Northern Backyard Farming Booklets

Small-scale agriculture is growing in popularity in the Northwest Territories, and residents have an increased appetite for clear and simple information on the topic. The importance of producing food locally is receiving more attention from government and residents as the costs of food transportation become a significant burden. Ecology North, with support from GNWT Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, created a series of booklets related to Northern Backyard Farming in the NWT as a starting point for residents to try their hand at local food production.

#1 Raising Chickens 

More and more people are waking up to the joys of growing their own food. this guide is intended to illustrate the basics of raising chickens in your backyard. Chickens are fun, entertaining, great with kids and provide nutritious eggs and meat. This guide is the first in a series of booklets that Ecology North has developed about food in the NWT. Pick it up and give it a read; maybe chickens are your next step to eating more local healthy food grown right here in the NWT.

#2 Preserving Food

Preserving food is an age-old tradition. Freezing, drying, canning, jams and jellies, pickling, fermenting, and root cellaring are all great ways to store food from one season to the next. This guide is intended to provide some basic inspiration to preserve your own food. Preserving food can be fun, easy, interesting, and delicious. This guide is the second in a series of booklets that Ecology North has developed about food in the NWT. Pick it up and give it a read; maybe food preservation is your next step to eating more healthy and locally grown food in the NWT.

#3 Composting 

Composting is a great way to keep organic materials out of the landfill. It is a fun, inexpensive and easy way to turn food and yard waste into a valuable, nutrient-rich soil conditioner. This guide is the third in a series of booklets that Ecology North has developed about food in the NWT. Pick it up and give it a read; maybe making your own compost is your next step to growing local and healthy food right here in the NWT!

#4 Soil Health 

Growing food starts with healthy soil. There are a number of factors that can influence soil health including pH, moisture, structure, texture and nutrients. This guide is intended to provide basic information about building up and maintaining healthy soil. Understanding your soil’s health is an essential part of growing food. This guide is the fourth in a series of booklets that Ecology North has developed about food in the NWT. Pick it up and give it a read; maybe enhancing your soil’s health is your next step to growing your own food in the NWT.

#5 Spaces to Grow 

Out in the yard, on the deck, or in your home, there are many ways to garden and use the space you have to grow your own food. This guide provides ideas and useful information to help grow good food in our rugged landscape and northern climate. Be inspired to find small, unusual spaces to grow in your backyard or patio. Pick it up and give it a read; it could be the inspiration you need to grow your own food in the NWT!

Beekeeping – Coming soon!

Northern Soil Recipes

The Northern Soil Recipes project is a effort to find an alternative to importing soil into the NWT. Importing large quantities of soil for gardening is an expensive and inefficient solution. Building on the existing soil in a way that promotes soil fertility and soil life can allow us to grow good food and reduce dependencies on outside resources. Some communities have even started creating soil in larger batches to share within the community. We want to encourage this, and to work toward finding easy, sustainable alternatives to importing soil into our gardens.

The Building Your Soil guide contains lots of background information to help you build your own soil and grow your own food in the NWT.

The Soil Recipes booklet contains specific instructions for putting together healthy garden soil using local materials no matter where you are in the NWT. There are four recipes and each loosely corresponds to a different region. You can follow the recipe strictly or you can get creative and just use the recipes as a guide for you own soil incorporating the materials that are easily available to you!

Soil Recipes:

  • Boreal Gardener: North Slave and Sautu
  • Great Slave Gardener: North Slave and South Slave
  • Dehcho Gardener: Dehcho
  • Tundra Gardener: Inuvik

Take a look at the information in these two documents and if you try it out let us know how it goes! Feel free to contact us or drop by with any questions you may have. We are happy to help you get started in building your own soil!

Here is a version of the Soil Recipes Cards that can be printed at home.

*This project was funded by The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, Government of the Northwest Territories.

Fall Harvest Fair

The Fall Harvest Fair is typically held in September. It is a fun, family friendly event for Yellowknife, Dettah, and Ndilo residents to get outside, enjoy good food, have fun, and build on our historic connection with the land. The goal of Fall Harvest Fair is more than just a celebration of food, but also a celebration of culture and way to bring together YK Dene and other Yellowknifers.

Some of the events held during Fall Harvest Fair have included:

  • Petting zoo of local farm animals
  • Workshop on canning
  • Workshop/tour on traditional aboriginal fish smoking
  • Tour of the N’dilo gardens and storytelling tent
  • Workshop on medicinal and food plants
  • Kids games
  • Horse rides
  • Potluck dinner
  • Competitions for the best veggies, jams, pies, bouquets, and fish
  • Fiddle, drum, and square dances
  • Displays

From 2010-2014, the Fair was hosted in Yellowknife at Northern United Place. Starting in 2014, Ecology North has partnered with Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN), the Yellowknife Community Garden Collective (YCGC), and various other partners to coordinate Fall Harvest Fair in Ndilo or at the Wiiliideh site.

NWT School Gardens – Curriculum for Grade 3

The information in this book is based on Growing Together at Weledeh, a highly successful gardening program that was the result of a partnership between Weledeh Catholic School, the Yellowknife Gardening Collective, and Ecology North. This book is meant to help replicate a similar experience at other schools in the NWT, and includes suggestions on adapting if some of the same components are not available.

A school garden is a powerful educational tool. Regardless of size, the real life experiences these living laboratories offer provide stronger lessons than those found in textbooks.

PLEASE NOTE: This resource was created in 2016 and is currently in the process of being updated. If you have any feedback on the current version, please send it to education@ecologynorth.ca

Click below to open and download the garden curriculum:

NWT School Gardens:
Garden Curriculum for Grade 3

Growing Together at Weledeh

Weledeh Catholic School and the Yellowknife Community Garden Collective started a partnership in Fall 2009 to build a school-community garden on the playground at Weledeh School. This initiative was sparked by the vision of former Weledeh principal Merril Dean, who sought to create a school garden that would provide hands-on educational opportunities in local food production for students and their families.

