Check out this video of the immersion experience of the Lords of the Arctic Learning Vacation at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. A key location for Arctic research and education the recently renovated CNSC is a gem in the Churchill region! Next time you visit Churchill take a ride out to the CSNC and tour the facility…an amazing place!
In October 2017, Churchill Northern Studies Center took delivery of a 25-foot sea container, specially designed to grow robust leafy greens. The idea of growing green vegetables in -60 C conditions was a stretch and many have thought it could not be done. Well, this year the indoor garden has harvested over 10,000 units of leafy greens. The name Rocket Greens is derived from its location at the old Churchill Research Rocket Range adjacent to CSNC. Rocket Greens sells to the residents of Churchill, as well as some restaurants and grocery stores, via subscription service. Subscribers receive their weekly “Launch Box” full of Rocket Greens, such as spinach, cilantro, basil, kale, lettuce, parsley, and more! So far the business and the produce have been “out of this world”!
Churchill’s Boreal Gardens was a pioneer in attempting to grow local vegetables in the hard to access village on the Hudson Bay. While this was a novel attempt, the operation never quite made it to a scale that could make a dent in the economic distribution costs of providing vegetables to Churchillians in need of help.
Carley Basler is changing this dynamic with deliveries of fresh veggies to homes in town. Basler’s venture, Rocket Greens, is managed through the Churchill Northern Studies and is the first full-scale vegetable distribution system in Churchill and people are excited about the future of this new process. Rocket Greens derives its name from being located next to the Churchill Northern Studies Center on the grounds of the former rocket testing range to the east.
“It’s fresh food, fresher than probably anything that Churchill has ever experienced,” Basler said.
Fresh produce in Churchill has always been in short supply and at high prices due to the secluded nature of the town. Now after nearly a year of no freight train service from the south resulting from track damage from washouts, people are suffering nutritionally and economically.
This new approach is the brainchild of Growcer, an independent hydroponic systems company from the south. They currently produce these storage container sized units set up for the immediate growth and harvesting of vegetables via the streamlined hydroponic method they have developed.
With winter winding down, and the windchill of –50 C outside subsiding, Basler tends her hydroponic garden in a computer-controlled climate. Large plants of kale, spinach, arugula, and lettuce bloom from the tubular channels of water.
“What we are doing is growing about 400 to 450 units of produce that we can harvest weekly and make available in our community,” said Basler, currently the system manager for the operation under the CNSC.
In addition to her weekly vegetable subscriber program, Basler is supplying two grocery stores with product that is lowering prices to nearly half the cost of shipped in produce. This has been a breath of fresh air for the townspeople who have been relying on government food subsidies just to get by.
Hydroponic commercial viability in the north has been attempted before with little or no success. Growcer is designed to become profitable by allowing growers to start off small and gradually add units as they “grow”. Pun intended. Containers cost $210,000 per unit and are ready to go upon delivery requiring only electrical and water connections.
Each unit potentially will turn a profit of between $30,000 and $40,000 a year in most situations. These units have the ability to relieve reliance on good being shipped from the south at exorbitant costs via rail or air.
This self-contained local operation has the ability to relieve the reliance on these methods. Developing a system that can grow rooted vegetables like potatoes is on the table to be developed by Growcer.
“It’s available weekly regardless of rail service or air service or weather,” Basler said.
“It’s a lush green garden in the dead of winter, so that’s pretty unique.”
This gorgeous snowy owl will be released into the Churchill wild on Wednesday June 21, 2017 near the CNSC, in partnership with The Owl Foundation.
Anyone interested in observing the release is requested to meet at the CNSC at 12:30 PM and take a short drive to the release site.
Opportunities to live and work in Churchill for the science and nature minded are available right now at the Churchill Northern Studies Center! Short term volunteer positions are available for northern lights season during January and February. If you are interested contact them here: firstname.lastname@example.org
The CNSC is also looking for an Assistant Director..here’s the link for all the info on the position: https://churchillscience.ca/employment-opportunities.cfm
The CSNC is at the far reaches of the road heading out through the Churchill Wildlife Management Area and out to the old Churchill rocket range. What a place to spend a couple of months this winter or possibly a longer stint as Assistant Director!