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Territorial Farmers’ Association loses funding
Government closer to home and community steps in to fill void

Sarah Ladik
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Territorial Farmers’ Association (TFA) is losing a big chunk of its funding as of March 31, 2014, according to its executive director, Andrew Cassidy.

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Market gardener Helen Green, left, says she sees the interest in locally-produced, fresh, organic food grow every week. Her stall at the Wharf sells out every Saturday. - Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo

The five-year deal that saw about $150,000 a year come to the non-profit organization from the federal government expires next year. That sum was used to pay for the premises the TFA now shares with Ecology North, salary for one staff member, and in support of agricultural experiments and projects in the territorial farming community. Cassidy, however, remains confident the organization will continue to exist, and even grow.

“The TFA turns 40-years-old this year,” he told The Hub. “We’ve had funding and staff for 20 of that.”

Cassidy said similar provincial organizations are also seeing their federal funding cut, but that their bigger programs and larger staffs might make them more difficult to sustain than the operation in the NWT. Already, he sees a different avenue opening; one geared more towards training and experimental farming. “The Northern Farm Training Institute is going to have a big and important role to play,” he said. “Jackie Milne is looking at expanding the programs to maybe have a campus that would be more like an experimental farm where people could come for however long – a week or a few days – to learn about Northern farming, because there certainly are specific challenges associated with where we live.”

Cassidy said the trend has been towards educating interested people on how to grow food for themselves in addition to supporting established producers and market gardeners.

Avid market gardener and Cassidy’s partner Helen Green said she thinks there is enough grassroots support for Northern agriculture now to see the community through the potentially difficult gap in funding, at least on a local level.

“There has definitely been growth,” she said. “There are more people growing their own gardens and buying from local producers as well.”

She said she has noticed a significant shift towards organic produce in the last five years, which mostly goes hand-in-hand with small-scale agriculture in the territory.

“The advantage of the way we can do it here is that we can select for flavour as opposed to either storage or mechanized harvesting,” Green said. “There are lots of varieties, like carrots of all kinds of colours, that you just don’t see in stores.”

Cassidy said while there has been no firm commitment from the GNWT, he has seen an increase in support from them in the last few years and sees potential for various departments to help fill the looming funding void.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response from the territorial government,” he said. “Typically, we’ve seen them invest in non-renewable resource extraction and the shift towards funding sustainable, local, industries has been really good for organizations like us.”

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