Raising vegetables under Canada's midnight sun

Thu Sep 4, 2008 2:45pm EDT
 
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By Allan Dowd

INUVIK, Northwest Territories (Reuters) - Amanda Joynt reached down and picked a fresh tomato from the vine. That's no small feat when you are living 200 km (120 miles) above the Arctic Circle in Canada's Far North.

Joynt, a resident of Inuvik is a member of the town's community greenhouse, a former ice hockey arena that has been converted into an oasis of vegetables and flowers on the permafrost.

The building, shaped like a half-pipe, is North America's northernmost commercial greenhouse, and all but a necessity for anyone interested in eating a fresh vegetable in Inuvik that has not been shipped in from a warmer climate -- at a startlingly high cost.

"The growing season is really short here. May is mud month, so June is when things begin to green-up, and by now everything is turning into fall," Joynt said.

Inuvik's annual mean temperature is minus 9.7 Celsius (14.5 Fahrenheit), according to local officials.

The facility's indoor growing season lasts only from mid-May to late September, but it protects the plants as they soak in the sunlight that for 56 days each summer keeps the town in daylight 24 hours a day.

"That's what makes things possible ... the constant light accelerates the growth. I think it either doubles or triples the growth," said Lucy Kuptana, who admits it can feel strange weeding a garden at 3 a.m. in full daylight.

The small plots are built on raised beds and host a wide range of vegetables, such as corn and squash. One garden was even adorned with a traditional scarecrow figure, and many also have a range of colorful flowers.   Continued...

 
<p>Lucy Kuptana weeds her garden in an old hockey arena converted to a greenhouse for growing vegetables 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of the Arctic Circle in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, August 26, 2008. The half-pipe shaped facility is North America's northern-most commercial greenhouse, and a virtual necessity for anyone interested in eating a fresh vegetable in Inuvik that has not been shipped in from a warmer climate. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>