​'Locavores' driving Yukon grassroots food production

More and more Yukoners want to grow backyard veggies and raise their own chickens, according to an agricultural expert. The desire to eat local is creating a demand for more community gardens, courses and workshops.

More people want to eat food from their backyards, according to Yukon's agriculture branch

Warmer winters have extended Yukon's growing season. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

More Yukoners are taking an interest in growing backyard veggies and raising their own chickens, according to an agricultural expert. 

"People want to see local food," said Randy Lamb, acting director of Yukon's agricultural branch, during an interview with A New Day.  

Lamb says "locavores" are creating a demand for more community gardens, courses and workshops.

Resources for aspiring green thumbs, farmers

The Energy, Mines and Resources seed library, located in Whitehorse's Elijah Smith building, has opened for its second season. Similar to a book library, Lamb said people can "borrow" up to 10 packets of vegetable, flower or herb seeds for free. They are encouraged to harvest some of the seeds from their plants in the fall and return them to the library. 

The agriculture branch has also been hosting and organizing workshops on cattle health, raising chickens and beekeeping. 

"We're covering the whole wide range of interests, from our working producers all the way to the backyard gardeners," Lamb said. 

More bees please

Lamb said there's a lot of interest in beekeeping locally, which Don Mark can attest to.

Yukon beekeeper Don Mark got his first hive in 1981. (Submitted by Don Mark)

Mark, who's been keeping bees since 1981, said he is frequently contacted by people interested in beekeeping. Mark has had up to 22 hives at a time, but now he's down to five; each of which can produce up to 90 kilograms of honey in a good season. He said it could be possible to make a living from beekeeping but most Yukon beekeepers are hobbyists.

"I guess I can be considered a hobbyist now," he said. "It's just in my blood and I like doing it." 

Beekeeping is nothing new in the Yukon. Around the time when Mark got his first hive in the '80s, Lamb said there was a two hectare apiary located near downtown Whitehorse, where the Canadian Tire and Walmart are now. 

Lamb said one of the factors driving the return to grassroots food production is the territory's local food strategy, currently in draft form.

Warmer winter means longer growing season

Yukon's winters are getting warmer, which could be favourable for farmers, at least in some respects. 

Lamb said the growing season has gotten longer over the last 50 years. 

"We're also seeing an increased capability of growing grains in Yukon, which is great when it comes down to poultry, beef, different types of livestock," he said. 

"Part of this is just to be  aware of what's going on and being ready to adapt where necessary." 

With files from A New Day.

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