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Farming the North

Memorial to establish centre for northern food research

Campus and Community

By David Sorensen

Memorial University is poised to make significant contributions to agriculture science and food security in Labrador and the province through the acquisition of an 85-acre farm in Labrador and the establishment of a centre to support northern agricultural research, education and food security.

The announcement was made June 25 by Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, director of the Labrador Institute, on behalf of Memorial President Gary Kachanoski, at Expo Labrador in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

In 2016 Memorial University was approached by Frank and Joyce Pye of Grand River Farm with the vision of the university acquiring the farm lease to continue the Pyes’ legacy of supporting Northern food security and food production, and expanding it to include research, science and education.

“This new centre will provide much-needed accessible, timely and locally specific research and educational materials to support agriculture in Labrador.” — Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo

The result is the acquisition of the farm and the creation of the Pye Centre for Northern Boreal Food Systems, said Dr. Kachanoski.

“Under the leadership of the Labrador Institute, and after a series of consultations with Indigenous communities, the local farming community, community organizations and municipal and provincial representatives, I am pleased that Memorial University has assumed the lease and begun plans to establish the Pye Centre for Northern Boreal Food Systems,” he said.

Support Northern food security

The farm property will give Memorial University and its Labrador Institute the infrastructure to continue to grow and support northern food security and community development and further Memorial’s commitment to agricultural research, education and outreach in the province, said Dr. Kachanoski.

Potato farming on the Pye farm in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Photo: Submitted

It will also build on Memorial’s new agriculture degree program at Grenfell Campus and connect Memorial to an international network of northern farm research centres for north-to-north learning, sharing and collaboration.

“This new centre will provide much-needed accessible, timely and locally specific research and educational materials to support agriculture in Labrador, while continuing the Pyes’ legacy of maintaining the property as a community hub, focused on bringing people and food together,” said Dr. Cunsolo.

“We are delighted to begin to play an important role in supporting food security, food systems and food sovereignty in Labrador and to providing nourishing and preferred foods, leading-edge research and public education by and for the region.”

Operated by Labrador Institute

The new centre will be operated by the Labrador Institute and supported by a community steering committee and a scientific advisory committee. The centre will work with local farmers, representatives from Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut, the Innu Nation and key community organizations to begin to identify priorities and activities and will be supported by faculty, graduate students, government and community partners.

“For 40 years, Memorial has been proud to support the research and educational needs of Labrador through the presence of the Labrador Institute and through ongoing partnerships and initiatives in the region,” said Dr. Kachanoski. “The Pye Centre is the most recent example of our support of northern communities in leading their own development and becoming healthy, thriving places.”

“Like a Phoenix, the farm will be reborn into something new and different.” — Joyce Pye

After Tuesday’s announcement, Joyce Pye said she was grateful for Memorial’s interest in agriculture in Labrador and for their acquisition of the Grand River Farm.

“I am so pleased that the work and time and effort that Frank and I put into the farm will not be lost,” said Ms. Pye. “Like a Phoenix, the farm will be reborn into something new and different, but something equally good and beneficial to our community.

“I am confident that the university’s presence on the farm will be a fitting tribute to my late husband Frank, but will also be a valuable resource and support to the other farmers who strive to provide fresh, nutritious food for our community and the surrounding area.”

Community involvement

Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe said the proposed social enterprise and experimental research and education farm are much-needed in Labrador.

“We are proud to be key partners in this initiative,” said President Lampe. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Labrador Institute and Memorial University to develop this centre and will continue to be active partners in all aspects of research, education and social enterprise design and development.”

Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC), said the council applauded the Labrador Institute for taking on the initiative and carrying on the hard work and important legacy of Frank and Joyce Pye.

“Inuit have an unbroken and deep connection to the land, sea and ice in NunatuKavut and understand the fundamental importance of food systems to sustaining our way of life,” he said. “NCC supports culturally relevant research and programming as it relates to food security in our communities.

“We look forward to working with the Labrador Institute and other partners to contribute to the success of this new and exciting initiative.”


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