Canada’s Yukon First Nation turns to farming to help ensure food security

Sonny Gray, the CEO and co-owner of North Star Agriculture, says food production in Yukon keeps growing every year. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)
A refurbished farm in central Yukon is becoming part of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation’s effort to improve food security for its citizens.

“Their investment is now in play and it’s going to start paying dividends very soon,” said Sonny Gray, the CEO and co-owner of North Star Agriculture. The company is assisting the First Nation with reopening the Partridge Creek Farm.

It was built in the 1980s, but has not operated for some years, Gray said. The First Nation, based in Mayo, Yukon, bought it in 2018.

The farm is on the North Klondike Highway about 325 kilometres north of Whitehorse and 75 kilometres west of Mayo.

“It’s pretty special in the sense that it has so much infrastructure…I’m from back east originally and this farm — it’s very much like a farm back east.” Sonny Gray, CEO and co-owner of North Star Agriculture

It has a commercial scale barn and greenhouse, outdoor gardens, an abattoir and a half dozen homes, said Gray, who is also president of the Yukon Agricultural Association. He’s hoping to get two hay crops this summer which in turn can be sold.

Gray says meat from the farm should begin showing up soon on Mayo residents dinner plates. It’s raising chickens, rabbits and pigs. Vegetables will follow. Gray said that part of central Yukon has good soil and it was further enriched by the previous owner.

Food, jobs and social projects

The Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation says in a release it’s looking forward to providing fresh food to its citizens, plus jobs and social programming at the farm.

“Like many communities in northern Canada, Na-Cho Nyak Dun citizens have limited access to fresh produce and rely upon a fragile food system.” Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation

“For many years, food security and food sovereignty have been at the top of many First Nations priority lists.”

A second phase will see the farm also become the site of more social programming and learning opportunities, the release says.

This is at least the third farm owned by a Yukon First Nation to begin operating. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation opened its farm outside Dawson City, Yukon, several years ago. And the Carcross/Tagish First Nation farm had its first harvest in 2018.

Gray said the amount of food produced in Yukon continues to grow each year.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Despite COVID-19, Canadian Northerners continue getting food to vulnerable people, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s farming sector in crisis: report, Yle News

Norway: Norway and Russia agree to slash cod quotas in Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: 2018 drought took toll on Swedish farmers’ mental and fiscal health, research says, Radio Sweden

United States: This Alaskan spice shop brings new flavors to Indigenous dishes, Alaska Public Media

Dave Croft, CBC News

Dave Croft, CBC News

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