(Avery Zingel/CBC - image credit)
Three food producers in Hay River, N.W.T., are sharing more than $400,000 in federal and territorial government funding to scale up production.
Riverside Growers, Greenwood Gardens and Choice North Farms will each receive between $100,000 and $200,000 under the Canadian Agriculture Partnership Fund, which aims to strengthen the agricultural and agri-food sector.
The funding is meant to help increase the production of locally-grown food in the territory.
"We've seen the expectation from people in the North that they're able to go into a grocery store, and they're able to find food and products that have been produced in the Northwest Territories, and by people in the North, and so that's what we're really excited about," said Kevin Wallington, manager of business development with Choice North Foods in Hay River, and chairperson of the newly-formed territorial agri-food association.
"We really appreciate the opportunity to expand our operations, to look to get into new markets," said Wallington.
"It'll allow for new jobs, it'll allow for new product lines, and it'll let us look at how to build our farm, build our product line. And that is a journey that the government has been on from the very beginning."
"In Hay River and across the territories, we understand that we're having a community-based and regional-focused approach that is vital to our agriculture sector," Michael McLeod, the MP for Northwest Territories, said at a press conference on the funding announcement on Tuesday.
"We know that locally-grown food creates businesses and entrepreneurial opportunities that support our entire economy."
In a press release, Caroline Wawzonek, minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment, said the N.W.T. government developed its first agriculture strategy in 2017 and identified the need to establish a commercial food-growing industry.
The pandemic, she said at Tuesday's press conference, "exacerbated food security issues in the Northwest Territories, put new emphasis on helping vulnerable populations, and made the need for regional economic diversification even more prescient."
Food growers' plans
According to the news release, Riverside Growers, which is getting $118,642, will use the money, in part, to double its growing space and streamline its processing and packing lines for greater efficiency.
Greenwood Gardens is planning a significant expansion of its greenhouse production with the $111,174 it is getting.
It will allow the company to extend the growing season and grow more high-value crops, including tomatoes and cucumbers.
"The greenhouse will also provide an ideal climate for high-quality vegetable seedlings and bedding plant production to service the local and region markets," the news release reads.
Choice North Farms, the largest food producer in the territory, will install a redesigned grading station with the $180,000 it is receiving.
The news release said the station will "increase quality control, improve operational efficiency and open up new markets in the N.W.T."
Each company is required to contribute a minimum of cash equity of 10 per cent to receive the funding.
The news release stated that there were nine applications across the territory that were reviewed.