'I saw an alpaca trying to be boss': Yukon kids learn sustainable farming

Through the Kids on the Farm program, more than 1,000 Yukon students visited farms in the territory.

More than 1,000 Yukon students visit farms in the territory

Kindergarten students feed alpacas as part of the Kids on the Farm program, teaching children about sustainable farming. (Rachel Levy-McLaughlin/CBC)

Children giggled and squealed as the fuzzy lips of alpacas nibbled food pellets out of their hands. The children shouted through wide smiles that it tickled, and rushed back to the farmer to get more pellets.

While the children were having a blast, they were also learning about sustainable farming.

A program called Kids on the Farm, partnered schools with local farmers to teach children about where food comes from.

This year, the program took more than 1,000 students to Yukon farms of all shape and sizes, including local vegetable gardens and Northern Spirit Alpaca Farm.

"Some of these kids that live in urban areas, they never get a chance to come out to these rural areas and actually experience life on a farm," said Sharon Ulrich, owner of Northern Spirit Alpaca Farm.

Aspen the alpaca at Northern Spirit Alpaca Farm, before playing host to a group of students for the Kids on the Farm program. (Rachel Levy-McLaughlin​​/CBC)

The teachers are almost as excited about the program as the children. Holy Family Elementary School in Whitehorse has taken part two years in a row.

"I think it's important so they have an understanding of the cycle of life, and learn how animals are a part of our world and how we get our food," said Julie Todd, a grade one teacher at Holy Family Elementary.

"[It's important they] know that we do have farms up here in the North, and that they get to know the community."

Fun and educational

The kindergarten and first grade students proudly ran up to their teachers and rattled off the new facts they've learned about alpacas.

"They don't have top teeth, they only have teeth on the bottom," said Tucker MacInnis, a grade one student.

"You shouldn't feed the baby, and you're only supposed to pet them on the neck," said Thomas Nemeth, a student at Holy Family Elementary.

The youngest alpaca at the farm is just three weeks old.

A three-week-old alpaca at Northern Spirit Alpaca farms. (Rachel Levy-McLaughlin)

"I saw an alpaca trying to be boss," said Adriana Baker, a grade one student, after an alpaca showed dominance in the pen.

"I think being up close and personal with animals is really important for kids to experience," Ulrich added. 

The Kids on the Farm program hides lessons about farming and sustainability in the fun of feeding and petting the animals.