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Community-based food processing takes root
Deline and Fort Good Hope look to local fish and meat processing opportunities

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 27, 2013

Deline and Fort Good Hope are taking meat and fishing processing into their own hands this summer by each setting up a community facility.

NNSL photo/graphic

Jane Quitte, Deline community elder, stands by a barbecue laden with traditional food. - NNSL file photo

The $130,000 mobile meat and fish processing units, the first of their kind in the NWT, were paid for by the Department of Industry Tourism and Investment (ITI) over two fiscal years through a GNWT program which supports the marketing and processing of fish and meat in the territory.

They're being made by Hay River's Concept Energy Services Ltd., and shipped by barge to Deline, which recently received its unit, and Fort Good Hope, which will receive its unit near the end of the summer. The units are mobile but will likely be made permanent once they arrive.

Grey Goose Lodge is operating the Deline unit, which has created two full-time jobs in the community.

"We're just developing the plans right now," said Arthur Tobac, business manager of Ne'Rahten Developments Ltd. in Fort Good Hope. "We just signed off on the papers not that long ago ... and we still have to order some stuff so right now, we're still developing the business plans around it."

The units contain a cooler, meat saw, smoker, sausage maker, grinder and a vacuum packer.

Policies on the sale of products made in the unit and dates of operation are still under consideration, however Tobac said it has already been decided that two people will be trained and employed in the unit.

Whatever the plans might eventually be, Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya sees the units as evidence of a region embracing alternatives to high prices in grocery stores.

"The cost of living is always going to be high in the Sahtu," he said.

"We have to accept that but we also know we can do something about it by processing our own fish, processing our own meat, planting our own gardens, raising our own chickens, getting the pigs nice and fat so we've got good bacon all the time it's all picking up."

Yakeleya's said he hopes to eventually see products such as Deline lake trout or Fort Good Hope moose meat alongside British Columbia salmon or Alberta beef.

"If you can have that small-scale operation then I think it gives them some possibility of ... looking at a bigger scale in the future," Yakeleya said.

"That puts pride into people's lives to say 'I packaged that,' and it gets sold in Inuvik or sold in Yellowknife or sold in Whitehorse or Edmonton."

Community support

ITI Minister David Ramsay said the department's motivation for supporting the programs was to help reduce the cost of living in both communities and the communities were selected for their already high dependency on country foods.

Community members in Fort Good Hope showed support for the program after representatives from Deline spoke about their plans during Fort Good Hope's economic forum in October, said Tobac.

"Deline gave us a rundown of what was happening in terms of economic development over in Deline but they also mentioned they were getting this kind of unit so they could reduce the cost of living and try to use more country foods, more healthy foods," he said. "When people heard that, they found it interesting and thought it would give people here a chance to make their food last longer and reduce some of their costs of living in terms of food." -- with files from Laura Busch

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