New ways of growing food in the Yukon and getting it to people’s plates were shown off in a tour of an experimental farm on Aug. 30.
Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources John Streicker was on hand to announce a new initiative which will make it easier for Yukon government departments to purchase food that is produced locally.
He detailed the three-year pilot project, which saw Takhini River Ranch awarded a contract to distribute food from a “one-stop shop” online store connecting government services with local food producers.
Groups that may purchase food from the store include school programs and long-term care facilities.
“We’re encouraging our government services to source more of their food requirements locally, and we’re increasing our market opportunities,” Streicker said.
”We’re improving our food security, we’re contributing to the economy. And we’re reducing, which is the one I love, how much food we need to ship into the territory.”
Streicker praised the resilience of the Yukon’s agriculture sector over the course of the ongoing pandemic and the new local products that have emerged.
He noted agricultural projects funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, in particular.
“We’ve seen an increase in value-added projects that result in more local food options for Yukoners like flour, berry wine, meat, and recently a micro dairy that will provide milk, at least around Whitehorse,” he said.
Streicker said funding had also gone to on-farm projects like the development of water sources, installation of electric fences and mentorship and training opportunities.
The setting of Streicker’s announcement was the experimental farm located at the Gunnar Nilsson and Mickey Lammers Research Forest in the Takhini Valley.
The approximately three-acre farm, operated by the Yukon Government’s agriculture branch, is used to run tests aimed at helping Yukon farmers make the most of their land.
Every new farmer’s field begins with clearing away trees.
The experimental farm included a newly-created field where trees had stood just days before.
Rather than employing the typical method of bulldozing an area flat and then gathering and burning the downed trees a forestry mulcher was used.
The tracked machine has a hydraulically operated bar for pushing down trees and a rotating drum that shreds them into mulch and mixes it into the topsoil.
Along with clearing land faster, without the need to pile and burn wasted wood, agriculture lands manager Jonathan Lucas detailed some benefits of the practice.
He said the process leaves more nutrient-rich topsoil behind and the mulch integrated into the soil adds nutrients and regulates temperature to protect plants’ roots from heat.
Because the mulched wood breaks down naturally rather than having to be burned, plumes of smoke and greenhouse gases are not released.
Along with the small-scale test at experimental farm, Lucas oversaw the clearing of three plots in the Ibex valley totaling 250 hectares in the summer of 2020.
Also ongoing at the experimental farm were trial crops of potatoes, beans and other crops
As and experiment, parts of the bean crop were covered to protect from frost and insects and others were being used to test a biodegradable mulch’s effects on the health and yield of the plants.
Parts of the bean crop that were not covered had their leaves withered brown by killing frost events on July 16 and Aug. 23 which Agriculture Research Technician Bradley Barton said came early and unexpectedly.
Strangely, he said the frost events seemed to be isolated to the Ibex and Takhini valleys but did not damage plants in Whitehorse.
Another field on the farm is planted with 18 varieties of potatoes.
Barton said they planted potatoes that are used for a variety of applications in the kitchen.
The goal of planting the different varieties is to find potatoes that grow to the right size, mature early and set a skin that makes them durable when stored.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org