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Spring into gardening
'Idealism meets necessity' in Inuvik gardening community as interest grows; farmers market planned

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 2, 2013

Spring might be a little slow in arriving this year, but there's certainly been a burst of interest in community gardening and markets.

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Gene Hachey, an agronomist with the GNWT, spoke about gardening April 9 at a gathering of more than 25 people at the Aurora Campus. - Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo

Two weeks ago, nearly 30 people attended a "Get Growing" workshop on small-scale food production and community gardening led by GNWT agronomist Gene Hachey that was sponsored by the Inuvik Community Greenhouse. Last week, plans were solidified for a community market that should sprout up by the end of June. The Inuvik Youth Centre is partnering up with the greenhouse on a project. In the meantime, the success of small-scale agriculture in town by the Halpine family is also drawing eyes.

Geoff Johnson, the new co-ordinator for the community greenhouse, summed up all the initiatives when he said good things happen when "idealism meets necessity."

The rising cost of living in Inuvik, particularly in energy prices, is undoubtedly fueling some of these initiatives. Add in the perennial problems with food prices and supplies, especially during the spring and autumn seasons, and there is a lot of motivation to being entrepreneurial in local food production.

Inuvik Community Greenhouse board member Janet Boxwell said she'd like to see a community demonstration garden established this year as a way to encourage more interest in growing.

The new outpouring of public interest is also a throwback to a more traditional way of life, as Ruth Wright pointed out at the gardening workshop last month.

Many people years ago had family gardens, she said, and also dabbled in livestock. She also said that most people who attended residential schools have considerable background knowledge, skill and experience with gardening and agriculture. That's because those students weren't allowed to return home during the summer, Wright said. Instead, they were often sent south to work as farm labourers.

"A lot of them, when they came back home, were having their own gardens here," she said. "It's fallen off since then."

She's one of the original people involved in the establishment of the community greenhouse.

"We had a garden when I was a little girl near Fort McPherson," she said. "My mom and dad had a huge garden, and also about a hundred chickens."

Wright said she grows "a little of everything," mostly in pots.

At one time, there was also a thriving farmer's market operating out of the greenhouse on weekends, she said.

Since the departure of the volunteer who co-ordinated that project, the market has died off over the last two or three years. That's partly the inspiration for the new community market.

That idea is still very much a project, but is starting to take shape. On April 25, Jackie Challis, Inuvik's director of tourism and economic development, hosted a meeting at the Centennial Library to discuss the project.

While only three people attended that meeting, the concept for the market quickly went from nebulous to concrete.

This project promises to be far more than a simple farmer's market. Challis, who said the town is rather interested in the idea, has visions of it including arts and crafts. It might also be a venue for local residents to sell and swap other items, such as apparel.

Local artisans and craftspeople have long looked for a venue to sell their creation other than at the Great Northern Arts Festival or the Christmas craft show, Shona Barbour said. She's one of the people most interested in the idea. While work continues on providing a permanent indoor location for such a market, the new outdoor market, to be located at Jim Koe Park, is an excellent one, she said.

"It would be an outlet we don't have right now," Barbour said.

Challis is in the process of creating a logo for the market and establishing a Facebook page. It's likely to be known as the Arctic Market.

"This is something we'd like to help facilitate," she said.

The opening date is slated for June 22, with hours from noon until 4 p.m. The market will run until Aug. 31, with the possibility the season could be extended into September.

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