Every Monday afternoon, the basement at Alpine Bakery fills up with organic fruit and veggies. In the brightly-painted cold cellar, workers sort the produce into several dozen bags for customers to pick up on Tuesday morning.
The Organic Produce Club’s smooth-running system has been in place for years, but late last month something was different.
For the first time, all the vegetables in each of the bags was grown in Yukon soil.
It’s an accomplishment that Alpine Bakery owner Suat Tuzlak couldn’t be more proud of.
“It means less pollution, less farmers are exploited by big corporate farms,” Tuzlak said.
“We have $4,000 to $5,000 in invoices per week. This makes me so happy because that money goes towards local organic farmers,” he said.
The program started as a way to support local farmers and provide access for Yukoners wanting to eat organic food, said Tuzlak, but at first it was a challenge to source Yukon-grown produce.
As farming has grown in the territory, however, more farms are able to provide produce at sustainable, marketable prices, and the amount of Yukon-grown food in each basket has been steadily growing.
“One can live on this. It’s possible to live on more than caribou, moose and cranberries in the Yukon. We bring more exotic foods that people might like to try. Some people are used to only potatoes and carrots. It has also a deep meaning because it is gentle to the earth,” he said.
The produce baskets come in two sizes. A bag of veggies and fruit to feed two people for a week costs about $55 depending on the contents, which vary with the season. For about $85, a family of four can eat organically for a week.
In an average week’s basket, customers will get a collection of organic fruit and veggies, along with a card telling them exactly where their food came from and a suggested recipe for the goodies.
In last week’s basket, there were apples, fair trade bananas, kiwis, and nectarines. The local food included greens and scallions from Elemental Farms, basil from the Northern Fireweed Raven Garden, carrots from Zakus Farm and summer squash and cucumber from Earth Wisdom Farm.
All of those are local producers who need support, said Tuzlak, and his program is a way to help deliver it.
“The way Monsanto and others, for money making, the way they are abusing and literally killing our earth, here is something, maybe modest, that can help. For Whitehorse’s size, it’s pretty good,” Tuzlak said.
Enrica Nadalini runs Earth Wisdom Farm with her partner, Peter Zimmerman.
Having a program like the produce club helps farmers like her reach customers they might not otherwise get.
“I think it’s excellent,” Nadalini said.
“It’s very important not only for raising awareness in the Yukon that there actually are producers growing local food, but also for those producers to have an outlet.”
Nadalini and Zimmerman have been growing organic food for the past five years, and bringing it to market for the past three.
As well as the produce club, they also bring their food to the Fireweed Market, the fruit stand on Black Street and Riverside Grocery.
She said the idea of organic food grew out of a desire to help Yukoners access healthier options and protect northern food security.
“We had an agricultural piece of land, and we wanted to contribute to food production in the Yukon. That was the driving force. First we started with a garden for ourselves, so we could harvest our own foods. We thought, well, we could try to sell some of this and we expanded from there. We are very vulnerable, having to constantly bring food up the highway – the more food that we can produce locally, the better,” she said.
Getting people engaged and passionate about where their food comes from is one of the most important accomplishments of the produce club, Nadalini said.
“Those people are making a conscious decision to support a program like that. They know they are getting organic food, the best that is available local food. Those are people who already understand the importance of that program,” she said.
Contact Jesse Winter at