Greenhouses in the North - viable or not ?
July 18, 2012
The government of Canada has put out a request for proposals (RFP) for studying the economic sustainability of greenhouses in the North. Recent history has had mixed success.
How can a greenhouse be made to stand on its own, ie. without the need for constant government funding ?
- In the 1980’s Pond Inlet, Nunavut set up a greenhouse to grow its own food. Alas, the facility has sat empty for 20 years. It’s now used as cold storage.
- There are two small greenhouses in Carmacks, Yukon, that has been operating for more than 10 years. The operation is supported by the First Nation. It supplies produce to members, for local events and part is sold farm-gate style to tourists and locals. The greenhouse has also given extra vegetables to the local school lunch program.
- There are a number of commercial greenhouses in both Whitehorse and Yellowknife. Typically these service the local gardening community with bedding plants. At one time Lubbock Velley greenhouse was exporting tomatoes to Alaska.
- In Kuujjuaq, Quebec the focus remains on its small greenhouse, which was built on the outskirts of town in the 1990s by Laval University to conduct a research project.
When that project ended, the greenhouse was turned over the town. Now people in Kuujjuaq can use the greenhouse’s indoor garden plots free-of-charge to grow their own crops during the summer months. Under Quebec’s Plan Nord, roughly $500,000 is set aside to help support bio-food projects across the North, although no money has been allotted to Nunavik’s projects just yet.
- At Cheni Hot Springs, Alaska thermal heat is used in a commercial greenhouse which uses produce in the restaurant on site and sends produce down to Fairbanks as well.
- The Community Garden Society of Inuvik (CGSI) began in 1998 by converting a decommissioned building (the former Grollier Hall Arena), into a community greenhouse as a focal point for community development. The objective was to utilize this space to allow for the production of a variety of crops in an area where fresh, economical produce is often unavailable. Based upon the success to date, CGSI believes that the Inuvik Community Greenhouse will serve as an effective model for other northern communities.
The Inuvik community greenhouse shows that with dedicated volunteers a greenhouse project may be viable, even in the far north. Available waste heat would help, but even a seasonal passive greenhouse can operate. All it takes is tender loving care. Meanwhile it will be interesting to hear back on the federal study.
- a)Anna Mehler Paperny, "Greenhouse idea grows in the far north", Globe and Mail, 17-Jul-12, p.A3.