Yukon First Nation turns to farming to help ensure food security

Na-Cho Nyak Dun citizens in Mayo, Yukon, should soon start seeing fresh pork, chicken and rabbit on their dinner plates.

Na-Cho Nyak Dun citizens should soon start seeing fresh pork, chicken and rabbit on their dinner plates

Sonny Gray, the CEO and co-owner of North Star Agriculture, says food production in Yukon keeps growing every year. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

A refurbished farm in central Yukon is becoming part of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation's effort to improve food security for its citizens.

"Their investment is now in play and it's going to start paying dividends very soon," said Sonny Gray, the CEO and co-owner of North Star Agriculture. The company is assisting the First Nation with reopening the Partridge Creek Farm.

It was built in the 1980s, but has not operated for some years, Gray said. The First Nation, based in Mayo, Yukon, bought it in 2018.

The farm is on the North Klondike Highway about 325 kilometres north of Whitehorse and 75 kilometres west of Mayo.

Partridge Creek Farm, built in the 1980s, has a commercial scale barn, greenhouse and abattoir plus a hayfield and outdoor gardens. (Sonny Gray/North Star Agriculture)

"It's pretty special in the sense that it has so much infrastructure...I'm from back east originally and this farm — it's very much like a farm back east," Gray said. 

It has a commercial scale barn and greenhouse, outdoor gardens, an abattoir and a half dozen homes, said Gray, who is also president of the Yukon Agricultural Association. He's hoping to get two hay crops this summer which in turn can be sold.

Gray says meat from the farm should begin showing up soon on Mayo residents dinner plates. It's raising chickens, rabbits and pigs. Vegetables will follow. Gray said that part of central Yukon has good soil and it was further enriched by the previous owner.

The Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation says in a release it's looking forward to providing fresh food to its citizens, plus jobs and social programming at the farm.

"Like many communities in northern Canada, Na-Cho Nyak Dun citizens have limited access to fresh produce and rely upon a fragile food system," the release says

"For many years, food security and food sovereignty have been at the top of many First Nations priority lists."

A second phase will see the farm also become the site of more social programming and learning opportunities, the release says.

This is at least the third farm owned by a Yukon First Nation to begin operating. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation opened its farm outside Dawson City, Yukon, several years ago. And the Carcross/Tagish First Nation farm had its first harvest in 2018.

Gray said the amount of food produced in Yukon continues to grow each year.