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Na-Cho Nyak Dun farm wins Arctic Inspiration Prize

Funds could be used to open a new abattoir and commercial kitchen
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A woman walks through the greenhouse at the Na-Cho Nyk Dun First Nation Farm. (Facebook)

A Na-Cho Nyak Dun food security initiative has won the ninth annual Arctic Inspiration Prize.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize awarded over $3 million to seven applicant teams across the North, including the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun’s Indigenous Food Sovereignty Hub. Other winners included a music program for Inuit youth and a program providing hearing loss services in Nunavut.

The Yukon First Nation won $485,000 in support funding that will allow for exciting infrastructure improvements to their farm and food sovereignty initiative.

“Winning the AIP is a massive achievement for our people and this project,” said Chief Simon Mervyn in a statement. “Building on the foundation of our working farm, we are now positioned to process our farmed and traditional wild foods, and more importantly we can train and educate our citizens using a combination of traditional culture and technology.

“The future is very bright for our sons and daughters, our grandchildren and neighbours, as we will all benefit in taking yet another step in our goal to achieving true food sovereignty,” he said.

The ceremony opened in Yukon, which hosted the prize this year, with a blessing from Champagne and Aishihik Elder Chuck Hume. Premier Sandy Silver and Assembly of First Nations Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek were also in attendance over the virtual announcement on Feb. 22.

North Star Agriculture CEO Sonny Gray, who is a contractor for the First Nation farm, said the funding would be used to expand operations around food sovereignty in the project.

Right now the farm has outdoor space and a greenhouse to grow produce like carrots, squash, berries, potatoes and greens. There is also a renovated barn space and indoor structures that support pigs, chickens and rabbits.

Gray said the nation’s farm project — originally called Partridge Creek Farm but purchased by the First Nation in 2018 – originally had an operational slaughterhouse that could be brought back into commission using the funds. Right now meat must be slaughtered in the Whitehorse abattoir.

Gray said another potential use for the funds is the construction of a commercial kitchen.

Both assets would be used to enhance farm operations but also offer opportunities to scale up more traditional practices – including processing foraged foods like berries and morel mushrooms and handling hunted wild meat and fish.

The farm is located around 90 minutes from both Dawson and Mayo. Some of the fund will also be considered to undertake teaching in Mayo off-site from the farm.

“Being able to teach and mentor citizens to take over these processes, this farm and raising and growing vegetables and processing food is just a huge feature for the next generation,” said Gray.

“It’s easier to teach people and educate people that don’t have to necessarily come to the farm, they can learn a lot of the ins and outs prior to that, and then maybe work towards a career in that industry,” he said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com