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Greens grow amidst cold and snow in Nipissing First Nation

The Mnogin Greenhouse is growing strong at Jocko Point, near North Bay

The produce coming out of the Nipissing First Nation's Mnogin Greenhouse is by all accounts a feast for the senses, so tasty there have been reports of spinach despisers being converted into spinach lovers.

“The leafy greens are nearly at perfection, and all of our customers, I think would agree.”

So explained Makenzie Jones, who although admittedly a little biased – he’s the head grower of those greens, after all – is honest in his assessment.

The power of the produce is strong, And the plan is to keep getting better.

In December of 2022 the Mnogin Greenhouse (pronounced Mi-noh-gin, with a hard ‘g’) had just been placed at Jocko Point, outside North Bay, still waiting for the final set up. Picture four structures, each about the size of a trailer on a big rig. Inside, the walls are lined with shelves. Tubes send water to the plants, and special lights mimic the sun above.

It’s more complex that all of this, of course, and speaking with Jones, who earned his biology degree at Nipissing University, you hear a lot about Ph balances, EC measurements, and more technical plant banter than you knew existed.

All in the pursuit of perfecting the way to nurture seedlings to become delicious salads. It’s an art and a science, and the operation recently received a boost by way of some funding from IION Innovation Initiatives Ontario North.

Initially, the Northern Ontario Heritage Funding Corporation and FedNor contributed $270,000 to launch the project, and the additional funding from IION has allowed for some fine tuning of the operation, mainly regarding improving growing conditions.

See: New greenhouses will bring the green to Nipissing

The greenhouse produces a variety of lettuces, leafy greens, and some herbs. These types all have preferences as to who their neighbours are, as each has unique preferences for lighting, temperature, nutrients, Ph levels, and the like. Some plants do much better together than others, and the layout of the greenhouses is reflecting that.

“We’ve been able to increase the quality substantially,” Jones said.

The greenhouse began materializing around 2017, explained Geneveive Couchie, the Business Operations Manager for Nipissing First Nation, thanks to the vision of Mike Harney. He served as the Economic Development Manager at Nipissing First Nation, before retiring in 2020

Harney completed a feasibility study about the greenhouse in 2017, and as Couchie noted, played “a critical role in initiating the project.” He’s still involved as a consultant and stops by the greenhouse often. “He’s an invaluable resource,” Couchie emphasized.

Harney’s original vision was to produce locally to strengthen the food supply within the community, a model that could be implemented within other First Nations, especially those further North, where fresh vegetables can be cost prohibitive.

The greenhouses are designed for cold weather and produce all year. Each week, Jones and crew harvest over 100 pounds of fresh produce, all of which goes out the door. It’s a direct-to-consumer model. People place orders and pick up at the greenhouse. It’s mostly individuals, but there are also a few local restaurants who are regular customers.

Grown locally using hydroponics, the idea is to provide fresh food for the community without as much damage to the environment. There is little water used, and with less space between greenhouse to table to cover, resources required to transport the product are greatly reduced.

There is no food waste at the greenhouse, Jones highlighted. Everything grown is sold, what is left (there is rarely anything left) is donated. Any plant scraps left over after harvest, are brought to Northern Feather Farm, so the chickens and bunnies can have a feast of green.

It’s a winning situation for all, and word of the greenhouse is definitely getting around. Jones has organized workshops for people interested in the process, and there are plans to do more.

Overall, the project “is going better than I could have expected,” Jones said, and Mnogin Greenhouse will be growing for many years to come.

Stop by sometime and give that spinach a try.

Mnogin Greenhouse is located at 8 Jocko Point Road, North Bay. For more information or to place an order, visit its website at

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.