May 9, 2019
France Benoit’s Le Refuge Farm is a testament to how much potential there is in northern agriculture.
Le Refuge can be described as idyllic, incredibly verdant and a gourmand’s dream for sourcing over 20 different types of produce! A staple at the Yellowknife Farmer’s Market, of which France is a founding member, YK residents have come to know Le Refuge for its wide array of produce, tasty cheeses (made from milk sourced at local grocers) and handmade decadent desserts. With close to 6,000 square feet of growing space there is something for everyone at Le Refuge.
“We grow hope and inspiration,” France says of her small-scale organic operation. “we pump our irrigation water from the lake and depend largely on solar power to run our home and the pumps used to water the gardens.”
France’s vision is to confirm the viability of the agriculture sector in the North Slave by producing and selling vegetables and products at the Farmer’s Market and to local restaurants. While this year’s list of eager chefs has yet to be confirmed, local favourite, the Flavour Trader, is already a customer.
Meanwhile, France is aiming to sell even more product at this summer’s weekly Farmer’s Markets in Yellowknife – and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is looking forward to supporting her under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership Market Development Program and the Agriculture Training Program.
Using funding available through the Market Development Program designed to help agricultural businesses increase their competitiveness, France has hired a “Garden Coach” to help build a business plan aimed at doubling the farm’s vegetable production this summer.
France has also accessed the Agriculture Training Program - and is now a mentor to a young mentee who will help and learn all aspects of the farm’s operations. The mentee will receive training, expert advice, experience and education resources to not only enhance their skills but set a realistic direction for a career in commercial agriculture.
ITI’s Agriculture Strategy, The Business of Food: A Food Production Plan, highlights the importance of access to agricultural training and expertise to meet the needs of communities and regions.
As a mentor and business person, France is both a pillar and leader of the NWT’s agricultural community.
In a landscape where innovation is key France cannot be found lacking. Outside of her farm life, she recently won the Best Experimental Film Award for her film Three Drops in London, England.
To learn more about agriculture projects and opportunities, contact your ITI Regional Office.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership) is a suite of programs and funding designed to help support agriculture in Canada. It is delivered in the NWT by the GNWT in partnership with the Government of Canada.
The Program Guide for the Partnership can be found here.