Prepping for produce at Nipissing First Nation 

By David Briggs

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Earlier this month, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) gave Nipissing First Nation $272,217 to purchase and install three cold-climate greenhouses.

The announcement was part of a $2.1 million boost from the NOHFC for a variety of community projects throughout the region.

See: Northern Heritage Funding will boost multiple projects

“It’s a really interesting project,” said Nipissing First Nation chief Scott McLeod, “and really exciting for us to bloom into something bigger with more opportunities.” With funding in hand and land already secured near Jocko Point, the plan is to construct the greenhouses this year.

Chief McLeod mentioned the idea of the project goes back some time, when Mike Harney, who worked as the First Nation’s economic development officer before he retired, began researching the possibility of using greenhouses within the community.

This was 2016, and in April of 2018, the First Nation was given $40,000 from NOHFC to undertake a feasibility study to see if the project was worth pursuing.

Part of the “original thinking” for getting the project going was to help supplement food supplies in remote, northern First Nation communities. There’s “a huge need for fresh produce at fair market value” in “our sister nations to the North,” Chief McLeod said. Growing food on Nipissing First Nation would “make things more efficient and reduce transportation costs from southern Ontario.”

The idea is still on the table, and there are plans to look into that further, but first, Chief McLeod wants to see how things turn out in the short term.

As the greenhouse project grows, the immediate plan is to use them to provide fresh herbs and various types of lettuce to the community. Currently, there are community gardens being worked, and greenhouses will help supplement that produce. Distribution is in place to deliver this produce to seniors, and the greenhouse bounty will contribute to that supply.

If the growing is good, and demand exists, Chief McLeod said the First Nation might consider opening a market, or distribute the food to other retail outlets, but such plans remain speculative. “We might see a market down the road for vegetables. We’re not sure where this is going to go.”

“It isn’t by any means on a commercial scale,” Chief McLeod said of the greenhouse project, “but it is fairly extensive and will provide a good supplement of fresh vegetables for our community.”

“I think it’s going to prove to be a very beneficial venture.”

 David  Briggs   is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the BAYTODAY.CA . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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