The Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) is a non-profit society created by local Métis and northern farming expert, Jackie Milne, in 2013. We operate on a 260-acre campus in Hay River, Northwest Territories. We provide immersive farm training to people committed to improving local food systems.
Our vision is to be a holistic farm and educational centre to genuinely empower people to transform their lives. We will support a vibrant regenerative landscape while building productive local farms and thriving, healthy communities.
Download our info sheet: NFTI Brief Overview 2017
NFTI is dedicated to helping promote and teach various new methodologies for sustainable and regenerative agriculture that are being practiced around the world. We teach a unique application of these food production systems that are tailored to Northern small-scaled, highly productive farming that are part of a new trend in job creation and self employed careers. This includes biointensive vegetable gardening, greenhouse systems, permaculture, food storage & value-adding techniques and holistic planned grazing with livestock.
Our 260-acre farm campus is the largest land-based farm in the NWT:
- Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens
- Outdoor gardens, a hoop greenhouse and geodesic dome greenhouse
- Large yurt classroom and 10 smaller yurts for students staying at the farm campus
- An animal barn, industrial kitchen, offices and farm store
- Fields, boreal forest, ponds and the Hay River
Since our start in 2013, NFTI has:
- Hosted 30 intensive, experiential farm training workshops
- Trained 147 people
- Over 50% First Nations / Metis / Inuvialuit
- From 30 different communities
- Over 10 have gone on to start their own farms or local food businesses and initiatives in their homes
- Invested over $2 million in our program and community
- Created over 10 jobs in the summer season with 5 jobs in the off-season
- Been featured in over 100 media articles
- 2 recent National Aboriginal Food Security Reports
- Gained international coverage through the Savory Institute & global network
We manage our farm school holistically, which means we strive to account for financial, environmental, and social complexity in every decision we make. We use a three-part Holistic Context to guide our actions and the development of our project:
We strive to maximize our quality of life, which means...
- Helping our families, community, and others to thrive
- Living with love and joy
- Maximizing our personal potential and realizing our individual goals
- Learning continuously and sharing with others
In order to achieve this we strive to produce...
- Leisure time
- Profit, to be reinvested in furthering our goals
- A pleasant and organized working environment
And in order to sustain all of this indefinitely into the future we aim to...
- Create landscapes that are diverse, full of life, and which support human wellbeing
- Help our community members to maximize their personal potential and contribute to the community using their unique talents and passions.
Jackie Milne, the President of NFTI, is a local Hay River Métis woman with over 20 years of successful market gardening. Her business started as a way to safely provide for her family, but soon Jackie noticed how interested other people were in what she was doing. When she was hired to run workshops and travel to 13 communities around the Northwest Territories, she truly discovered the depth and breadth of learning that Northerners needed. People wanted to know 'How can we feed ourselves?' and this is not a question easily answered in a short 2 hour workshop without a demonstration garden!
NFTI grew out of this grassroots need for authentic northern food production education for our isolated communities. When Jackie Milne came up with the concept and laid out a detailed and ambitious long-term plan for truly empowering people of the north to restore our local food systems, it was a labour of love. NFTI was born, and instead of sending experts into communities, the idea was to invest in local people who will become the experts for their community by building their capacity through indepth hands-on learning experiences in 'living classrooms'. Throughout the first season of workshops, we were overwhelmed with the response from students to this strategy; they not only understood more about food production in the North, they actually had the skills and tools needed to begin businesses they are passionate about, learn about healthy and nutritional food, start alleviating the anxiety of food insecurity in their communities.
In September of 2013, the United Nations published their Trade and Environment Review 2013 "Wake Up Before it is Too Late: Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable for Food Security in a Changing Climate". This report recommends a rapid and significant shift in agriculture and the practical ways to accomplish this align with the Northern Farm Training Institute:
"The transition from an energy-intensive form of agriculture […] to a system that builds productive ecosystem services to sustain multifunctional, suitable, resilient, viable and equitable agriculture requires major new investments in institutions and infrastructure. This inevitably requires the creation of new research centres and initiatives, which should be dedicated to research, education and extension under a fully participatory system that will also favour women and cover ecosystem services, organic farming, agroecology and agroforestry. The ultimate aim of those centres and initiatives should be the transformation of the present agricultural research system at national, regional and international levels to cater to the needs of a new agricultural paradigm.” - page 175 United Nations, March 2013
In March 2014, Jackie was asked to present at the Agriculture Canada AgriRisk Conference in Ottawa where she had a chance to share the NFTI dream of building a dedicated permanent farm campus based on the recommendations from the United Nations report.
