Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in celebrate first harvest at Dawson City farm

The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation is celebrating the first harvest from their new teaching farm near Dawson City. This fall, farmhands pulled more than 1,100 kilograms of food out of the ground, including potatoes, carrots, beets and onions from a plot a tenth of a hectare in size.

Staff grew more than 2,500 pounds of potatoes, carrots, beets and onions

Yukon College vice president Chris Hawkins, left, and Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation chief Roberta Joseph pose with a ceremonial shovel presented to the First Nation to mark the first harvest at their Dawson City teaching farm. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation is celebrating the first harvest from their new teaching farm near Dawson City.

This fall, farmhands pulled more than 1,100 kilograms of food out of the ground, including potatoes, carrots, beets and onions from a plot a tenth of a hectare in size.

Lead farmhand Adam Farr says this season was about teaching the basics of farming to the staff of four hands who are new to agriculture.

"Everybody here learned quite a bit of the trials and errors of first-year farming and different processes from the soil and growing from seed, all the way up to delivering the food to everybody," Farr said.

'A dream of our nation'

Produce was distributed to Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in citizens earlier this month. The First Nation held a community feast for the public last week to mark the harvest.

"Agricultural development on TH land has been a dream of our nation for many years," chief Roberta Joseph said.

The plan next year is to triple the size of the plots and to improve facilities on site. Yukon College, which is partnering with the First Nation on the project, is looking to launch a farming course next spring.

Chris Hawkins, the college's vice president of research and community engagement, said the curriculum will be adapted from a similar partnership between Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the Tsawwassen First Nation in British Columbia.

Hawkins said the program could eventually grow to include a diploma, but will first focus on teaching people to farm. College instructors and local farmers would help teach.

"I think hands-on is way more important [than credits]," he said. "We need people who are trained in the art and science of growing."

Year-round produce

Dexter McRae, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in's human resources manager, said the eventual goal is to provide food to the entire community.

"By the time we get to five years [from now], we are going to be well into the research of how we will have year round growing in greenhouses here."

The college and the first nation also plan to apply for federal funding to buy equipment and build more facilities at the site, located 15 kilometres from Dawson City at the site of an old dairy farm.

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