The popular weekly vegetable basket program has just wrapped up for the year, and organizers are just getting started planning for next year.
“I would say that it was a success,” said Tamara Christen, who ran the program. “We had some regular clients and it was a great way to sell what we produced on a regular basis.”
Christen explained that the idea came to her and producer Jackie Milne after forest fires closed the road to Yellowknife, where they had planned to sell vegetables at farmers’ markets. She said she had tried to man a booth at the Fisherman’s Wharf for a few weeks, but that for a variety of reasons, the uptake was inconsistent and she returned home too often with a car full of produce.
“This just came up as a good, efficient way to sell directly to clients,” she said.
The program saw about 25 regular clients paying $40 for a basket of varied vegetables each week, plus about another 10 or so who came more sporadically. Christen said that next year she hopes to have more dependable buyers.
To that end, she is considering implementing a voluntary pre-pay system that would offer something of a discount.
“That way, people who want to sign up for the whole season can, and those who just maybe want a few weeks can do that too,” she said.
One devotee said the baskets encouraged her to start growing some of her own produce, but that she would readily sign up for the program again next spring.
We’ve been wanting to eat healthier and get more veggies in our diet,” said Leanne Clouthier. “I was actually really surprised at what can be grown in Hay River and the quality of the produce. And I tried a lot of new things like swiss chard, patipan squash, various greens, and eat more stuff like beets, kale, carrots. Awesome value for money. Always a surprise.”
Clouthier said that element of surprise encouraged her to cook more and discover more recipes, even joining a local Facebook group dedicated to just that.
“I would definitely sign up for it next year and looking forward to it,” she said. “So far this year I was only able to grown tomatoes, bell peppers, basil and mint, so this has inspired me to try to grow more things next year.”
As for changes to the program next year, Christen said she hopes to run it for more weeks, from June to the end of September, but that it will all depend on the weather. She also said she would like to work with more producers in order to get a larger variety of produce, including saskatoon berries, and maybe even locally produced eggs.
“It’s always great to have fruits in the baskets,” she said, noting that buyers seemed to all share one concern over the summer. “And I promise, I will try to put in more tomatoes. They are in high demand.”