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.
Wild Rice Cultivation
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.
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...