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New season for Inuvik greenhouse
Community space provides more than gardening services

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 7, 2012

How does a garden grow north of the Arctic Circle?

NNSL photo/graphic

Andrea Brown and her 18-month-old daughter Camryn check out plants for sale in the Inuvik Community Greenhouse last weekend. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

In the Inuvik area, many local gardens grow with the help of the Inuvik Community Greenhouse. Whether it's having a plot in the greenhouse, acquiring plants and seeds, or just networking and taking advantage of the advice of fellow gardeners, most green thumbs around town are involved with the project one way or another.

"The goal of the greenhouse is to promote wellness through gardening," Sheena Adams, executive director of the greenhouse, told Inuvik Drum. "That hasn't changed since it opened, but I would say it has expanded."

The Inuvik greenhouse now plays host to a variety of events, and its yield has increased steadily over time to the point where it now ships plants to neighbouring communities. As well, there are multiple plots in the space maintained by Adams and her dedicated crew of volunteers that provides locally-grown produce to a number of community charities and non-profit groups.

While the greenhouse project is heralded as a community success story, it is reaching the end of its initial lifespan. In short, it needs a new roof in order to keep providing the same service to the area for years to come.

The Inuvik Community Greenhouse structure used to serve as a community arena until the roof was replaced with polycarbonate in 1999. This material was only expected to have a life span of about 10 years, said Adams. Because of its age, it now has reduced light transmission, which actually reduced the production of garden plots in the greenhouse.

Add to this the fact that the roof was damaged during a major wind storm this past winter, and it becomes clear that the lifespan of the current roof has expired.

"It's going to need to be replaced and it's going to be expensive," said Adams. "But I'm OK with that, I think we can do it."

The price tag on a new roof is estimated to be between $275,000 and $300,000, said Adams, but would mean another 10 to 15 years for the greenhouse.

"That's not really that much to keep a building this size maintained, especially for what the community gets out of it," said Adams.

What the community gets out of the greenhouse is a space to promote healthy living, food security, recreation and community spirit. Out of everyone, Inuvik youth probably benefit from the facility the most, said Adams, because learning to grow food at an early age encourages kids to eat more fruits and vegetables throughout their lives and raises awareness about nutrition.

"Gardening is the number one hobby in North America," said Adams. "And in the Inuvik area, gardening outside is very difficult. So, without the greenhouse, there wouldn't be very much opportunity for it."

Along with gardening activities, kids days, and composting services, the greenhouse hosts a plethora of different community activities. The Inuvik Quilting Guild is quite active in the space, hosting natural dying workshops and other activities every year.

A version of hot yoga takes place in the upstairs greenhouse space once all of the commercial plants are sold.

New this year, there is a canning workshop planned for later in the season, where host members will teach other how to can and preserve their own food, which will increase food security in the area.

All in all, the Inuvik Community Greenhouse had always been and remains to be about more than just planting and watering.

"A lot of relationships are formed out there," said Adams. "A lot of different people come together for different reasons and different purposes and have a better lifestyle because of it. The community is better, as well."

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