February 14, 2020
Grower: Inuvik Community Greenhouse
What they produce: A wide range of fruit and vegetables
Where to buy: Inuvik’s Arctic Market (weekends, summer)
Watching kids in Tuktoyaktuk gobble up peas from their community greenhouse while the summer snow fell was something Ray Solotki will never forget.
She is the Executive Director of the Inuvik Community Greenhouse and over the last five growing seasons, has spent her time with her hands in the dirt across the Beaufort Delta Region.
Solotki was hired to help manage the iconic Inuvik Greenhouse in 2015. Ironically, it’s a building that was once meant to house ice. Built originally as a hockey arena, it was converted into a greenhouse 21 years ago and has since become a staple for growing produce beneath the midnight sun.
In addition to her work in Inuvik, Solotki has been instrumental in the new greenhouses sprouting up in Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk, Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour, Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson. For the first two years, she visited each community three times a season to help out but soon discovered that keeping agriculture knowledge within the communities full-time was the more-critical key to their success.
“Instead, we created an internship program and with the help of Industry, Tourism and Investment started an education program that specifically catered to northern gardeners,” Solotki says. “Now, someone from each community comes to us in the spring and in the fall, to learn about garden maintenance; food preservation; running markets; and more.”
While some communities are still finding their footing, others, such as Aklavik, are flourishing alongside an increase in farmers markets and better access to locally grown food.
In a funny twist, Solotki is having trouble recording the actual pounds of food being produced because so much of it is being eaten fresh out of the ground.
However, Solotki is bound and determined to get even more fresh produce onto locals’ dinner tables and is currently working on a funding proposal for a year-round greenhouse in partnership with ColdAcre out of Whitehorse. If everything goes as planned, residents will be able to buy locally-grown produce in Inuvik grocery stores NorthMart and Stantons.
“The greenhouse offers a chance to take control of our food security and food sovereignty - which is hugely important in the north. Having the ability to grow your own food means an opportunity to enjoy much better quality – and at a lower cost.”
Though the greenhouse produces a wide range of fruit and vegetables, Solotki’s proudest achievement is their apple tree.
“We grow the most northern apples anywhere in the world. I checked! You have never tasted a better apple, than an Arctic Delight!”
Following National Agriculture Day (February 11) we’re profiling some of the NWT’s local and commercial food growers. Stay tuned for more stories from our Locally Grown series and use #CdnAgDay on social media to join the conversation.