There’s something blooming in Iqaluit
Iqalummuit could be growing fresh vegetables, flowers and herbs inside a new greenhouse by next spring.
The building is the size of a small hangar – it stands more than four metres high, with 90 square metres of floor space – and sits on a spot behind the Nunavut Research Station, facing Federal Road.
Workers began construction on Monday, Oct. 23, and should be finished by the end of next week.
For the last few years, the Iqaluit Greenhouse Society has floated the idea of a large, multimillion-dollar greenhouse.
But securing funding hasn’t been easy, so the society decided to move forward with a smaller greenhouse first, president John Lamb said.
“This is something of a pilot project,” Lamb said on Tuesday.
The greenhouse will remain empty this winter, while volunteers monitor how the building stands up to the cold temperatures. In the meantime, society members will grow seedlings in their homes, to be moved into the greenhouse this spring, likely in April or May.
Participants are able to grow “anything legal” in the greenhouse, Lamb said.
And the gardeners will receive guidance from the University of Toronto’s chief horticulturalist and specialists from Agriculture Canada, who are interested in helping the project.
The inspiration came from Inuvik, where an abandoned rink has been transformed into a greenhouse. Between $60,000 to $80,000 is raised each year selling potted plants in that community, Lamb said.
“If they could do it, why not Iqaluit?” Lamb asked.
A greenhouse could take a dent out of the cost of flying fresh produce into town, Lamb said.
“We want to see how much we can grow, and how much we can extend the growing season,” he said.
But the perhaps the biggest contribution the greenhouse will offer, Lamb said, is to community health.
“Iqaluit doesn’t have enough recreation facilities, and we can hardly think of anything healthier than gardening for people,” he said.
Likewise, Lamb said he hopes the greenhouse will be used by local schools.
“What better way to encourage education in science and environmental issues, and learning how to grow and take care of something?” he asked.
A large deck is planned to be built outside the greenhouse this spring, with picnic tables and planters.
“We’re hoping people will just come and spend time here,” Lamb said.
The greenhouse will use “passive solar heating,” Lamb said. That means rocks will be piled inside the greenhouse, beneath the planters, to absorb heat from the sun during the day. As the sun sets, the rocks cool more slowly than their surroundings and help retain heat inside the building.
It’s possible that solar panels may be attached to the building in the future, to power greenhouse lamps, Lamb said.
The building cost $125,000, with most of that money coming from Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development and Transportation. Money also came from Agriculture Canada, through the Nunavut Harvesters Association, the Rotary Club, and the Iqaluit Greenhouse Society’s own fundraising.