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Original Research

Implementation of a community greenhouse in a remote, sub-Arctic First Nations community in Ontario, Canada: a descriptive case study

Submitted: 16 February 2013
Revised: 15 October 2013
Accepted: 21 October 2013
Published: 25 June 2014

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Author(s) : Skinner K, Hanning RM, Metatawabin J, Tsuji LJS.

Citation: Skinner K, Hanning RM, Metatawabin J, Tsuji LJS.  Implementation of a community greenhouse in a remote, sub-Arctic First Nations community in Ontario, Canada: a descriptive case study. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2014; 14: 2545. Available: (Accessed 21 October 2017)


Introduction:  Food insecurity is prevalent in northern communities in Canada and there is a movement to improve food security through both the re-vitalization of traditional harvesting practices as well as through sustainable agriculture initiatives. Gardening in northern communities can be difficult and may be aided by a community greenhouse. The objective of this project was to conduct a descriptive case study of the context and process surrounding the implementation of a community greenhouse in a remote, sub-Arctic First Nations community in Ontario, Canada.
Method:  Data sources included semi-directed interviews with a purposive and snowball sample of key informants (n=14), direct observations (n=32 days), written documentation (n=107), and photo-documentation (n=621 total). Digital photographs were taken by both a university investigator during community visits and a community investigator throughout the entire project. The case study was carried out over 33 months; from early 2009 until October of 2011. Thematic data analyses were conducted and followed a categorical aggregation approach.
Results:  Categories emerging from the data were appointed gardening-related themes: seasons, fertile ground, sustainability, gardeners, ownership, participant growth, and sunshine. Local champions were critical to project success. Uncertainty was expressed by several participants regarding ownership of the greenhouse; the local community members who championed the project had to emphasize, repeatedly, that it was community owned. Positive outcomes included the involvement of many community members, a host of related activities, and that the greenhouse has been a learning opportunity to gain knowledge about growing plants in a northern greenhouse setting. A strength of the project was that many children participated in greenhouse activities.
Conclusions:  Community and school greenhouse projects require local champions to be successful. It is important to establish guidelines around ownership of a greenhouse and suitable procedures for making the building accessible to everyone without compromising security. Implementing a greenhouse project can engage community members, including children, and provide a great learning opportunity for gardeners in a remote, northern community.

Key words: Canada, case study, First Nations, food security, local food systems, sub-Arctic.

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