As part of a Comprehensive Food Strategy, NSA was hired to develop a working and teaching farm that will grow wholesome food while creating social opportunities and capacity among NND citizens.
The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun acquired a farm in 2018 with the intention of providing their citizens with greater control over their food supply while developing skills capacity. The farm will ensure citizens have access to healthy and nutritious food, grown in their Traditional Territory. Like many communities in Canada, particularly in the North, Na-Cho Nyak Dun citizens have limited access to fresh produce and rely upon a fragile food system that ships food over great distances.
To maximize our produce planning and strategizing we conferred with a consultant and toured the exterior gardens and the greenhouse. We compiled all the information he was able to provide us to begin a whiteboard planning exercise. We were able to highlight what we needed for lights, heat, ventilation, irrigation, beds and the produce rotation. We also planned the grow room and ways to maximize the space and even expand it depending on our need for starters and bedding plants. Quotes were received from Lorne Metropolit of Yukon Gardens for the CDF & CAP Applications that were drafted and successful later in the season.
The seed room at the back of the greenhouse was also full of weeds, raspberry bushes, and debris. NSA removed the overgrowth and old equipment. The room is tarped over this winter to prevent more growth from sprouting.
The greenhouse had been shut down for many years. Infrastructure was in poor condition and was covered in overgrowth. In the beginning of the season, NSA brought the greenhouse back to operating standards by completing the following:
Once the greenhouse was repaired and cleared of debris, the team was then able to add new soil from the compost and hay mulch over the walkways. Planting and transplanting of seedlings also started at this time. Over 10 different types of vegetables were planted which included cucumber, squash, corn, onions, tomatoes, swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower and various herbs.
The property itself spans 160 acres and has existing, yet tired infrastructure. All buildings and facilities were renovated at the beginning of the 2020 season. Thousands of people-hours were invested into renovating and revitalizing these buildings to ensure animals could be raised and farm workers could live on-site.
This year NSA reclaimed the garden in front of the greenhouse. The area surrounding the greenhouse was full of barbed wire, old equipment, dead wood, and debris. The garden area was completely covered with grass and chick weed. All of these things had to be cleared and removed in order to start planting. After conferring with our horticulturist, it was decided to forego raised beds and plant directly in the ground.
We tilled the garden, made mounds, rows, and vegetable patches. Soil was added from the compost in the pig pasture. Next, we planted seeds and transplanted the seedlings that were started in the greenhouse. Throughout the remainder of the season we regularly watered, weeded, mulched, and used organic pesticide made out of rhubarb leaves to repel insects.The farm accumulated a lot of organic waste: weeds, coffee grounds, eggshells, etc. We added the organic material to our compost pile to ensure no part of the plants were wasted.There were many food deliveries to Mayo in July and August, which included two consultations with NND citizens. The deliveries highlighted the need for a more structured delivery method.
After the first frost we harvested what was left in the greenhouse and garden that wasn’t included in the food deliveries. All remaining plant stocks and debris were composted or fed to the livestock. The garden and greenhouse were then tarped until next season.To extend the exterior gardens for next season, two more garden spaces were brush cut and tarped, garden B and C. The raspberry bushes were transplanted to garden C in order to create a berry patch that is easily accessible to elders and children.
The stable lacked proper fencing. Old wood needed replacing and a lack of fencing provided too small of a pen.
● Cut a maintenance road to the exterior perimeter of the back fence.
● Removed all barbed wire fencing.
● Removed all rotted posts and replaced with treated posts we scavenged from house #1 across the road.
● Removed wooden fence so we could establish a proper line of site to the back pasture (pig protection). Installed a wire on the gate to keep it from dragging.
● Built a second gate across from the greenhouse that is big enough to let the tractor through.
● Finished and electrified fence of pasture 2. The pigs now have another area to graze and roam in. Pasture 2 also has a separate gate that we can close them into if we need to do work inside pasture 1.
At the beginning of the season the stable was offline, there was no electricity or water. The infrastructure needed repairs. Lack of windows created air flow and odour issues from the pigs. It wasn’t ideal for tours and elders. The stable also lacked the proper equipment to raise pigs, such as a watering system and feeder.
● Ran the trencher, got cable laid and dedicated exterior panel. Drafted a layout of interior/exterior plug ins, switches, interior/exterior lights
● Plumbed the water nipples and installed the water tank and hose lines for the piglets.
● Built a free feeder for the pigs (Fits 15 (50IB) Bags of pig feed. This proved to be a much more effective method as the feeder only had to be filled every 2-3 days.
● Acquired windows for the stable from the community garden in Mayo. Installed x2 windows, creates more daylight and airflow.
