Home grown horticulture hits big leagues

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Kackie Milne speaks passionately about the next steps for the Northern Farm Training Institute in Hay River at a meeting and information session last Friday evening.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Kackie Milne speaks passionately about the next steps for the Northern Farm Training Institute in Hay River at a meeting and information session last Friday evening.

The Northern Farm Training Institute has been chosen as a Savory Hub Candidate, joining an international network of sustainable farms forging into the future.

“Allan Savory is the hero of my heroes,” said farm training institute founder Jackie Milne at an information session last Friday. “I talked about him in our very very first NFTI class.”

The Savory Institute is a U.S.-based non-profit organization that seeks to help local producers use systems that work with the environment to grow food and raise animals. Allan Savory himself is a controversial figure in some areas for his theories on the reclamation of desert areas that go against established wisdom, but his advocacy for an integrated practice combining both the needs of producers and the existing environment are ideal for marginal agricultural areas like Hay River.

“We spend $150 million in the North every year on food imported from the south,” Milne told an audience of about 70 people at the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre. “So even if we could catch just 10 per cent of that here in Hay River, it could double the local economy.”

The farm training institute has been training prospective farmers from across the territory in sustainable agriculture for only two years, but has already succeeded in transplanting Milne’s passion for pastoral life to other communities – including Fort Simpson, Fort Simpson and Fort Resolution.

A new campus for NFTI has been in the works for some time, but the inclusion in the Savory Institute will bring it to a whole new level. The name comes along with training opportunities all over the world, as well as partnerships with other similar organizations in 17 countries.

It’s not yet clear where yet, but the plan is to have Milne travel and learn different farming techniques.

“I promise you, I’m going to learn everything I can and bring it back here,” said Milne.

Several politicians attended the announcement, including some visitors from Yellowknife.

“Hi, I’m Robert, and I like vegetables,” said Yellowknife MLA Robert Hawkins. “Everyone is looking here and saying, we want to be like Hay River, so why not be like Hay River?”

Mayor Andrew Cassidy also spoke, saying the community has the longest and most storied agricultural history in the NWT and that it was only fitting that the farming institute be recognized as a leader in this new phase.

“I expect NFTI to become a centre of excellence in this field for not just Hay River and the territory, but the whole circumpolar world,” he said. “This isn’t just a benefit for Hay River, but for the whole NWT.”

–Sarah Ladik