The Yukon Agricultural Association is asking the City of Whitehorse for farming space inside municipal boundaries.
Mike Blumenschein, the president of the farmers’ association, spoke at city council on Monday night, asking the city for time, space and resources to support farming.
“Only two per cent of the Yukon is suitable for production,” Blumenschein said. The association is looking to increase the amount of food production in the city, and hopes to use land that is already set aside for agriculture, he said.
Blumenschein said the association is looking not only at plated crops, like the popular Yukon Gold potatoes, but also livestock farming and indoor greenhouse growing.
That allows for a lot of flexibility in the type of land the association could use, Blumenschein said.
“(The type of land) totally depends what you want to grow,” said past YAA president Cain Vangel, who joined Blumenschein at the council meeting.
“If you’re growing livestock, you can get away with a much smaller area,” he said.
Blumenschein is eyeing two parcels. One is next to the Cousins airstrip, and the other is along Fish Lake Road. They have already been designated for agricultural use, Blumenschein said.
The 2010 Community Plan also references supporting local agriculture, Blumenschein said. It would be up to the city to decide whether it makes more sense to purchase or lease land, he said.
Coun. Dave Stockdale expressed some concern over supporting farming initiatives only to see them fail.
“Over the years the Yukon government has supported farming through agricultural leases, and then because they can’t make a go of it, they turn around and come back to council and beg and plead to change the zoning on that land so they can do something else with it.
“How do you think you would get around that issue? When it doesn’t work, we get criticized for suddenly having a golf course where a farm should be,” he said.
Blumenschein himself is now retired, but he said the farm he once operated was a successful full-time business. With some support, it is possible to make a living as a farmer in the Yukon, Blumenschein said, and that is something the city can have a hand in.
Coun. Betty Irwin asked about the cost of raising livestock in the Yukon, given the need to shelter animals through the winter.
By focusing production in the summer months and freezing and storing meat for the winter, Vangel said he’s able to avoid the worst of the Yukon weather complications.
Stockdale also asked why the association was approaching the city, rather than the territory, with its request.
“They are looking into it too,” Blumenschein said, “but there is only so much space to go around.”
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