● Graded the exterior entry and created a ditch for water flow from the pasture, tied it into the ditch from the driveway edge. Doubles as a speed bump slowing traffic.
● Built 2 small pens to hold the chicks. With the incubator we hatched over 100 chicks, which proved to be more cost effective than purchasing them.
The old chicken racking system inside the barn had to be removed. The barn was covered in dirt and debris after so many years of idleness. Rabbit cages needed to be built and/or repaired to contain our projected number for the season.
● Dismantling the old floor cage system.
● Cleaned the barn floor (old manure from under the cage system).
● Fixed leaks in the grain room.
● Modified 40 or more cages for meat rabbit offspring to” grow out in.”
● Re-meshed the wire cages as they were too small to contain the baby rabbits.
● Installed separation walls to keep the rabbits from “face grooming.” & Fighting
● Built six 30x30 travel cages, we are using these cages to run rabbits outside in the flower garden on the grass. Built a rack to place cages on overnight.
● Expanded Rabbit cages to support the weaned grow outs.
● Built nest boxes inside the cages and drilled small holes in the boxes to drain.
Installed solar fencer around the perimeter to add needed protection from bears and other predators. There was very poor access to entrance, so a ramp was installed for safety purposes. Laid down mesh on top of the ramp to prevent slipping. Replaced rotted steps to the Coop Grain storage building. The coop had old infrastructure that needed to be repaired or was missing the proper parts altogether. Nesting boxes were built, as well as a second-floor run, a better roost, windows (meshed), and shutters for the windows. We also installed a waterer, feed trough, and nesting boxes on second floor.
The property lacked a perimeter fence which kept the area open to predators. We brush cut along the perimeter and installed around 350 posts with 6 strings of smooth electric wire across 1 km of fence line in total. Areas of the fence also needed to be repaired. Splice fencers into two individual circuits
(circuit one = stable, pig pasture, & down the line to greenhouse. Circuit two = behind abattoir, barn, and along field and garden A to gate by stable).
Restored the infrastructure of an old smoke house into a tool shed. It was basically built but required cladding and lacked a roof.
● Removed cladding, roof and Squared/Leveled the building.
● Built a new central beam and ran the roof trusses
● Strapped the roof.
● Clad the Building.
● Tinned the roof.
● Built and installed a door.
● Insulated walls.
● Clad the interior walls.
● Built shelves and a work bench.
● Installed bench top grinder.
● Installed bench top vice.
● Installed bench top drill press.
● Added electricity. Completely wired the building, plug ins, switches and fixtures (Electricians hooked in the power, and all we need is to add baseboard heaters).
Six houses of differing sizes and states of repair were on the property at the beginning of the season. Various work and renovations were completed in 2020 on most of the buildings, which are now being used for staff and guest housing and the future trades-training program.
Contractors dug a 350 ft artesian well for the houses and livestock. We built a heated well-house to keep it from freezing over the winter. As there is water coming out from the head, we have a hose that is heat traced leaving the well site, as well we pump any built up as required.
Applied for various grants to accumulate funding for future projects and goals.
● Wind Breaks *Pending 2021
● Water Storage Systems
● Cross Fencing for Pastures *Pending 2021
● Trades Training
● Management/Storage of Petroleum Products
● Management/Storage of Manure
● Management/Storage of Slaughter Waste
● Agri-Business Plan Development
● Field Renovation *Pending 2021
● Greenhouse Retrofit Project
● Arctic Inspiration Prize, Indigenous Food Hub
● Commenced an NNDFN Farm Business Plan
● Actively visioning and working towards a Food Sovereignty Action Plan
● Actively creating a Food Distribution model & policy
2020 saw us creating policies and procedures to bring much needed protocol and structure to the farm from a safety standpoint.
● Completed 3-Tiered Intake Procedure Policy.
● Completed an Employee Questionnaire & Welcome Package.
● Completed a Team Agreement & Household Guidelines Policy.
● On-Farm Safety Policy.
● On-Farm Social Media Policy.
● Respect for Farm Property Policy.
● Sexual Harassment Policy.
● On-Farm Employee Attendance Policy.
● On-Farm Drug & Alcohol Policy.
● Bio-Security Safety Policy.
● Firearm Storage and Handling.
● Dress Code Policy.
● Handling of Medications Procedures.
● Farm Safety Plan.
● Created Breeding Logs.
● Animal Husbandry manuals specific to Pigs, Chickens and Rabbits.
● Created a Covid 19 Safety Plan.
With the restrictions that Covid-19 brought, many citizens couldn’t access the farm. Once a Covid 19 Safety Plan had been adopted, the farm was able to host 5 tours in total during July and August. They were tours that involved primarily elders. This proved to be a great way to showcase all the work done and build a closer relationship with the NND community and the Farm.