It’s hard to share a story about the Pye Centre for Northern Boreal Food Systems without food-based puns — especially when it comes to describing this year’s unbe-leaf-able growing season.
The 800 people in attendance at its Farm Fun Day on Oct. 1 alone indicates the positive impact Labrador Campus’s northern-focused food systems hub is having in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and its surroundings.
“That number of attendees is amazing for our small town,” said Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, vice-provost, Labrador Campus, and dean, School of Arctic and Subarctic Studies. “We were so pleased to be able to welcome so many people to this special event, and celebrate food, family, friends, and community.”
The event raised more than $1,000 and hundreds of pounds of food for the local food bank. Another $800 was collected for the local SPCA.
During the event, community vendors sold their wares and attendees played games as well as enjoyed live music and visits with farm animals such as highland cattle, pigs, and turkeys from local farmer, Darren Dinsmore, owner of Aldercroft Farm.
The fresh vegetable harvest resulted in more than 4,000 pounds of cabbages, potatoes, turnips and carrots.
The food was donated to community freezers, shelters and support organizations throughout north, south and central Labrador.
“It’s heart-warming and inspiring to look back on the incredible growing season,” said Jamie Jackman, program co-ordinator at the Pye Centre. “We welcomed more people to the farm than ever before through our research partnerships, wellness programming, and community and educational outreach efforts. I’m looking forward to building off the successes of this season and witnessing what abundance and partnerships we have planned for next year.”
One of the more popular events this summer was a strawberry U-pick.
The farm saw hundreds of people harvest hundreds of pounds of strawberries, including a Memorial University Alumni and Friends special strawberry-picking event that saw 100 people in attendance.
Also throughout summer 2023, the farm hosted hundreds of people for tours and farm learning, including community groups, medical students, high school students, Girl Guides and visitors from across the country.
Weekly on-farm wellness programs with long-term care residents, Nunatsiavut elders and a variety of community organizations were also well attended.
And on the research and education fronts, the Pye Centre partnered with the Association for Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada on diverse research related to pollinators, seasonal extension strategies, northern crop varieties and composting.
The projects are directly informing future growing seasons for the centre and local farmers.
“The Pye Centre had another incredible year of supporting food systems, food security and the food industry in Labrador, and connecting people to planting, tending, harvesting and enjoying locally grown food,” said Dr. Cunsolo. “We are so proud of the community partnerships, research and educational and wellness programming on the farm, and the way we continue to really turn-ip activities every year.”