A family living just outside Hay River hopes to build and operate the largest commercial farm in the Northwest Territories.
The Boden family hopes its 48-acre riverside property can become a potato farm and aims to begin selling produce as early as this fall.
Their long-term goal is to export potatoes south to Alberta and beyond.
"We hope to make a living from this," Anne Boden told Cabin Radio. "The arable land here is good. We are sitting on almost 50 acres and we want to put it to use and make it pay for itself."
While an earlier generation of Bodens raised pigs and chickens on the same land, the family expects to grow only potatoes and hay this time around.
More land could be added in future, as potatoes are land-intensive – the crop is rotated between fields on a three-year cycle, meaning 10 acres of potatoes per year requires 30 acres of land to produce.
'History of farming'
The NWT has a number of small-scale farming operations but, in a territory where much of the land is unsuitable for most forms of agriculture, recent commercial successes have been few.
Polar Egg, also based in Hay River, supplies eggs to six of the territory's communities and also aspires to supply southern grocery stores. The town also boasts the Northern Farm Training Institute, a farming school with a 260-acre property. Other local operators grow produce sold in the town using small-scale hydroponics.
But a successful commercial agricultural enterprise – which requires federal certification, among other things – has rarely appeared in the NWT.
"When it’s all said and done for development, it probably will be the largest commercial farm in the Northwest Territories – we’re hoping," said Boden.
The family has received support from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment for the project. Work to prepare for the farm's opening summer has included the purchase of farm machinery and clearing trees to form fields.
"My husband has been planning this for a long time," said Boden. "I am only recently on board. He’s like, ‘We’re going to farm potatoes.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’
"He really wants to be a farmer and grow potatoes. The South Slave has a history of farming throughout the Fort Liard and Fort Simpson areas, and Fort Smith with the missionaries, who grew enough to supply the whole of the valley.
"It all depends on if we can get a processing building, a place to store them. We hope to have potatoes to sell this fall. Whether they will be in the store or we are selling roadside, we’re not sure yet."