Kim Rapati were distributing 15,000 pounds of potatoes contained in large and small bags outside the Co-op. About half of the vegetables were reserved for people in and around the Yellowknife area and the rest were bagged up and would be transported by plane to Deline, Tulita and Inuvik. The other 35,000 pounds the NFTI received will go to other communities in the NWT.
“We’ve probably gone through at least 2,500 pounds of seed potatoes (on Monday),” McGurk said.
Spud seekers lined up in front of a table staffed by volunteer Elizabeth Monroe, who assessed peoples’ need for potatoes so that reasonable amounts could be given out and none would be wasted. People wrote down their names and email addresses so that NFTI can check with how successful their potato yields are at the end of the season.
McGurk said the response from the public has been very positive.
“People are really excited. Some people are only grabbing like three potatoes because they only have a balcony (for growing space). It’s amazing.”
Monroe helped resident Ai Uehara put a few handfuls of northern golds into her white plastic bag.
“I’m so happy to find these here today. I’m not really a ‘green thumb’ but I’m hoping we can grow a lot at home with these,” she said.
The potato load was transported from Hay River by Dyno Nobel. Konge Construction offloaded them on pallets. McGurk said the companies volunteered to do all the tasks.
“Food security is very important,” she said. “It’s a mandate in our current Legislative Assembly to improve food security across the North. I think this is a great step to moving that forward. I’d love to see governments get more invested in this.”