Growing nearly anything in the Yukon brings its own set of challenges. “We’re basically at the top of the world,” says Derrick Hastings, farm manager at the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm. “We’re at the end of the road.”
Located on the outskirts of Dawson City, Hastings says they depend on a single highway to stock their local grocery stores. This was put to the test when parts of the road washed out in 2012. “The Yukon and the environment up here is unique for food,” says Hastings. “We produce one per cent of our food locally. Almost 99 per cent of it is trucked in.”
“Food sovereignty implies the ability to control one’s type of food, source of food and way of eating,” he explains, which differs from merely gaining access to food. “To many of us and especially to Indigenous persons per my learning, [it’s] incredibly important.”
Mullinix says the effect of climate change on traditional food sources in northern communities has heightened their interest in developing capacity for local food production. “Lakes are disappearing. Caribou migration has completely changed. Traditional sources of food are disappearing,” he says. That’s one reason the ISFS was involved in developing the TH Teaching and Working Farm and has helped launch other similar enterprises.
“I think the goal of the farm,” says Hastings, “essentially is to bring about a more engaged citizenry in their food supply.” That’s where the teaching component comes into play.