The Great Potato Collaboration!

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The Story of the Great Potato Collaboration!

In March of 2021, with news of the pandemic, we jumped into action and put together an ‘NWT Collaborative Growing Plan’ which we shared with the municipal, territorial and federal government. We emailed, had phone meetings and waited but for weeks we didn’t hear anything back. We knew this spring is a critical time for our communities to plant food for the upcoming season – growing food cannot wait! 

Jackie’s interview in the Hub about creating a Seed Bank for NWT communities: https://nnsl.com/hayriverhub/farming-advocate-jackie-milne-proposes-seed-bank-for-the-territory/?fbclid=IwAR0jdfI6q5BVmOvRb-QystiAC8ROQumbjLPHi4QUgAZu6HprGpGOJ02LLKk

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So Jackie and Kim created the original GoFundMe page back in April asking for help so we could purchase seeds and ship them in ourselves. Over 70 people contributed, which was such a blessing, but we still weren’t close to our goal. The timing was now or never though for seeds, so Jackie contacted the farm we normally purchase seed potatoes from with the $3,500 or so we had raised. She told the farmer about our GoFundMe and that we were trying to support our students in the isolated communities who had said the biggest thing they needed was seed potatoes. The amount we could get with that money is not much, especially considering the shipping and the farmer said ‘maybe we could help!’ and connected us with the Alberta Potato Grower’s Association. They asked how much we needed and Jackie shot for the moon with the amount of 50,000 lbs and they said ‘let us see what we can do’ – a nervous, excited waiting period until they came back and said one of their farmers said they could donate it all!! We were shocked and SO amazed and excited and were able to announce “The Great Potato Collaboration” on our Facebook page:

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And we were on the radio as well –  Cabin Radio article:
https://cabinradio.ca/38467/news/economy/potatoes-for-everyone-as-huge-donation-reaches-nwt/?fbclid=IwAR2EYnbHK2cQl5P9wbAXeaJNbRpoFBGWaX1K2EcBofVtE8kt4ZSngVJXxJI

Right away, our phone, inbox and Facebook page was flooded with NWTers asking for more details – where, when, how! There was such a surge of excitement and demand, it was quite exhilarating. Jackie made a plan on how much could be shared with every community and we got busy contacting people who might be able to help. It was so beautiful to see how many people were networking within their community and between NWT communities, we have never experienced anything like that!

Jackie’s husband donated the truck and hired Ron from Fort Good Hope to drive down and pick them up from the very generous Sunnycrest Farms (http://www.sunnycrestfarms.com/) and after a few days, the potatoes arrived, here is what 50,000 lbs of seed potatoes looks like:

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Check out the video on Facebook, I couldn’t get it to load here: https://www.facebook.com/NorthernFarmTrainingInstitute/videos/749817852438516/

We were on CBC News the next night, which was really exciting:
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/hay-river-farm-25-tonnes-potatoes-1.5599431

We had the local newspaper come out:
https://nnsl.com/hayriverhub/nfti-gets-massive-donation-of-seed-potatoes-from-alberta-farm/

We had APTN come to do an interview:
https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/it-starts-with-a-seed-farming-north-of-60-in-canada/

AND we even made it onto the Globe and Mail!
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/alberta/article-tk-alberta-donation-of-seeding-potatoes/

The next few weeks were such an exciting rollercoaster of logistics, networking, packing and shipping and a thousand mini lessons about how to plant potatoes! Many Chiefs personally came to load the potatoes for their communities, a local company Dyno from Yellowknife donated a truck and driver to pick up everything for the Tlicho communities and Yellowknife and many many individuals dropped by. We had volunteers helping us bag the bulk potatoes so that they could be shipped on planes to the fly-in communities and the airline companies were amazing to work with and donated the shipping – it was an incredible experience!

A huge thank you, Mahsi Cho to:
– Cat McGurk who coordinated the Yellowknife sharing of the potatoes (including bringing them to the airports to ship north)
– Simpson Air, donated air delivery  to Sambaa K’e
– Air Tindi, delivering to Lutsel K’e
– Buffalo Airways, donated air delivery to the Sahtu region
– Canadian North, donated air delivery to Inuvik and the High Arctic Regions

Since the shipping has been completed, we have been sharing live lessons on Facebook with our students on how to plant their potatoes and care for them. Our next big steps are to help with learning how to mulch and produce the most amount of potatoes, learning when and how to harvest and most importantly how to store the harvest so it will last the winter. 

Some of the biggest news to come out of “The Great Potato Collaboration” is:
1. Jackie was asked to be a speaker in a global panel for the United Nations ‘High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development’ called “Partnering with Indigenous Peoples” on July 14th:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIf1s6nONhw&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3ABijP4A5bNR36gyBBFGpvjR66WBD-PL24CbjK8lerY4Z96FZtomeAb2k
Elder Pat Martel from the K’atl’odeeche First Nation who was asked to do the opening prayer! And Jackie’s talk starts around 55:00 minute mark.
2. We have been contacted by Agriculture Canada to work with them on a potato research project that will greatly help out food security and we are so excited about it!

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to our campaign, just the moral support of knowing that there are people all over the world willing to help us out at that critical time in the spring gave us the confidence to go forward with our plan for supporting as many people as we could! What happened with our first GoFundMe campaign was a technical issue with the withdrawals that we have now fixed. We would so appreciate any support you can give and will keep posting updates here about our exciting season – we hope this event will be able to inspire other growers and regions of Canada from now on!

Our Go Fund Me Page:

https://ca.gofundme.com/f/seeds-and-support-for-nwt-communitys-food-security

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