Fort St. James — For the first time in decades an effort is being made to produce fresh produce on Nak’azdli land.
The Nak’azdli greenhouse, now in it’s second year, is moving forward as planned, said greenhouse manager Andrew Stairs. The project even has small demonstration garden in front of the Nak’azdli band office to show people the growing vegetables.
“We are trying to re-establish the notion that fruits and vegetables can be grown on the Nak’azdli reserve just like in the old days,” said Mr. Stairs.
The operation consists of a ten-meter long greenhouse, ten raised flatbeds and three rows of flat bed. The greenhouse alone is filled with over 600 tomato plants that will be ready in 5-6 weeks. The six commercial types being grown include red and yellow cherry, two types of red beef steak, pink beef steak, and yellow beef steak. Ten plants of heritage variety are also being grown to show people what they look like. The outdoor raised and flat vegetable beds will also soon harvest potatoes, onions, cucumbers, leeks and strawberries.
Some of the produce will go to the Nak’azdli Health Centre while most will be sold at the local Sana’aih Market and farmers market. With so many tomato plants, the field tomatoes will be fully replaced at the grocer with many left over to sell at the market. This means a way of financial earnings and also provides band members with more opportunity for jobs off the reserve, said Mr. Stairs.
“Commercial gain and social gain. It’s employing people and producing food,” said Mr. Stairs.
Currently the greenhouse staff consists of only a few employees. Larissa George, 19, and Steven Basil, 23, of the Nak’azdli reserve, are the two newest employees who were given the opportunity through help of the Nak’azdli band’s resource co-ordinator Alexandra Lvqqi. The band was able to provide them with proper work ware including gloves and boots to ensure they are able to work in a safe environment.
“We don’t have a lot of agriculture but since the greenhouse started last year its been a positive experience,” said Ms. Lvqqi.
If everything continues as planned, greenhouse employees will soon be given the task of cleaning up the land around the greenhouse. The plan is to remove the waste left by a nearby mill to make room for a huge vegetable patch. Any unused wood pieces still in good condition will be used to create an indoor heating system to help the greenhouse sustain the winter.
“These are the first steps. Next year we will see at least 10 more raised beds, and a much wider variety of crops,” said Mr. Stairs.