Tara Ryan and Danica Brockwell are employed by Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada (AAFC) this summer to conduct research at the Pye Centre. They spend half their time working on their research project with AAFC, and the other half supporting the work of the Pye Centre. Tara has lived in Goose Bay her whole life. She just finished her first year at the University of Waterloo in the Faculty of Environment. This is her second summer working with AAFC. Danica is originally from Ottawa, Ontario, and moved to St. Johns five years ago. She is studying at Memorial University in the Biology (Co-op, Honours) program. They both have a passion to learn about and advocate for sustainability and environmental consciousness in Labrador.
Q. What do you do at the Pye Centre?
Tara and I work jointly with AAFC and the Pye Centre, and are responsible for collecting data and caring for a number of research plots in Goose Bay. Our responsibilities also include helping with operations on the farm. I am also setting up a digital program that will help the Pye Farm log data they collect over the years using a GIS mapping format. Tara is collecting information on organic fertilizers, as an alternative to using chemical fertilizers. She is also identifying local and provincial sources of resources and supplies needed at the Pye Centre.
Logging the potatoes
Q. What are you researching?
A. Tara and Danica:
Goose Bay is one of three research sites in Canada (other sites include White Horse and St. John’s) where season extension techniques are being investigated. These techniques include the use of degradable plastic mulch and low tunnels. The mulch is meant to warm the soil at the beginning of the growing season and give the plants a head start. The low tunnels warm air levels and promote growth all season long. Both methods also help the soil to retain moisture. These experiments will help to determine whether season extension can increase the yield and/or quality of the food grown in Northern and Boreal regions. Currently we are growing potatoes, green beans and turnip in Labrador.
Keeping the turnip safe from pests!
Q. Why do you think your research is important?
I have friends and family that live on the North and South Coasts of Labrador. The price of food is so high, and the quality and access to fresh produce is limited. You can see the impact on communities. I believe the research we are conducting will improve the quality of produce communities receive, and show the importance of locally grown foods. I think that it could really improve the quality of life in Labrador.
Farming requires investment, and you won’t always see the benefits right away. I believe that the research we are conducting will help farmers by eliminating the trial and error as well as the time and money required to explore these techniques. I also believe local food production is one of the best ways to strengthen climate change resilience. The supply chains in Labrador are so vulnerable due to increasingly unpredictable weather and as we have recently seen, global events like a pandemic. By strengthening local food production, we can ensure that we have continuous, sustainable sources of food. Making connections with food grown in the community is a great resource to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
Q. What would you like to see happen at the Pye Centre?
I would love to see the Centre grow into a community space. It is a nice way for people to connect with each other and their food, and experiment with and learn about different crops. Local food production could also provide a sustainable source of employment.
I would love to see this place grow and become a knowledge hub. It’s not only important for people here in Labrador, but for people around the globe to see and understand the unique challenges we face in the North and how we can solve them. I’m also excited for the sharing of new and old stories at the Centre now and in the future. I love that one day someone might look at a carrot and recall fond memories from their experiences at the Pye Centre.
Q. What is your favourite part of working here this summer?
It’s nice to be able to have a space to come in and see all the things that are growing. I love seeing the change, even in the short couple of weeks I’ve been here. I was having a lot of trouble figuring out what I wanted to do, but doing this job has helped me realize that I don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to find something I love doing.
I love being able to come in and do field work, I love being outside. Listening to the birds singing in the morning as we check the beans, there’s nothing like being a part of nature. I also love the team we work with, and sharing my ideas with like minded people to do good, honest work
Testing the temperature