Close your eyes and imagine you’re standing in the fertile earth of a farmer’s field. It smells healthy and rich. You see harvested rows of large, perfect potatoes and orange carrots lying in the soil like nuggets of gold. It’s such good land, in fact, that it’s now home to one of the country’s most innovative new agriculture training programs. Now open your eyes. Would you be surprised to find yourself just shy of the Arctic Circle?
Dawson City, Yukon, now boasts an agriculture program with big vision. In fact, you could call it groundbreaking. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation has teamed up with Yukon College to create a teaching and working farm in an effort to create a source of sustainable fresh food and reduce reliance on store-bought food. In April 2016, it accepted its first 20 students, aged 16 to 64, all but one of whom were First Nations and four who were high school students earning credits at both the college and Robert Service High School. The six-month program saw students work on academic skills such as literacy and numeracy, with the option to live on the farm as homesteaders, sharing a cookhouse and a wash house and living in tents. In addition to learning to work as a team, they were also taught some basic carpentry, all while planning, planting, thinning, weeding, and finally, harvesting their crops of beets, carrots, potatoes, peas, kale and corn. Though they earned credits through Yukon College’s Skills for Employment program, the goal is to develop it into a longer diploma, certificate or even a degree program in sustainable agriculture.
Read more in Maclean’s here.