Northern Farm Training Institute plans to kick off workshops in early spring


Angele Cano/NNSL photo
Jackie Milne describes how she grows food in the winter. Growing, marketing, preserving and yielding high return from produce are some of the subjects that will be covered during classes at the Northern Farm Training Institute.

The ground still lies beneath layers of snow, but plans for it have already blossomed.

Thanks to work of local food growers and producers and a supportive community, the idea for a Northern Farm Training Institute is now a reality.

With the first workshop set to be held in April, the Territorial Farmers’ Association (TFA) is now taking applications for up to 15 participants in the workshop.

Classes include seeding, garden design, planting and prepping, marketing, harvesting and animal husbandry.

Workshops are designed to teach people so they can take the skills back to their home communities or gardens and pioneer food production there, said Jackie Milne, the president of the TFA.

Milne brought the institute to reality from concept to final setup. She said food production in the North is a seemingly small way to create the most change to the environment and health of communities.

I realized a gap,” she said. “There is a limited amount you can teach about gardening in a classroom setting. What’s involved in having a secure community is that many people have that knowledge of what makes it that way. Growing your own food addresses so many things in one category, from poverty to sustainability.”

Milne said she re-taught herself to grow food nearly 20 years ago. Only a few years ago, she held her first gardening workshop in Hay River, then subsequent classes on food issues, permaculture and sustainability.

Although funds are not yet committed, Growing Forward 2 – a federal-territorial agricultural funding program – could be drawn upon to support the institute, which could require up to $200,000 to run during its inaugural year, said Milne.

So far, the GNWT has committed $40,000 to fund the institute, but it is still waiting on word from Growing Forward 2. The government fund recently received an increase of $500,000 to fund such projects.

This comes after a study released in 2012 about a more positive turn by Canadians towards food farming. The ‘Canadian Attitudes Study Towards Food and Farming’ revealed that 88 per cent of Canadians are “growing on farmers,” compared to 81 per cent in 2009.

— Angele Cano