The NWT Department of Health and Social Services has granted local producers an exception for the sale of homegrown, uninspected and ungraded eggs.
France Benoit, a director of the Yellowknife Farmers Market, says she has been asking the environmental health unit of the NWT Government for approval to have local eggs for sale at the market for years.
On June 28, she finally received word that local producers have been granted a long-awaited exception.
“I have been asking [for permission] for years and never a yes, and then every few months I’d ask them to reconsider or ‘is there an update?’” said Benoit. “And then last time I did that, they said, ‘yes, yes you can do it.’”
In a triumphant Facebook post on Sunday, Benoit’s Le Refuge Farm Facebook page announced the news and laid out the requirements for anyone hoping to sell home-produced eggs at upcoming markets.
Ungraded eggs come from any place where they are not checked for size or quality. Uninspected means the environmental health unit has not inspected the area or the product.
The new exception allows anyone with laying hens to sell their ungraded and uninspected eggs directly to consumers if they follow the guidelines, including at the Yellowknife Farmers Market. These guidelines involve informing consumers that the eggs come from an uninspected source, clearly labelling cartons, and ensuring eggs are sold whole and not for resale.
Jeremy Bird, a spokesperson for the NWT government, wrote in an email that the environmental health unit wants to support local food production and has been working with farmers to help identify and mitigate the food risk surrounding ungraded eggs.
Recently, stated Bird, the unit began to allow owners across the territory to sell locally raised whole eggs directly to consumers.
“Based on the experience with limited small-flock owners over the last year, this summer we’re working with any small-flock owners who would like to sell their eggs and will develop guidelines and information for them,” said Bird.
The unit advises those looking to sell their eggs to follow the guidelines as well as the regulations laid out for other food establishments.
While such permissions are new for Benoit and others in Yellowknife, farmers in Hay River say they’ve been able to sell ungraded, uninspected eggs for some time.
Beyond small-flock farmers
Tiarella Hanna, also in Yellowknife, has 10 laying hens and more are on the way to maturity. For her, the ability to sell extra eggs comes as a relief.
Hanna collects around 10 eggs a day and was previously giving the excess away to friends or feeding them to her rescue dogs. Now, she plans to bring about six-dozen every week to the farmers’ market to sell at the harvesters’ table alongside her extra produce.
More than the profit, Hanna sees the exception as a step forward for a stronger, more self-sustaining community in times when food security is strained.
“I like the idea of the North having a little bit more of a self-sustainable food industry,” she said.
“If we can maximize all the nutrients that are in the North and get more from this area in a sustainable way, then it’s going to have a huge impact on our carbon footprint and our community resilience.”
After hearing about the exception, Hanna started sourcing hens from other places to provide more local eggs, though she says they are hard to come by.
She believes everyone should work toward a more sustainable Yellowknife.
“I’m a hunter, but I definitely believe in farming as well,” she said.