The Carcross/Tagish First Nation is expanding its farming enterprises.
At the beginning of August, the First Nation signed papers to purchase what some people know as the old Branigan farm. The sale is now complete, and the First Nation is talking about its plans.
"It's a little over 150 acres of prime farmland," said Andy Carvill, the chief of Carcross/Tagish.
The land is a few kilometres from Carcross, down the Tagish Road.
The First Nation started farming on a small scale this past summer on other locations in the community, with vegetable gardens, chickens for meat and eggs, and bees for honey.
"The honey that we've been able to produce, it quite surprised me," said Carvill, "as to the taste of it, and the consistency — it's really good honey."
Next year will be "start-up year" at the Branigan property, says Carvill. The First Nation already ploughed the fields this fall, and will start planting first thing in the spring, in the hopes of having a good growing year.
The community is deciding together how to use the land, Carvill says. One idea is for the land to act as a treatment centre for people addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Skills and self-reliance
Another idea is for people to come to the farm to learn skills — and not just members of the First Nation, says Carvill.
That's already been happening, with students working in the community gardens, says Carvill.
"I've had the pleasure of meeting with those fine young minds," Carvill said. He says the students take skills learned in the garden back to the classroom, or to use in day-to-day life.
The whole idea around farming is to make the First Nation more self-reliant, and to find a way to bring people back to the land, says Carvill.
Carcross is about a 45 minute drive from Whitehorse. It doesn't have a local grocery store.
"A lot of times in the winter, when I go into Whitehorse to purchase vegetables, a lot of it comes out of the States, or Mexico, or Chile, or places like that," said Carvill.
With more than 60 hectares of land to work with, Carvill hopes First Nation members can have locally-grown food on their tables, year-round.