Next to a large greenhouse overlooking the Arctic waters in an ice-free fjord around Qaqortoq, Tupaarnaq Bjerge is washing giant, red beets, preparing them for shipment to supermarkets and local shops. Poulsen is one of several Greenlandic students working at Upernaviarsuk, the Greenland governmentâ€™s agricultural research and training station in the south of Greenland. The idea of growing different kinds of crops, grains and trees in such an extreme corner of the world might once have been seen as utopia. Until climate change became a reality and Greenland turned greener bringing a longer growing season and higher average temperatures. On-going experiments to expand the range of vegetables show that even strawberries, iceberg lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, and potatoes can grow here in the very fertile, polar soil. Thanks to the clean dry air, crops thrive without the need for pesticides since this region is still disease and pest-free.
The farm at Upernaviarsuk consists of different outdoor zones, hotbeds and two large greenhouses next to a building where during the summer months a handful of students and the four-strong staff stay. The advantages of experimenting with crops are numerous: in the not too distant future Greenland might become self-sufficient in certain food products rendering imports unnecessary and the export of organic products grown in unspoilt, Arctic soil a strong possibility. Greenland has around 50 registered farms with agriculture as their main source of income but this number may rise as conditions for agriculture improve, creating more jobs and revenue. â€śToday we are shipping out our first batch of red chillies to supermarkets in Greenland. These new local products are not only making our countryâ€™s chefs happy. It also sends a message to Greenlanders to buy healthy and fresh local products instead of imports coming from far-flung corners of the world,â€ť says Efa Poulsen, a gardener at the Upernaviarsuk station. â€śGreenlanders might even start experimenting themselves by growing vegetables in their back yards. The future looks bright and green for Greenland.â€ť