Permafrost pumpkins possible
Avid gardener sets sights on community greenhouse

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Sep 04/98) - Through his 11 years in the NWT, gardener Ron Morrison has learned how to go without one of life's simple pleasures.

Finally last year, he defiantly went about building the best Northern garden he could by drastically altering his Inuvik home's modest frontyard.

Along with his wife Julie, Morrison brought in gravel for a new driveway, installed drainage pipes to prevent a foundation collapse and perhaps most importantly, created a beautiful garden.

"They told me I couldn't grow pumpkins up here. So I did," he says on his sundeck, beaming while he points below to a giant pumpkin that would make Linus from the Peanuts cartoon proud.

"Don Ross and I now have a contest going for next year on who can grow the biggest pumpkin."

Morrison's garden includes both Northern plants such as lupine, wild roses and potentia as well as common southern plants such as snap dragons, petunias and marigolds.

And Morrison's enthusiasm for gardening is infectious as he discusses one grand dream: a community garden in the old arena near Grollier Hall.

He says he has approached Aurora College and they have expressed an interest in his idea as long as it is not a business venture.

Morrison has even discussed the idea with Norman Wells' famous gardener Gerry Loomis, who has visited Inuvik and looked at the old arena to give his opinion on starting a greenhouse.

The project may take a lot of work and money, but Morrison remains optimistic.

"The old change rooms could be where we sell produce and vegetables," he says of ways to recoup costs.

The "community" part of what would be called a "community garden" would consist of plots of soil in the greenhouse where Inuvik residents could grow whatever they want -- within reason.

Elders could be given their plots, Morrison says.

"This is all in the idea stage."

Costs would include initial building renovations, regular air conditioning and heating system costs as well as staff salaries.

Morrison, who works as the superintendent of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, says his department is supportive of such community ventures, partly for nutrition and partly to keep money in the NWT instead of siphoning it south.

Other sources of initial funding could be the federal government or other groups with an interest in furthering community gardens.