Sun shines on Manitoulin’s first year-’round greenhouse project

Northern Ontario Permaculture Research Institute (NOPRI) Chief Executive Officer Justin Tilson, left, relates the vision, conception and creation of the greenhouse project. The solar-topped energy self-sufficient greenhouse is shown in the background. photo by Robin Burridge

LITTLE CURRENT—A celebration was held for the official opening of Manitoulin’s first community all-season greenhouse last week in Little Current.

“This is a Noojmowin Teg initiative which is focused on healing and a reconnection to the land,” said Christianna Jones who blessed the grounds of the community garden and greenhouse. “Manitoulin was founded on agriculture, both native and non native, and this initiative is going to help us reconnect to the land and each other. I am honored to be here and to be a part of this. This project is going to help balance ourselves and build relationships.”

Following the drumming and the ground blessing, Danielle Bourgault, Healthy Kids Community Challenge (HKCC) local project manager, and The Manitoulin Community Fresh Food Initiative (MCFFI) Coordinator Kristin Bickell, welcomed everyone to the opening ceremony.

“We are grateful for everyone who was able to attend today,” said Ms. Bourgault.

“Everyone has worked really hard on this initiative,” added Ms. Bickell. “It has been wonderful—thank you. And thank you to everyone who is here today.”

Northern Ontario Permaculture Research Institute (NOPRI) Chief Executive Officer Justin Tilson and Science Director Mark Hamalainen spoke about the conception and building of the greenhouse.

Shane O’Donnell captures the hearts and minds of students with his workshop on composting.

“This greenhouse was just an idea last year that has blossomed,” said Mr. Tilson. “We approached the Northeast Town council about the project and a partnership with Noojmowin Teg and they (the municipality) offered us this land. Now, Phase 1 is almost compete and we have created something for the community.”

Mr. Tilson spoke about how Phase 1 included the 100 square-foot all-season greenhouse and community garden, but that they would like to develop the space further in the future.

The five-year project plan includes: two 1,200 sq/ft greenhouses for food production and municipal composting in 2018; a large 5,000-10,000 sq/ft greenhouse for scaled commercial production and aquaculture in 2019; and a food hub including a commercial kitchen and cold storage facilities, spin out businesses such as a plant nursery, styrocrete construction, cidery, mushroom production and local recycling in 2020-2021.

Mr. Hamalainen spoke about the challenge of designing and building an all-season greenhouse.

“It was a really interesting challenge figuring out how to build an all-season greenhouse in an affordable and sustainable way,” said Mr. Hamalainen.

Science Director Mark Hamalainen outlines future plans during the opening celebrations.

He and Mr. Tilson spoke about how they were able to create insulation by using styrofoam from the landfill and shredding it and mixing it with concrete.

Noojmowin Teg Health Centre Executive Director Pam Williamson spoke about the history of the project and the development of the Good Food Box program and the partnership between Noojmowin Teg, HKCC and MCFFI in developing the community garden.

She recognized the many other partners, noting the support of the Sudbury District Health Unit.

“Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this initiative,” said Ms. Williamson.

Sally Marshall read a letter from Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha and Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes, congratulating the organizers and volunteers on the creation of the new community garden and greenhouse.

“When we were building the new subdivision, (the extension of Hayward Street and bounded by Boozeneck Road) this area became a dumping grounds for rock,” said Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin. “You have done so much work and turned this unused space into a beautiful garden the whole community to use and enjoy. When NOPRI came to us about this project—we were excited—and we are excited to see how this initiative grows in the future.”

Union of Ontario Indians Grand Council Chief and Healthy Kids Champion Pat Madahbee congratulated everyone on their hard work and the creation of the garden and greenhouse.

Ms. Bickell and Ms. Bourgault announced the winner of the ‘name the greenhouse contest.’ Judy Olacke was named the winner for her entry, ‘Sun Sprouts Greenhouse.’

Earlier in the day, there were school workshops with students from Shawonasowe School, Little Current Public School and Mnidoo Mnising Anishinabek Kinoomage Gaming (MMAK) as well as community workshops.

The opening day celebration concluded with a gourmet barbecue featuring local foods from across Manitoulin.