History of Agriculture in the Northwest Territories

Before colonization, northern people had a complete and independent local food system. When the first settlers arrived, they brought domestic agriculture with them - in 1889 there were 134 acres under cultivation in the NWT. Many northerners have memories of their grandparents and great-grandparents tending large vegetable gardens along with having a hunting area and this combination of sustainable wild harvest with diverse biointensive market gardening is what provided a full local diet for many decades. Once roads and super markets became common, a lot of the gardening knowledge faded and in recent times, many attempts to bring modern agriculture to the north have failed. NFTI has studied past projects and learned from their mistakes. Our current training programs and research priorities are focused around applied research using information from the past, and the best modern techniques for regenerative agriculture that will flourish in our communities.

A History of the Development of Agriculture in NWT

Wild Rice Cultivation

Bruce Green seeds wild rice at the NFTI Farm Campus.

We have been collaborating with local researchers Pat Bobinski and Bruce Green to learn more about cultivating wild rice in the NWT. Below is a report with some results from our most recent year and an information sheet.

NWT Wild Rice Info Sheet

NWT Wild Rice Project Research 2016

Livestock Grazing Research

We are just beginning to trial the results of Holistic Planned Grazing and Continuous Grazing and the effects they have on animals, profitability, and northern ecosystems. In our first season of grazing we recorded an 18% increase in the length of the growing season (the time in which plants were actively photosynthesizing) compared to the wild landscape using Holistic Planned Grazing with cattle on pasture. More comprehensive results will come in future years as the project matures. Our trials of Continuous Grazing suggest that it is not beneficial for long term ecosystem health, but that it can be a valuable tool during the establishment phase of a farm when labour or fencing are in short supply.

Soil Fertility Research

Compost and Waste Reduction Research



Northern Crop Varieties

We have been testing a huge variety of plant crops for both indoor and outdoor growing in the Northwest Territories. See our Plant Crop page for more information.

Northern Animal Breeds

We are actively testing a wide variety of animal species and breeds to test their suitability for far-northern climates and producers. So far we have trialed cattle (Galloway X Dexter), goats (cashmere, alpine, nubian, lamancha), sheep (Icelandic, Friesian), Livestock Guardian Dogs (Estrela Mountain Dog, Kangal X Afghan Tiger), pigs (red spotted, berkshire), chickens (wide variety of breeds), yaks, and this year we are going to also be trialing several breeds of ducks, turkeys, broiler chickens, quail and possibly guinea fowl. Please refer to our Animals page.


Reversing Climate Change

At NFTI we strive to be carbon-negative. We achieve this through a variety of methods:

  • Waste reduction and composting
  • Biochar production
  • No-till and organic crop production
  • Holistic Planned Grazing
  • Rocket Mass Heaters
  • and more...