Growing Together at Weledeh is a school-based gardening program that facilitated hands-on learning with students, teachers, and volunteer community garden mentors. Students have been learning the joys of growing their own food in the garden for the past five years. Weledeh Catholic School (WCS), the Yellowknife Community Garden Collective (YCGC) and Ecology North have worked together to deliver the program each year.

By the summer of 2011 the garden was ready for use and every summer since then Ecology North and the Yellowknife Community Garden Collective have run gardening activities with around 70 students from grades three to six.

Ecology North provides in-class instruction for all Grade 3 students for 6 weeks (mid-May to late June) culminating in a harvest celebration in the first weeks of September.

In addition, Ecology North also assists with the Weledeh School Garden Club. This after school club is open to students from grade 1 to 8 and has approximately 30 members. The garden club has been quite popular in the past and frequently has a waitlist!

We have a Grade 3 Garden Curriculum, full of great garden related activities, that was developed based on the success of the Weledeh School Garden program. Check it out on our Environmental Education page (NWT School Gardens)!

How did we do? In 2016, we were able to pause and evaluate the program with this Case Study funded by the Arctic Institute of Community Based Research.

The overall goals of the project are to engage Weledeh students and staff in planning and planting vegetable garden plots at the Weledeh School garden, in cooperation with members of the Yellowknife Community Garden Collective.  By participating first-hand in growing and harvesting a garden, students develop an interest and skills in food production and preparation of healthy, locally grown foods.

For more information about the Weledeh School Garden Club or the Growing Together at Weledeh program contact us at 867-873-6019 or at admin@ecologynorth.ca.

NWT School Gardens: Garden Curriculum for Grade 3

Why Garden with Students?

A school garden is a powerful educational tool. A school garden may consist of a few herb pots in a window or larger plots outside. Regardless of size, the real life experiences these living laboratories offer provide stronger lessons than those found in textbooks.

Research shows that gardening in schools can improve students’ attitudes towards themselves, others, and school; enhance their relationships, promote environmental awareness, improve test scores and encourage them to make nutritional food choices.

Finally, growing gardens with students can teach the skills they will need to be able to grow their own food and contribute to a local food system. In Northern Canada, where food availability is based upon large transportation distance, this may be especially beneficial in enhancing food security.

Download the curriculum document by clicking here.

The NWT School Gardens: Garden Curriculum for Grade 3, is based upon a highly successful gardening program at Weledeh School in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Check out this and other great educational gardening initiatives under Local Food Production by clicking here!

Wood Pellet Ash as an Agricultural Soil Amendment

The use of wood pellet stoves and boilers in the Northwest Territories is increasing quickly as more people convert to biomass heating systems. Approximately 90 tonnes of wood pellet ash were produced from industrial, commercial and residential boilers and stoves in 2013.

Samples of fly ash and bottom ash from wood pellet boilers and stoves were analyzed to determine their suitability as an agricultural soil amendment, including fertilizing potential as well as testing physical characteristics and concentration of elements or compounds that could be toxic or limiting to plant growth. Wood pellet ash is rich in potassium and certain micronutrients. It is also highly alkaline and has high acid neutralizing values. The author found that wood pellet ash added safely to compost at a maximum of 5-15% of total compost weight can enrich it in a variety of nutrients. Ash can be a valuable addition to compost especially during the early decomposition stages. Wood pellet ash must be monitored in compost in order to avoid alkaline shock and reduced productivity.

Click below to view the report:

Wood Pellet Ash as an Agricultural Soil Amendment in the Northwest Territories

The Berry Project

There are numerous berry crops that grow well in the region and which could be grown for the local market on small areas of land. This project explored the possibility of commercial berry growing in the NWT as a way of making use of the natural attributes of local soil.

Local agricultural land is in very limited supply, but berries are high value crops that require only small areas of land for production. Berries are very perishable, which results in relatively high losses and high prices in grocery stores when compared to other fruit and vegetables. This study thus examines the feasibility of producing berries in the Yellowknife, Dettah and N’dilo region (capital region) for the fresh local market.

This research helped to support the Yellowknife Community Garden Society (YCGS) and Ecology North to plant a demonstration orchard in Yellowknife in 2014. This community orchard produces raspberries, saskatoons and Haskap berries, and is open to all Yellowknife residents and anyone visiting the city. The orchard is maintained by the YCGS and volunteer gardeners, and will continue to benefit the community in the years to come.

Summary:

  • The paper considers blueberries, sour cherries, cranberries, Ribes (currants & gooseberries), Haskap berries, raspberries, saskatoons, strawberries, gogi berries, and sea buckthorn, for their potential in a local orchard.
  • A survey of residents was completed to determine what berries are locally harvested and grown, which would be preferred for a local orchard, and how people use berries.
  • Four marketing options were explored for selling local berries: selling to grocery stores and other wholesale customers, selling at stands or farmers markets, selling through community supported agriculture programs (CSAs), and direct farm sales including u pick.
  • The business case was explored for two types of orchards. The first was a 5 hectare orchard with multiple species and multiple marketing techniques. The second was a 0.2 hectare orchard growing primarily raspberries, with saskatoons as a secondary crop, and where all berries are prepicked for wholesale customers. Both models were found to be profitable and viable based on estimated berry production levels and equipment costs.

Funding for this project was provided by the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP), which is administered by the Territorial Farmers Association (TFA).

Click below to read the report:

Stimulating Commercial Berry Production