CAN: Funding for Indigenous agriculture makes food security project grow into fresh produce

A Prince Rupert container farm has become an overwhelming success with partial financial assistance through B.C. Agriculture Development Funding of which a new round is available, announced the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Development, on July 5. The nearly $5 million funding is available through the B.C. Indigenous Agriculture Development Program to Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities in B.C.

"We’ve seen such an amazing response to this program from Indigenous entrepreneurs and Indigenous communities all over B.C.,” Lana Popham, B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, said. “Supporting the planning and developing of farming projects and businesses leads to expanding the province’s agricultural industry and brings more opportunities for First Nations to build food security, create local jobs and grow the local economy.”

The grant was used for business development planning and consultancy on subscription-based boxes of hydroponically grown produce provided to GNS citizens of Prince Rupert, Blair Mirau CEO of Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society, said. Mirau said the locally grown food has proven extremely popular due to the freshness of a farm-to-table turnaround of fewer than 24 hours.

He explained that traditionally with retail produce it can be up to a two-week time frame from farm-to-table in Northwest communities after harvesting in the lower mainland or Californian fields, produce then being sent to the distributors, wholesalers, shipping, retail outlets, and the consumers own fridge time.

One of the unforeseen challenges of the greenhouse project was the overwhelming demand for the food boxes compiled of the local hydroponic produce. The society harvests food twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the food items are packed and refrigerated in reusable cooler packs ready for pick up on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Originally the GNS had forecasted 50 weekly food boxes for clients, but after posting a link just once, Mirau said more than 150 responses were received. “We have a waiting list right now with about 40 people on it and in addition to the 70 that are already subscribing.

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