This Yukon First Nation has lots to be thankful for this weekend

Digging up the last potatoes marks the end of the first harvest on the Carcross/Tagish First Nation farm. The First Nation government bought the farm last fall and moved onto the property on May 1.

Carcross/Tagish First Nation farm staff have completed their first fall harvest

This is the two-acre field where potatoes and carrots were planted this year at the Carcross/Tagish First Nation farm. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

It's a sunny fall day at the Carcross/Tagish First Nation farm near Carcross, Yukon.

About half a dozen people are on their hands and knees, picking up the potatoes that come to the surface after a tractor has tilled the row.

They're the last potatoes of the approximately 4,000 kilograms harvested this fall.

It marks the end of the first harvest at the farm, after the First Nation government bought it last fall and moved onto the property May 1.

While the First Nation has had community gardens and a few chickens in the past, this farm on the former Branigan property is the start of the First Nation government's foray into food security and sustainability for its citizens.

Farm manager Lloyd Lintott says the impetus for starting the farm was the Alaska Highway washout in June 2012. Trucks could not deliver food and grocery store shelves grew bare.

Lloyd Lintott is the Carcross/Tagish First Nation farm manager. Lintott says it's his dream job. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

"People just realized that maybe it's time that we start looking after ourselves in the territory a little more and producing our own healthy food instead of trucking everything up the highway," said Lintott. 

"This property came up for sale and [Carcross/Tagish First Nation] was lucky enough to purchase it."

Kevin Bayne, the First Nation's community garden manager, said it's about "food sustainability," adding that much of the food is given out.

Kevin Bayne is the community garden manager for the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. He says one reason to grow fresh vegetables is for the health of Carcross Tagish citizens. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

There's only one store in Carcross and its fresh produce can be found in a single cooler.

"The produce is kinda 50-50," said Bayne. "It's very expensive. It's not fresh-fresh like we have."

It's also hard for elders or families without a car to make the two-hour return trip to Whitehorse for groceries, Bayne said.

That's where the First Nation's farm comes in.

More than just potatoes

The 150 hens on the farm produce eight to 10 dozen eggs a day, said Lintott.

Just one of the hundreds of chickens on the Carcross/Tagish First Nation farm. This year, the farm has 500 birds for meat and 150 hens that are laying eggs. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Some of those eggs get distributed to Carcross/Tagish First Nation elders and families on social assistance for free. Others are sold at the government's administration building for citizens and staff.

Lintott said a few are sold at the farm.

Besides potatoes and eggs, the farm has raised 500 chickens for meat, 40 turkeys, eight market hogs, seven rabbits, and 15 beehives for honey.

This is one of eight market hogs on the Carcross/Tagish First Nation farm. The produce and meat raised on the farm is distributed to elders and families in need for free and sold to citizens and staff of the First Nation. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

"Sometimes I think I haven't accomplished anything, and then someone will come along and say, 'Wow, you've done a lot,'" said Lintott.

"I have to keep telling myself that we've only been on the property since the first of May, so I guess we've done quite a bit."

Beyond food

But Lintott doesn't want to stop here.

He's looking at expanding into agritourism to capitalize on the hundreds of American tourists who visit Carcross each year.

A team of Canadian horses arrived at the farm in August. Lintott hopes to offer wagon and sleigh rides.

This team of Canadian horses just arrived at the farm in August. Farm manager Lloyd Lintott says he hopes to use them to offer wagon and sleigh rides. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

For now, Lintott is busy feeding the animals and keeping the farm running.

It's all to help feed the citizens and staff of Carcross/Tagish First Nation.