Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching & Working Farm
Nän käk nishi tr’ënòshe gha hëtr’ohǫh’ąy
On the land we learn to grow our food
It has long been a dream of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (TH) to create a means of sourcing fresh produce and other food staples in a sustainable way within Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in traditional territory. In September 2014, the dream came a step closer to reality as the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (TH) and Yukon College (YC) signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to develop a sustainable, year-round farming initiative on traditional territory within the Dawson region.
UPDATE: September 8, 2016
The first crop of students from the TH Teaching and Working Farm is wrapping up the season!
Twenty students ranging in age from 16 to 64 make up this first cohort. Most are Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens, with others from various Yukon First Nations and one non-first nation student. Most are post-secondary, and four are keen high-school students.
Since April this year, the students have been busy. First-year curriculum was developed and implemented, with students learning essential skills delivered with an applied homestead-farming approach. A key aim was to provide a safe, healthy, on-the-land experience. Lessons included essential skills such as literacy and numeracy; learning skills such as effective communication, critical thinking, team collaboration and creative problem solving; and general agriculture. Remaining time was devoted to practical farm work. Areas covered included seed production, planning techniques, care and maintenance of seedlings, thinning, weeding, pest and weather-watch, harvesting, secondary product, marketing and sales, plus basic carpentry. This season’s main crops were potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, peas, kale and corn, supplemented by the students’ individual research plots with beans, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and sunflowers.
The TH Teaching and Working Farm is a partnership between Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Yukon College, with funding assistance from the Yukon’s Training Policy Committee to support the start-up year of the Farm School component. Its Hän name is Nän käk nishi tr’ënòshe gha hëtr’ohǫh’ąy which translates as "On the land we learn to grow our food".
Join us at our harvest celebration on Friday, September 16 from 5–7pm. We’ll be honouring the students who completed their first year of Farm School, and sharing in a community feast. Everyone is welcome. Call Krystal Titus 993-7100 ext. 212 for more information.
UPDATE: March 1, 2016
Recent good news is the announcement of funding for the TH Farm School beginning first classes in the Spring of 2016. TH would like to thank the Yukon First Nations Training Policy Committee Board for their complete support through the approval of generic fund allocation for this start-up piece to the Farm. This component is integral to the overall success of the TH Teaching and Working Farm. It will ensure that we build capacity in agricultural learning within the territory and do so within a TH Farm School that utilizes the best of practical, safe and engaging on the land learning. By providing funding to this project, the YFN Training Policy Committee has demonstrated a strong commitment and dedication to the broadest of Yukon First Nations training and educational initiatives. Many thanks to these forward thinking mentors of future First Nations self-sufficiency and food security.
Some of the highlights of the Farm School curriculum development and delivery include:
- Non-academic driven qualification continuing education program (entrance requirements based on desire, displayed interest, natural ability, etc.) An achievement certificate of recognition will be presented to all who are successful.
- Approximately 430 hours of formal classroom instruction and 600 hours of paid practicum experience (i.e. field work on the farm).
- Course topics will include but
not limited to:
- Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture and Indigenous Food Systems
- Sustainable Soils and Water Management
- Plant Science
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
- Animal Agriculture
- Market Crop Production
- Fruit Crop Production
- Farm Business Planning/ Management
- Forage Crop Production
- Small Farm Construction
- Traditional TH Food Ways
- Seed Saving
- Medicinal Plants
- Equipment Operation and Maintenance
- First Aid
- Food Handling
- Accommodation will be provided on the Farm (tent, washhouse, etc) creating a healthy, healing, safe and rewarding “on-the-land” environment where FN citizens and others can learn, work and build stronger determination in self-confidence, self-sufficiency and determination;
- Promotion and support for a training opportunity and trades skills development based on TH Farm trades oriented opportunities.
Equally important is a dual credit offering. A limited number of secondary school students will be provided with on-the-land farming exposure and introduction to the importance for food security. Science driven offerings will be created later in the TH Farm’s life as the demand and capacity presents itself. Credited certificate, diploma and degree agricultural programs are anticipated in the years ahead.
The Steering Committee has been busy recruiting resources:
- to develop the TH Farm School curriculum;
- work with YG education to develop the dual credit component;
- engage with local framing experts (including citizens and elders) to identify their expertise and plan for their instruction in course modules;
- co-ordinate and deliver the TH Farm School for 2016;
- Assess the first year delivery and make enhancements for the 2nd year delivery.
We are pleased to welcome Randy Lewis, who has been contracted to coordinate the 2016 TH Farm School through the Human Resources, Education and Training (HRET) Department.
Randy’s past services to TH which includes most recently 2015 delivery of Environmental Monitoring programming to staff and citizens alike. He has a significant background in farming with full appreciation for the overall agriculture practices and processes and has been teaching the Master Gardner program with Yukon College over the past years.
