Buying the farm: a co operative’s quest for survival

Like a potato that grows amid the rocks and clay beneath the soil, the Wild Blue Yonder Farm co-operative venture is hardy enough to withstand…

Like a potato that grows amid the rocks and clay beneath the soil, the Wild Blue Yonder Farm co-operative venture is hardy enough to withstand another month with an undetermined future.

At an annual general meeting held Wednesday April 4, it was decided by shareholders to wait another month to see if they could entice the public to buy the 52 shares needed to acquire ownership of the 90-hectare farmland near Carcross.

Directors Garret Gillespie and Heidi Marion have sold just over 34 shares to about 22 shareholders, raising $170,000.

They need to sell 86 shares totaling $430,000 to buy the farm with a manageable mortgage.

If they do not reach their goal by April 30, they will have another meeting with their shareholders to decide if it is time to quit and return the investments.

“The idea behind the co-op is to bring investment in to buy the farm land and equipment so the farmers can farm without worrying about anything else,” said J.P. Pinard who also sits on the co-op’s board of directors.

The idea is that some shareholders will be directly involved in the co-operative by becoming farmers.

Wild Blue Yonder Farms is poised to be the Yukon’s first organically regenerative farm.

This means that the farming techniques used, such as composting to create fertilizer, will increase soil levels.

So the farm will make soil, unlike conventional or degenerative farming, which causes soil levels to erode.

And the more soil the farm makes the more carbon dioxide it will absorb.

At its peak performance Gillespie estimates the farm will absorb 2,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.

This is important for Pinard, who has been looking to bring the co-op into the carbon-trading market.

Carbon trading, an idea put forth under the Kyoto Protocol, allows a country, or company, to buy emission credits from other countries or companies that will make up the difference.

For example, Pinard hopes to establish a carbon-trading relationship between the co-op and Air North.

The farm would sell carbon credits to Air North in order to render the airline’s flights carbon-neutral.

Gillespie and the other directors also have dreams of setting up a Yukon Carbon Fund so other carbon-dioxide producers will be able to offset their emissions with other carbon-dioxide absorbers.

“There’s a huge potential behind this carbon fund for a farm like (Wild Blue Yonder) that sequesters so much carbon,” said Pinard.

“There’s also potential for the Yukon to lead the way in all of this as carbon trading gets off the ground.”

Gillespie has thought up other innovative ways of making the co-op work.

He has been talking with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow about providing the community with weekly vegetable boxes in exchange for a purchase of 100 shares.

The Carcross/Tagish First Nations is also interested, said Gillespie.

Despite drumming up interest in the co-op from the communities, the future of the Wild Blue Yonder Farms co-op is bleak.

“We’re not doing a good enough job marketing ourselves … this is the best thing coming out of the Yukon and it’s like a big huge tanker and we’re trying to steer that tanker but we need the manpower,” said Gillespie.

“So the question becomes, when do you give up?

“Our shareholders have agreed to wait another month and then maybe we’ll wait another month after that.

“We’ll keep going until it comes to the point where our shareholders are no longer willing to let us hold their money in trust or until we sell enough shares to buy the farm,” he added.

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