The Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) in Hay River is turning an abandoned, industrial pig farm into a teaching campus, with the help of a contribution from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor).
Since 2013, NFTI has trained more than 150 people from 30 communities, and 13 of those people have gone on to start their own farm businesses. With the 260-acre farm campus, NFTI will demonstrate and teach how to feed 200 people. “Our most isolated communities are 200 people are or less, so we wanted to show, in a realistic way, what does it take to feed community of that size,” said Kim Rapati of NFTI.
The farm will develop the sustainable systems needed to provide a complete diet for 200 people, including greenhouses, permanent food forests and orchards, hardy northern grains and pastures, meat and dairy farming, food storage and marketing.
The focus is on “regenerative agriculture”, or agriculture that supports a healthy and abundant ecosystem, that will also help northern people protect wild herds and wild harvesting.
Rapati said that the failure of the pig farm, established in 1990 and abandoned in 1995, demonstrates that industrial, confinement agriculture does not work in a northern context, “for our people and our markets.” The NFTI farm campus is representative of a new model of agriculture taking hold in Canada–small-scaled, highly productive farming systems. “It is now possible for small, bio-intensive market gardens to earn between $25,000 and $150,000 in Canada,” Rapati said.
For more information on the NFTI farm campus, watch Rapati’s presentation on the Northern Food Network’s Webinar # 3