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Inuvik Greenhouse in the Globe and Mail

  • Subject: [cg] Inuvik Greenhouse in the Globe and Mail
  • From: Laura Berman <laura@foodshare.net>
  • Date: Mon, 12 Jul 2004 21:55:13 -0400

Hi Everyone,
Ever heard about the community garden (greenhouse) project above the Arctic
Circle ? (that's right, ABOVE) No, well read all about it here, in Canada's
national newspaper, the Globe and Mail.

And by the way, Carrie Young will be giving a presentation on the Inuvik
greenhouse project at the ACGA conference--another great reason to attend



Vegetables, flowers -- even residents -- seem to thrive in Arctic community
garden greenhouse


Globe and Mail
 Monday, Jul 12, 2004


INUVIK, NWT -- Carrie Young is working on the second floor of an old hockey
arena, dirt wedged under her cropped fingernails. Around her are containers
of colourful geraniums, pansies and nasturtiums. Down below, there are
carefully tended plots with rows of tender lettuce, silky cornstalks and
broad strawberry plants.

This is the Inuvik Community Greenhouse, which, at 200 kilometres above the
Arctic Circle, is thought to be the world's most northerly commercial
operation and Canada's only community hothouse.

"It sounds cheesy, but it's a testimony of hope that you can do something if
you want to, even in the frozen Arctic," said assistant co-ordinator Yoenne

The rink, which belonged to Grollier Hall, the town's former residential
school, was slated for demolition when a couple of locals formed a
non-profit society in late 1998 to raise funds to transform the
half-pipe-shaped arena into a greenhouse.

"They were just driving by one day and thinking, 'Oh, what a shame, what a
waste of a building,' " said Ms. Young, the co-ordinator. "And they thought,
'Hey wait a minute, that'd be a really nice greenhouse.' "

The facility, which is in its fifth year of production, allows people who
live in Inuvik, a one-stoplight town of about 3,700 in the northwest corner
of the Northwest Territories, to grow their own vegetables under the
midnight sun.

Summer student Brandi Lemishka's mother and her boyfriend have had a plot
for three years, and tend produce such as the lettuce they have been eating
for the past three weeks. "It's a lot better for them because then they
don't have to go spend so much money on their food, because up here it costs
a lot of money," said Ms. Lemishka, who enters Grade 11 in the fall.

At North Mart, Inuvik's grocery store, romaine lettuce was selling late last
week for $3.79 a head. Small heads of iceberg lettuce were $1.79. Red
peppers cost $6.21 a pound (0.45 kilograms) and broccoli was $2.59 a pound

 For transplanted southern green thumbs such as Ms. Young and Ms. Ewald, the
greenhouse also provides an outlet for the most un-Arctic of pastimes.

"I think it's a hobby for a lot of people that they didn't expect to be able
to do up here," said Ms. Young, 32, who studied horticulture in her native

And, as Ms. Ewald, 24, who moved to the tundra of Inuvik from Victoria in
April, said, the facility offers newcomers "a gentle way of easing into a
new ecosystem."

For its more than 100 members, not all of whom have plots, the greenhouse,
which opens in May, is a meeting place and "an oasis in the North," as Ms.
Young put it. Families bring picnics or just pass the time soaking up the
warmth and fragrant flowers. "It's always nice in here no matter what the
weather is outside," she said.

The greenhouse, which receives funding from the territorial and federal
governments, aboriginal groups and businesses, is also a
community-development project that plays host to school groups, workshops
and even tourists.

"It's amazing what can be grown on such a small square footage," said
retiree Robert Harrison of Kingston, Ont., who toured the greenhouse with
his wife Linda last week. "Square-inch gardening -- this is good," Ms.
Harrison said.

The greenhouse is so popular there is a waiting list of residents eager to
dig their fingers into its 88 raised plots, which are about 18 inches (46
centimetres) deep and can even nurture potatoes. The large ones are 16 by 4
feet (5 by 1 metres) and cost $50 a year to rent. The small ones, which are
8 by 4 feet (2.5 by 1 metres), are $25.

Many are thick with lush vegetables, from sprawling squash to onions to
beets. One is even trying musk melon. A few have built-on supports for
hanging flower baskets and latticework for climbing plants. One has delicate
red, pink and white poppies. Some are whimsical, with a decorative scarecrow
and a green smiling caterpillar. A few are neglected, with parched earth and
stunted plants.

The greenhouse's growing season is like that in Southern Canada: from about
the second week of May until early October, a stark contrast to outdoors.
The last snowfall or frost in Inuvik is often in mid-June and starts again
in late August.

The town's 24-hour daylight -- which lasts from about mid-May until
mid-August and streams in through the roof's greenhouse glazing -- is a
gardener's boon. One woman who keeps careful records says vegetables tend to
mature one week to 10 days earlier.

But, as Ms. Young notes, the ever-present sunlight also has its drawbacks.
If the weather is especially hot, the building can overheat and some
vegetables, such as spinach, can go straight to seed. By contrast, if the
weather is overcast for extended periods, tomatoes and other vegetables rot
on the vine.

The greenhouse, which bans herbicides and pesticides, encourages its
gardeners, who supply their own seeds, to add organic material to the
poor-quality soil, which can have high sand or clay content. It does not
prohibit the use of commercial fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro, but hopes to
start a community compost program.


 © 2004 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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