We will be sure to keep everyone updated on progress as the co-ordination unfolds and Randy will be making arrangements to meet with department staff, citizens and Elders Council regarding interest in instruction and guidance support. Randy can be reached at extension 445 and or through me at HRET.
Uunfortunately time, resources and funding required to conduct planned Technical Working Group meetings in preparation for the start-up of the TH Farm in Spring 2016 have delayed action on this important step. However, every effort is being made to engage this group just as soon as possible. Watch for an e-mail over the next month or so asking for your involvement. This group will most certainly be fully engaged just as soon as the funding is made available.
* * * * *
I sure hope many of you were able to share in the Harvest Celebration held on September 19, 2015 on the TH Teaching & Working Farm site. The site had over 200 visitors over the day with TH staff, citizens, elders and visitors from the larger Dawson community folks. We had a wonderful spit BBQ’d hind caribou quarter with all the veggie delights, full sunshine (well at least over the later part of the afternoon and into the evening), just a few speeches and a great selection of live country music!
If you were able to attend and we did not connect, my apologies. In the same breath, I hope you took the opportunity to view the story panels that were there and engage in discussion with the proud staff, citizens and partners who joined in the celebration and were excited to share their experience with a most successful first year.
If you have not seen the photos from the TH Farm vegetable patch over the past year, please e-mail our for access.
The TH Farm Steering Committee met in early November 2015 to review the overall project. The meetings were very successful. We accepted the recently completed TH FARM Business Plan and were able to celebrate how the TH Farm Plan clearly indicates that TH is on the right course to assist existing agricultural efforts in meeting the goals of food sustainability and security within the Klondike. While collectively we remain far from completely addressing the needs of the region, we are certainly contributing in a positive way to that effort.
* * * * *
The TH Teaching and Working Farm, Nän käk nizhì’ tr’ënohshe gha ëtr’ëhǫh’ąy / On the land we learn to grow our food, project is moving ahead and the Steering Committee looks forward to sharing the project progress and opportunities with all of our partner agricultural friends in the Klondike. We are proud to be joining all current efforts to improve food security, sustainability and continued agricultural efforts in the Klondike, Yukon. If you have any questions regarding the project and would like to meet and discuss those, do not hesitate to contact me.
- Dexter MacRae, Director, Human Resources, Education and Training
UPDATE June 8, 2015
The last TH-YC Steering Committee meeting was held over May 5 & 6 2015. The main purpose of those meetings was to scope the project and provide input to the last component of our external funding package namely, our Business Plan. The project has enlisted the services of Kent Mullinix, Director of The Institute for Sustainable Food Systems with Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Kent and his team have already been active in the Klondike with research on food security and have more recently been instrumental in a Farm program for the Tsawwassen First nation in Delta BC. The consulting project will provide The TH Teaching and Working Farm Steering Committee with a sustainable business model for operation of the Farm that will meet funder expectations for operational feasibility and market demand. Kent’s work should wind up in mid-August.
There was no question coming out of these meetings that a veggie plot was a priority for the 2015 summer. Funding was secured for subsidizing salaries for Farm Hands, ideas for volunteer and TH resources to aid the effort and the identification of other assets was made. Unfortunately there was no time, resources “or funding” to call in the planned Technical Working Group for this early stage so, it would be hit or miss on what to grow and how to plant. This group will most certainly be engaged just as soon as the funding is made available.
The rest is now history. It began with the purchasing and ordering of seeds and planting supplies to ensure we could hit the land running once the Farm Hand staff were hired. On Monday, May 25th 2015, with the first of the TH Farm Hands, Nancy-Jane Taylor, starting work, and continued Tuesday with the remaining Farm Hands coming on board (Nick Rear, Josh Moses and Jen Titus). The TH Farm Hands Crew Lead, Adam Farr joined the team the following week on Tuesday, June 2nd coming in from Edmonton determined to make his mark on his First Nation’s project.
Following troublesome but manageable delays with ploughing, tilling and irrigation start-up we were ready to plant the first seeds on the TH Teaching and Working Farm. All Farm Hands were positive, patient and diligent ensuring the entire 150 x 50 foot produce plot was fertilized and planted with a lot of manual labour including hand irrigation of liquid fertilizer blended with water. Ah, yes. Plenty of care for every seed! Bravo to the entire team. Potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, lettuce and edible flowers will hopefully make an appearance.
While it will be exciting to see the first showing of the new veggie plant shoots, there are many tasks to undertake over the course of the summer. Floors for wall tent living over the summer, purchase of equipment, fencing, land clearing, picnic table building, construction of two outhouses and an equipment shed, further plowing and tilling in prep for a crop cover, veggie care and maintenance and overall site security and care, etc., all form the work plan over the summer 2015.
Of course the team has been well advised of the need to maintain the veggies from the persistent grass and weeds sure to show up just about that same time as the veggies start to appear.
