To augment the soil, Morrison brings in chicken manure from his birds. Jay has used everything from Turkey Trot to llama manure donated by a friend. (Donations can make a huge difference. A bag of manure that costs $1.50 down south costs about $17 in Inuvik.)
Unexpectedly, the greenhouse has turned out to be one of the town's biggest tourist draws. Visitors tend to show up at any time, but organizers now post tour times on the door (between 1 and 3 p.m. during the growing season) to discourage drop-in traffic and allow gardeners to work without interruption.
"It just proves that if you believe something is important, and that it will be good for the community, you need to stay the course," says Clarkson, adding that some of those who were the biggest naysayers are now first in line to show the place off.
A growing tradition
Ron Morrison's devotion to establishing the greenhouse ended up having more personal rewards. When his grandmother immigrated to Canada from eastern Europe in 1905, she brought two varieties of green beans. Someone in Morrison's family has planted them every year since. "I tried them outside but they wouldn't grow [in Inuvik]," Morrison remembers. "So I had a friend in Leduc [Alberta] grow them every year and I kept getting seeds. Now I can grow them myself in the greenhouse."
Location: 97 km south of the Beaufort Sea
Sun: 90 days of 24-hour daylight (late June, July, part of August); 30 days of total darkness (primarily December)
Coldest temperature: –56°C
Warmest temperature: 35°C
Outdoor growing season: generally June 10 to August 20, but there's never a guaranteed frost-free season; snow has fallen in late July/early August
Greenhouse growing season: mid-May to end of September, guaranteed
Zone: 2° above the Arctic Circle, with permafrost up to 100 metres thick
And then there was Nunavut
Inspired by the Inuvik greenhouse, residents of Iqaluit, Nunavut, are building their own greenhouse. The Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society boasts more than 100 members. In March 2005, the City of Iqaluit granted the society a 20-year lease on a site in a new subdivision. This past summer, the society built three cold frames on-site and grew beans, peas and herbs. The design of the greenhouse is underway, and the residents hope to have the launch tied in with the 2007-2008 International Polar Year (an event held every 50 years celebrating the eight countries that encircle the North Pole).
For more information on the Iqaluit greenhouse, visit www.iqaluitgreenhouse.com.