North

1st crop of young First Nation farmers graduates in Dawson City

The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation is running a farm school near Dawson City, teaching agricultural skills and hoping to improve food security in the North.

Farm school aims to grow food security and sustainability in region

This year 20 students participated in the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation Farm School near Dawson City, Yukon. Some students spent the summer on-site living in wall tents. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

A new group of farmers-in-training is getting ready for a special harvest ceremony in Dawson City, Yukon.
 
They're part of Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation's new farm school, an on-the-land program teaching agricultural skills to young people and trying to grow food security and sustainability in the region.

"Me, I've learned a lot, how to grow everything," said student Dylan Taylor.

Taylor added they're also learning carpentry and life skills. 

Student Tanner Sidney helped with the school's first market stand this summer. 'I've learned how to grow vegetables,' he said. 'Beets, carrots, squash, onions, yeah, you name it we've grown it probably.' (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Another student, Tanner Sidney, says he's proud of what he's accomplished, learning to grow food for his family and community. 

"Food that I made makes me feel a lot better," he said. 

Enrolment in the program exceeded expectation with 20 students attending the farm school over the summer, says Dexter MacRae, director of human resources, education and training with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation.

"The farm school was certainly not just open to First Nations students, but as it turns out 19 are First Nations, the majority from Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, but we have Kaska, Na-Cho Nyak Dun and Kwanlin Dün students as well," he said. 

'The First Nation wants to do our bit to have a fresh, year round source of food for not just the First Nation community but the Dawson community at large,' said Dexter MacRae, director of human resources, education and training with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

The program includes some time in the classroom each week, but the bulk of the time is spent tending to the gardens. Some of the students spent the summer living on-site in wall tents.

There are large gardens and smaller individual plots where the students have a chance to practise their skills. MacRae says the program is a good fit for the students.

"We all like to be out on the land, but First Nation tradition and culture down through the decades, through the centuries is working and living on the land."

He says the farm school hopes to have year-round greenhouses down the road.

"The First Nation wants to do our bit to have a fresh, year-round source of food for not just the First Nation community but the Dawson community at large," he said. 

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