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Yellowknife

Le Refuge moves downtown: France Benoit’s new urban farm


France Benoit explains her plans for two new gardens in Yellowknife.

Le Refuge Farm has moved from Madeline Lake, on the Ingraham Trail, to downtown Yellowknife.

France Benoit, who runs the farm, says she made the move “to simplify the operation” and to educate and inspire Yellowknifers to start their own gardens.

“We are living during a world pandemic right now,” she said, “so food security is really paramount in my mind.

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“I’m trying the best I can to encourage people to start their own garden or to expand what they have. I’m happy to answer questions that people have and I can go and visit people.”

Benoit is predicting more “major disruptions” to the food system, and believes local and resilient food production can guard against the impacts of that.

“The farm is going to be in two locations,” she explained.

The first location, outside her home in the Trail’s End area, will consist of raised garden beds and a small greenhouse totalling approximately 1,000 sq ft.

To maximize growing space, Benoit’s driveway is being used as garden space. She has traded her car for an electric bike with a trailer, which she plans to use to deliver vegetables and other goods like homemade cheese sold through an online store.

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The second location, a garden in Kam Lake, is 5,000 sq ft. Together, the two urban growing areas will give Benoit about the same space she had at Madeline Lake.

A photo of soil at the Kam Lake Le Refuge Farm location being levelled in May 2020. Photo: Le Refuge Farm

“One of my mottos is you’ve got to work with what you’ve got. And what we have is lots of empty spaces and bedrock, so I am turning a parking lot into an urban farm,” Benoit said of the Kam Lake lot.

Once the soil is levelled, the Kam Lake lot will be seeded with things like beets, carrots, potatoes, and cabbages. The residential lot will grow produce including lettuces, tomatoes, spicy greens, and herbs.

The cabbages and a greenhouse filled with basil will be used to make what she called “value-added products” – like coleslaw and basil vinaigrette – to be sold later in the summer.

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