The municipal administration of Hay River is looking to connect with stakeholders in the agriculture sector after hiring a consultant to study the state of and potential for sustainable farming in the town.
“The opportunity for agriculture in the area is totally unexploited,” said Jordan Stackhouse, the economic co-ordinator for the Town of Hay River. “To areas or provinces that do take it seriously, it’s a huge part of their economy. We can’t really do that on a massive scale, but this is a good step towards development.”
A meeting on the issue will be held at the Community Hall in the Don Stewart Recreation Centre on Oct. 16 at 6 p.m.
Discussion will largely be based on a few key concepts unearthed by Markus Weber, a consultant from Serecon Consulting Group, after spending time in Hay River and talking to local producers.
The three key areas he identified as important to stakeholders are land stewardship, food security and variety, and economic opportunity.
“I think the big thing people are looking for to come out of this meeting are concrete steps towards making this a reality,” said Stackhouse, adding that changes to legislation and zoning regulations would be key to developing local agriculture in a sustainable way that would also see it grow to be an industry with some impact.
Weber is optimistic about the possibilities for food production in Hay River, and said that, with the right planning, the industry could be a viable one.
“There is quite a long history of agriculture in the area,” he told The Hub. “It just hasn’t really been developed here and it certainly doesn’t feed Hay River, and it probably never will. There are just too many things that can’t grow here.”
Weber said he and his team would draw on previously-written plans from British Columbia and elsewhere, instead of starting from scratch, combining methods and components from both urban and rural processes to create the best fit for the town.
“The discussion will be around markets, both in Hay River and the territory, as well as possible export markets and production, too,” he said. “For the meeting, we’re hoping to have more than just producers. We want people who know things about transportation and who are involved in the whole supply chain.”
As one of the founders of the Hay River Commons, Francois Lamy said he hopes the meeting and whatever plan comes out of it will help bridge the gap between producers and buyers.
“I’m hoping a central hub for buying local food will be one of the things that can come out of this,” he said.
Lamy is, however, somewhat skeptical as to how many people would show up for discussion, saying that those attending this sort of meeting tend to be already interested parties.
Stackhouse, however, is more optimistic.
“There are some really passionate people in Hay River,” he said. “But maybe they don’t have the expertise to turn it into a business. That’s maybe where this discussion and planning can help.”
— Sarah Ladik