NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Strawberry fields growing up fast
School project brings in 1,000 plants

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 7, 2012

A suggestion made by Grade 7 science students has put Fort Providence in line to become the unofficial strawberry capital of the NWT.

NNSL photo/graphic

Nogha Landry, left, Lucy Landry and Kelsey Bonnetrouge plant some of the 1,000 strawberry plants that arrived in Fort Providence on May 25. - photo courtesy of James Hatch

In December as an enrichment project, teacher James Hatch challenged the students in Deh Gah School's Grade 7 science class to pick three crops that they would like to grow and thought would do well in the territory. One of the choices was strawberries.

Hatch said he soon realized there was a whole wealth of local knowledge about wild strawberries including where to find the best patches to pick them. Hatch decided to bring together the familiarity with strawberries and Fort Providence's summer climate.

"We realized these super-long days could potentially produce mega berries," he said.

On March 25, the Grade 7 students' vision came to fruition as 1,000 strawberry plants arrived in the community. Students in Hatch's Grade 9 plant propagation class planted the strawberries in the community garden as well as in gardens they created for community members.

Going from the original idea to getting the plants in the soil was a three-month-long involved process, said Hatch.

Hatch began by doing online research, which led to a commercial strawberry farm on Price Edward Island that was willing to donate 1,000 plants, 200 each of five varieties. The next step was getting the plants to Fort Providence.

Hatch contacted Environment Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to make sure there weren't any restrictions or limits to importing strawberry plants. Next came the logistics of shipping the plants, including finding a company that would move live plants.

In the end, the plants were shipped to Edmonton where Fort Providence students, on a tour of colleges, picked them up and brought them back to the hamlet in two carry-on boxes on a First Air flight.

Meanwhile, awareness was being raised in the community about the project. The school decided to turn the idea into a fundraiser and offered the plants for a price of $1 for a piece or $2, which included having students plant them.

Approximately 25 community members took the school up on the planting offer. In the plant propagation class, students learned about tilling and watering and how to build raised beds. Using salvaged wooden shipping containers, the students built beds for those who paid for the planting service.

When the strawberries arrived on March 25, the students starting planting at approximately 2 p.m. and had all of the plants in the ground by 10 p.m. Each had to be put in the soil quickly to preserve their roots, Hatch said.

In addition to the individual beds, the school donated 150 plants to the community garden and kept 150 in the school which are being cared for in indoor grow boxes.

Hatch said the plants at the school and the community garden will be carefully maintained so cuttings can be taken next and more plants grown.

"I'd like them all to be growing strawberries here," Hatch said is his ultimate goal.

In addition to providing community members with strawberries and raising awareness about the fact they can be grown locally, Hatch said the project is also showing that growing one's own food and be functional and fun.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.