Farmers share findings

photo courtesy of Northern Farm Training Institute
Sheldon Nicholson, left, site supervisor for holistic management with Northern Farm Training Institute, and Jackie Milne, the president of the institute, work in a greenhouse last year.

Northern Farm Training Institute – better known as NFTI – is excited about some of the research projects it has begun over the past year, and it wants to tell residents everything about them.

So it will be presenting an update at NWT Centennial Library on April 6, beginning at 7 p.m.

“It’s going to be great,” said Kim Rapati, operations manager with NFTI, which has a farm campus just off Highway 2. “It’s a chance for us to talk about all of the different research projects at the farm campus just throughout the whole year and let people know about things that we’re working on, some of the new exciting ideas that we’re working through and some of our successes from just the past year.”

There will be an overview of efficient greenhouses, meat and dairy licensing and best practices, soil building, grazing management, hardy animal breeds and wild rice cultivation.

“The Northern Farm Training Institute’s high priority is to be doing productive research our entire lifespan,” said Rapati. “So we’ve been constantly working on how do we do things better, how do we do things the best way. Our work is research really, everything that we’re doing. A lot of the processes that we’re implementing are pretty brand new for agriculture all over the world.”

She said NFTI’s primary goal is to make sure that farming in the NWT improves the environment, instead of degrading the environment like a lot of other industrial agricultural initiatives.

“So we want to make sure we’re doing things in a way that enhances what we’ve got here,” she said. “And because that is one of our main goals, research and monitoring is one of the main things that we do.”

Rapati said one reason for the April 6 presentation is NFTI realizes people didn’t know about all its projects.
Jackie Milne, the president of NFTI, described two of the projects to be discussed at the presentation.

One is building soil to make up for fact there is not enough good quality topsoil in the North.

“We can make beautiful high-quality, fertile, black garden soil with very basic ingredients,” said Milne. “And one of the secret ingredients is called biochar. It’s a special way of cooking carbon. Cooking as in a kiln.”

The biochar is gathered up and added to compost.

The other project is working on meat and dairy licensing and best practices.

Milne noted there is currently no NWT legislation on that subject.

NFTI is working with the GNWT so there could be legal farm-gate sales of meat.

“So farmers would be able to process and, if they wanted to, retail to the customer directly,” Milne said. “And this is very important that we get this done.”

In fact, she said things are on track for legislation to be in place by the fall.

NFTI is also working towards micro-dairies in the NWT.

Milne said, in general, NFTI is focused on implementing farming ideas in the North.

“It’s kind of time to move past paper research and it’s time to start applying all the research that’s been done in the world, because there’s tons of it,” she said, noting that research papers often end up on a shelf.

The presentation at NWT Centennial Library will include Rapati, Milne and Sheldon Nicholson, the site supervisor for holistic management with NFTI, along with Hay River residents Pat Bobinski and Bruce Green.

Rapati noted Bobinski and Green have developed a Northern hardy seed of wild rice that grows around Hay River.

Last fall, some ponds at NFTI’s farm campus were seeded and wild rice was successfully grown.

“So we’re really excited about that,” said Rapati. “And we want to keep working on further developing the wild rice in our ponds.”