Our main partners in the project, Yukon College & Yukon Research Centre, have been never failing in their support for all activities. Soil sampling was conducted over the last while and many thanks to Matt Ball & Cam for their efforts. Randy Lewis and the EM course team he led in early May contributed to the GPS markings for the Farm site. John Mitchell has been consistent in his support of the many mechanical and functional resource needs to ensure the required site infrastructure supports this year’s operation. Sam Gerberding determined to contribute his volunteer school project time to the site. YG AE provide a few wage subsidy funds, Job Creation contributed a large wage subsidy contribution, Heritage walked the crew through the process to preserve the historic sites for further consideration and how to manage artifacts found over the course of the land being worked. There have simply been countless contributors to the successful start-up.
The first historic artifact found by a Farm Hand staff was a “horseshoe” discovered by Jen Titus while planting white onions. Congrats Jen. The question immediately arose, how should I hold it for good luck?” The answer is a good one as it seems it can be a “good message” either way. Look it up.
The Farm Hands are continuing to prepare their living site over the next few weeks. Following that they will be looking forward to Elders, other citizens and Dawson City community member visitors who are interested in the project and want to see it in action. Drop by, introduce yourself, have a safe look around and be sure to sign the guest book.
As a final note, the TH Teaching and Working Farm Han name has been finalized to the following translation, Nän käk nizhì’ tr’ënohshe gha ëtr’ëhǫh’ąy, which translates to “On the land we learn to grow our food.”
The Farm Hands are very proud of being the first of what will be many eager hands engaged in building this unique and exciting project.
It has long been a dream of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (TH) to create a means of sourcing fresh produce and other food staples in a sustainable way within Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in traditional territory. In September 2014, the dream came a step closer to reality as the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Yukon College signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to develop a sustainable, year-round farming initiative on traditional territory within the Dawson region.
The Farm will operate over a variety of parcels of land within TH Traditional Territory. Given the nature of the northern climate, considerations for soils, existing vegetation, topography, hazards, permafrost, watercourse, heritage, fish and wildlife must be factored in. Efficient, effective and sustainable sources of energy for heat must also be researched and tested.
While Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in has a wealth of first nation traditional farming history, it is critical to partner with a post-secondary institution with research capabilities to determine the best methods of crop production – utilizing greenhouse, on-the-land and other means.
outcomes were created to assist in the development of a project scope and work
plan. The project will continually seek input for on-going development from northern farming experts, First
Nations citizens, researchers in northern growing and animal husbandry,
government and educators.
Fundamental outcomes for Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in are to:
- preserve a way of life that is based upon an economic and spiritual relationship with the land;
- secure a source of fresh produce and other food staples in a sustainable way year round within Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in traditional territory for citizens and the community at large;
- create a healthy, healing, safe and rewarding “on-the-land” environment upon which for all TH citizens can learn and work;
directed learning in agriculture and all the associated operational aspects and
- Support for return, preservation, maintenance and production of indigenous plants and shrubs important to the sustenance and healing traditions and culture of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in;
- secured farmed sources of traditional and non-traditional meats;
- help to promote training opportunities for trades skills development;
- develop plans for selling excess product to the general public as a source of revenue and sustainability for the farm.
Fundamental outcomes for Yukon College are to:
- provide programming and curricula to support learning on the land;
- develop and research new innovative approaches to year-round northern Yukon farming;
- establish learning opportunities in husbandry in a variety of northern environments;
- experiment in unique Northern on-the-land recycling;
- evaluate available energy sources including geo-thermal power;
- explore other potential opportunities in supporting work experience for College students in the overall operational needs of the farm;
- support on-the-land “live-on-site” Agriculture; and
- engage other partners in the project who have experience in this area and who have funding that could assist in covering the costs of development and delivery.
Additional expertise will be acquired through:
- The resources of the Yukon Government Energy Mines & Resources Ministry in the Agriculture Branch along with local small farming operations and other northern businesses with innovative approaches to energy conservation and efficient land and resource management.
- Contacts at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) on the development of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm curricula. Our KPU contact, Dr. Kent Mullinix, has over 40 years of experience with Farm School programming, including the establishment of the Richmond and Tsawwassen Farm Schools in BC—the latter of which was established in 2015 in partnership with the Tsawwassen First Nation; curricula from this program will be modified for the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm Program. The Farm School is expected to operate in pilot form for TH citizens in 2015/2016, after which time the accessibility of the program by Yukoners will be considered.
- Other university and government expertise in agriculture.
The process through which the farm is developed and functions will build a renewed capacity within the First Nation and the community at large as the knowledge base in the North increases. The farm will leave a legacy for future agricultural learning opportunities for Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and other Yukon First Nations. Yukon College will have a new location in the north through which to deliver on-the-land teaching in northern farming techniques with on-going research into new and better ways to grow crops and raise animals in a northern environment while maintaining sustainability and economic advantage.
Stay tuned for updates!