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Farming from the comforts of home
Territorial Farmers Association now includes backyard growers in its membership

Heather Lange
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 15, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE
Over the past weekend, the Territorial Farmers Association opened its doors to welcome backyard gardeners into their membership. Regular membership now includes anyone who is an NWT resident engaged in agricultural activities, such as market gardening, backyard gardening and commercial gardening.

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Annie Levasseur, a member of the Yellowknife Community Garden Collective displays her bounty on Sept. 10 at the Old Town Community Garden on School Draw Avenue. With the Territorial Farmers Association passing the motion to include backyard gardeners as part of its membership, Levasseur could now join the TFA. - Heather Lange/NNSL photo

The members passed a motion at its annual general meeting at Northern United Place to broaden its definition of membership from the old definition that excluded everyone except commercial farmers.

"One of the things that the bylaw didn't cover before was import replacements so, people who are growing their food not to sell but so they don' t have to buy food at the grocery store," said Andrew Cassidy, executive director of the Territorial Farmers Association.

The association's new mobile kitchen, built this year, could benefit a lot of the membership in the future and be used for educational purposes.

Dwayne Wohlgemuth, a researcher who is being contracted by Ecology North, spoke to members and the general public over Sept. 9 and 10. He discussed the viability of establishing a berry orchard in Yellowknife.

Wohlgemuth has been planting various types of berries and doing market research to see which berry can prosper in Yellowknife and said raspberries carry the best profit margin.

"In a four-to six-month period, you could sell 1,000 kilograms of raspberries at $24 a kilogram. You don't need a big greenhouse, just a small plot of good soil and a water source and you can produce berries," said Wohlgemuth.

The Territorial Farmers Association is based in Hay River and has been around since the 1970s with paid employees since the 1990s. Its mandate is to motivate, encourage and inspire people to get into food production. The association gets $147,000 out of its $200,000 yearly budget from a federal program called the Canadian Agriculture Adaptation Program.

Its membership fees go toward projects at its storefront in Hay River, workshops about gardening and food production which take place across the NWT, and this year's establishment of a mobile, travelling kitchen.

The mobile kitchen can also be used to add value to a producers harvest. For instance Cassidy recently used a piece of equipment for the trailer to shred up a cabbage into a coleslaw cut which could sell for $40.

"To get all the equipment to can or blanch and freeze it (food) might not be worth it. If the trailer is available, say to a whole community garden for rent, they can get together and have a big canning session," said Cassidy.

"Not everyone knows how to can. If we could have these workshops and bring someone who does can and show how fun it is then it will add value to our members," said Cassidy.

"By just taking a little extra time to do processing, you really get extra value on your products," said Cassidy.

To become a member, contact the Territorial Farmers Association in Hay River.

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