Chris here again.
Well, so far Whitehorse is awesome and I’m not coming back to Vancouver.
OK, maybe that is a bit extreme, but so far it is very lovely. I started Sunday by sleeping in – which I rarely get the chance to do in Vancouver, then got right at it finishing up my presentation notes for later in the day. But first I took another wander around the town to get familiar with things and then headed off to the Terry Fox Run. It was a fun event with several hundred people participating. I also managed to raise about $300 for the cause in the process!
But really, I am working as well!
In the afternoon I was scheduled to give a talk at the Whitehorse Public Library on Seed and Food Security in the Yukon. This was arranged through the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research. We were expecting quite a few people but had only six show up. However, they were an engaging group which helped give me some insight into food security here in the Yukon. There were folks from the Anti-poverty Coalition, Yukon College, Growers of Organic Food Yukon (GoOFY), and a First Nations group in Mayo (closer to Dawson).
As one might expect, the great distance from other major centres in Canada makes food security a concern here. Like all Canadian centres Whitehorse and the Yukon is greatly dependent on food imports from the south and there are many potential barriers to getting that food here. In 2012 the Alaska highway was closed for four days and all the attendees remembered the store shelves everywhere being bare.
In the past, local food was not viewed as very valuable and in the past ten years the idea of Grown in Yukon has become more and more valuable as people are realizing such food is fresher. Hunting is very common here and meat sales are often low because so many people have their own meat or can get it from friends and family. First Nations groups, in addition to hunting, also use traditional collection practices throughout the year.
In terms of seed growing, people are saving seed here. Much of the seed saving simply comes from the plants that bolt early (not generally a desirable characteristic in crops!), but there are more concentrated efforts on stuff like tomatoes grown in greenhouses. But the question did come up of seed quality which I also addresses in my presentation – focusing on the fact that not all seed is created equal and that saving good seed starts with planting good seed and taking steps, such as observation, selection, and rogueing, during the population’s life to ensure the next generation of seed maintains its genetic integrity.
Potatoes and garlic are both popular crops here.
I will be following up with several members of this small group on Thursday by visiting them at their growing sites. They are all small-scale growers but do have some greenhouse production happening and are eager to have site visit. This group really seems to want a seed saving workshop more than a seed security talk – so this is something we can maybe contribute to in the winter…
Today (Monday) is where things really pick up. I will attend a community food network meeting from 12:00 – 2:00 then head to the Ministry of Energy Mines and Resources (which includes agriculture) to meet with some agronomists there as well as visit their seed library. Evening could bring more meetings if people want to follow up on our conversations.
Tomorrow I head to Dawson City with KAtelyn from the AICBR to give another presentation there as well as visit some First Nations communities on the way there and back. It will be a long day!
I need to head off to my meeting today (umm, and get some coffee) so will write more when I get a chance…