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ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE 24 Wednesday November 18 2015 6.8103 in x 6.3125 in By CRAIG GILBERT Fort Simpsons Shelley Empey and her husband could not wait to buy the farm. Actually the owners of Forest Gate Greenhouse and Gardens bought the land as it came about two acres in all and are gradually building the farm themselves. Were still working on stuff she said. Its never ending. This was our second summer but we didnt actually move onto the property until the end of May last year. The Greenhouse was up house and garage were up before winter but we didnt have time to do much. We built chicken pens got a roof on the greenhouse and the solar greenhouse. Empey keeps a rooster and some chick- ens which lay enough eggs to save the couple on groceries with a few left over to sell for feed and just slaughtered six Bour- bon Red heritage breed turkeys which are more trouble than they are worth to keep through the winter. They weighed in at more than 20 pounds each. Were going to get some goats and pigs from the Northern Farm Training Institute in the spring she said. Were still put- ting infrastructure together. The buildings are up and fish are in but still working on trenches. We put up two hoop houses too. The invaluable training Empey re- ceived from NFTI through the gardening agriculture workshops the Hay River not- for-profit organization stages throughout the growing season has helped her set up her farm which is anchored by a self-con- tained aquaponics operation. They are the only ones in the north farm- ing tilapia a mild-tasting sh that likes warm water and takes about eight months to mature. If you leave them any longer theyll actually get shy tasting Empey said. The system is totally contained. They like it in the high 80s and if it drops below 60 degrees theyll die. We keep the water close to 90 and the greenhouse when we went out this morning was 86. All winter long last year we main- tained at least 84. The tanks have their own heaters as well. If the water cools the fish will become sluggish and will not eat as much stunting their growth. The garbage compactors of the sea tilapia will eat just about anything and they have free run during the summer but in the cold months at Empeys farm are fed a steady diet of commercial feed. If you put your hand in there theyre like piranhas she said. They all come to the surface and the water starts churning its nuts and as they get bigger they get even more freaky Spring 2016 will be very exciting for Empey as the fish will get a new bigger Fresh tilapia straight out of Fort Simpson is no sh story home and she will be welcoming honey bees from Ontario. Were planning a grand opening where you will be able to obtain your bedding plants hanging baskets vegetable and herb starts and we will have lots of differ- ent kinds of fruit plants for people to try. Empey said when she moved to Fort Simpson she wanted to set up a permacul- ture operation members of the public could visit. By the time she earned her North- ern Farmer certificate by completing all six of NFTIs introductory workshops Spring Into Planting Your Seed Design and Plant Your Sustainable Garden Food Forests North of 60 Garden Maintenance Marketing Food Harvest Preserva- tion and Storage and Intro to Small and Large Animal Husbandry she wanted to feed the world. Thats how NFTI executive director Jackie Milne makes you feel she laughed that you are the answer to the food prob- lem in the world. Empey said food costs are a major con- cern in Simpson a single head of imported romaine lettuce is 9 at the local store. Thats just crazy she said. Right now there is no road into town you have to take a helicopter so the prices get jacked up. Hopefully NFTI will have some different workshops I can go to in the spring. I need a bee workshop because I ordered bees and beehives and I know nothing about bees. Or a cheese workshop since Im get- ting those goats. Its hard though since we have so much planted. I need more land Tilapia growing at Forest Gate Greenhouse and Gardens in Fort Simpson. PhotocourtesyofShelleyEmpey