There are many benefits to community gardens and greenhouses. Local production allows better access to, and therefore more consumption of fresh produce, and these green spaces provide a place for communal activities, socializing, and contribute to community pride and engagement. Greenhouses are also a good way to teach children about gardening and where food comes from.
Economically, local production saves on transportation costs and can generate local employment if greenhouses are managed and maintained by paid employees. From an environmental standpoint, selling or consuming local produce reduces the carbon footprint associated with the transportation of these goods to the north. Furthermore, composting projects, usually associated with greenhouses, contributes to food waste reduction.
As you may already know, growing food in the north is not without its challenges. The most significant is the much shorter growing season than down south. There are also issues with poor soil quality, temperature fluctuations, and seasonal duration of sunlight that makes growing plants in both indoor and especially outdoor settings difficult.
The Siqiniq (which means “sun” in Inuktitut) project was developed to gain a better understanding of thermal behaviour in northern environments and its effect on greenhouses. This project was realized in Kuujjuaq in 2016 by the OHMI Nunavik, which is a research program interested in the relationship between humans and their ecosystem. This was done in collaboration with the Northern Village of Kuujjuaq and the KRG and was funded by the Société du Plan Nord (SPN).
This study led to the development and installation of a heat re-uptake and storage system that takes the thermal energy created by the sun dur-ing the day, stores it and then emits it at night to keep the greenhouse temperature stable.
The two community green-houses in Kuujjuaq, one of which has been in operation since 1999, continue to thrive. Individual plots are offered to residents of Kuujjuaq by lottery for one season. Some people team up and form collective gardens which can be more productive and less labour intensive because the work is shared among members.
The Makivik Corporation is committed to improving food security in the region. With financial support from the SPN, Makivik acquired a hydroponic system developed by the company Growcer Inc. which uses waste oil as a heat source. The project has been in operation since December 2018 and its goal is to set a precedent by being the first year-round commercial gardening initiative in Nunavik while providing access to fresh produce to Kuujjuaq residents.
The hydroponic system itself is housed in a 40-foot converted shipping container in which different leafy greens and fresh herbs are fed by a continuous cycle of nutrient-rich water. Another section of the container houses a large used oil furnace. The heat generated by burning the used oil is recirculated throughout the system.
A locally owned grocery store, Dépanneur Newviq’vi Inc., is responsible for the operation of the hydroponic system and the distribution of the produce it grows. Around 70 per cent of the produce is sold through their store, while the remainder is distributed among community organizations, such as elders’ homes and daycares.
As part of the Makivik Economic Development Department and funded by the One Drop Foundation, the Pirursiivik Project, located in Inukjuak, has a goal to implement a year-round greenhouse in partnership with the Sirivik Food Centre and the Pituvik Land Holding Corporation. The project will use local cultural traditions and social activities to gather community members and spread awareness about adopting healthy practices, water conservation and nutrition.
Pirursiivik in Inuktitut means “a place to grow.” It combines soil-based and hydroponic horticulture, as well as community-led and commercial operations, to meet its objectives. In conjunction with Pirursiivik, various community activities have already begun, including greenhouse training, cold frames and indoor gardening, a cloudberry plant transplantation project, and the installation of hydroponic towers.
In the community of Salluit, Steve Grasser is an advocate for backyard gardening. His own 300ft2, solar heated gardens produce vegetables well into the fall. He grows his produce in old bathtubs and drums from washers and dryers. Although access to soil can be difficult, he considers this method an easy option for all Nunavimmiut who are looking to grow their own food at home.
A new non-profit corporation in Salluit is also hoping to secure funding to develop a community-based greenhouse which should be operational by 2022. Half of the greenhouse’s growing space will be allocated to local families who wish to grow their own produce and who in exchange, will also grow produce in the remaining space for community organizations serving people at risk.
The greenhouse in Kangiqsualujjuaq began operation in 2019 with a view of introducing the concept of local food production to the community, to reduce dependency of transporting produce from the south, and to promote healthier food choices.
A composting system and an improved ventilation system are presently in development as well as the installation of a heat re-uptake and distribution system like the one used in Kuujjuaq. With the increasing popularity of the greenhouse in Kangiqsualujjuaq the community may have to expand in the coming years.