Later in March, the Council of Canadian Academies published their report "Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge." NFTI is mentioned in this very important report as one of the current 'Promising Practices to Build Food Security, Food Sovereignty, Health and Wellness with a Multidisciplinary Approach'.
NFTI began conversations with the Town of Hay River Economic Development Officer in the summer of 2013 to discuss the concept of the NFTI working farm and a potential site for the farm campus. In February 2014 the Town of Hay River completed their "Hay River Sustainable Agriculture Plan" which recommends actively supporting the development of a centre for agriculture incubation along with other recommendations to support education and communication of agriculture in Hay River.
The atmosphere was right for this type of a project in Hay River and with some dedicated work, we also secured the financial support needed to make the development of the farm campus a reality! In August 2014 during his Northern Tour, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency funding of $2 million over 2 years for NFTI. We had the opportunity to show him and his accompanying ministers around our students' garden plots in the Fort Smith Community Gardens and explain the long-term benefits of investing in sustainable agriculture and ongoing educational support for new farmers.
With this support, and a partnership with the Town of Hay River to lease an abandoned property previously owned by Northern Pork, NFTI began our ambitious task: transform an abandoned industrial pig barn site with 20 years of debris and neglect into a training and research centre which could support our vision. We repaired roads, restored power to the site, removed derelict buildings and cleaned up industrial waste. We recovered and recycled thousands of dollars worth of materials and infrastructure and moved forward in building accommodations, classrooms, offices, a store, industrial kitchen, greenhouses and barn. At the same time, we trained northerners through intensive experiential courses. We now have a complete campus with all the facilities required and are continuing to develop more and grow to meet the needs of our local community and northern farmers.
In November of 2016, Jackie was honoured with the Meritorious Service Medal. This award is given by the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen to recognize her outstanding contributions to our country. She will be traveling with her family to Ottawa to formally receive this medal in June. Jackie also has recently been sponsored by a private foundation to attend the Global Food Summit “Sequestering Carbon in Soil: Addressing the Climate Threat” in Paris, France in May.
Meet the Team
Founder & President
Jackie's endless energy, enthusiasm, and fiery determination are what started this farm school, and she continues to be the driving force behind our unstoppable success. Jackie received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada in November of 2016 for her work finding real solutions to Canada's northern food problems.
Kim has been with NFTI since the beginning. With over six years of experience in the NWT, she is our expert at writing funding applications, social media outreach, marketing, finance, event coordinating, agro-tourism, and more. Kim has an honours degrees from Lakehead University in Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism and Geography.
Market Garden Manager
Helane has traveled the world learning about permaculture, sustainable lifestyles and the systems that support them. She started at NFTI in July 2017 and has been running the greenhouses and gardens all season, as well as working with youth and training interns. She has trained with the Environment Celebration Institute, completing Dr. Elaine Ingham’s Life in the Soil Classes and has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Mechanical Engineering) from the University of Toronto.
Bookkeeper and Fibre Artist
Jarka is our excellent bookkeeper and is also a passionate fibre artist. Originally from the Czech Republic, Jarka is a systems engineer and has completed an Office Administration Course from Aurora College. She is dedicated to using our sheep's wool for spinning, knitting and tapestry.
Farm Campus Wellness Director
Mary is amazing - she cares for all living beings on the farm campus, from trimming hooves and building nesting boxes to feeding 10+ staff and volunteers a full farm grown delicious dinner! With a BA in Anthropology from Mount Royal University and a plethora of practical farm experience from all around the country, she is a treasured asset to the NFTI team.
Angus is going into Grade 11 at Diamond Jenness Secondary School in Hay River with the goal of going to University for Biology. His first day at work, he helped castrate 20 squealing piglets and was still smiling by the end of the day! He is now an expert at catching sheep and chickens, building trails and electric fencing and even monitoring the birth of new goats! We are so lucky to have such a hardworking, flexible and ambitious young helper!
Board of Directors
President: Jackie Milne
Secretary/Treasurer: Helen Green
Director: Chief Roy Fabian
Director: Bob Bromley
Director: Leon Bouchard
We are always looking for help. Whether you want to volunteer to help with the farm, or if you have other assets you would like to offer, we would love to hear from you!