Toursim and agriculture
The Yukon government’s efforts to promote food raised and grown here also targets the 325,000 tourists who visit the territory every year, and new initiatives are now linking tourism and agriculture together.
The whole aim is to give visitors a taste of the place, says Coralie Ullyet, project manager for Yukon Culinary Tourism Development.
“People come for the wilderness but they eat three times a day while they’re here. We want to make sure those meals count and that they’re eating local.”
The Tourism Industry Association — Yukon (TIAY) hosts a four-day food festival in August including farm visits and chef-prepared meals made from locally produced food.
TIAY and Yukon Agricultural Association (YAA) also bring together restaurant owners, chefs and other potential buyers of food in a trade show called Meet Your Maker. It’s a way to bring buyers and suppliers together early in the year so that farmers have enough time to plan their production according to buyers’ needs.
A culinary tourism strategy was released this past March.
“Tourism has really shone a light, from a culinary perspective, on agriculture here,” says Sonny Gray, YAA president who’s recently been elected a director with TIAY. “We’re able to provide them some great quality product that enables them to create partnerships with local chefs. That value-add has driven our industry even further.”
Women make up more than 40 per cent of farmers in Yukon
Census of Agriculture 2016 numbers show Yukon bucking national trends, with increases in farms, farm operators and the number of women farmers.
The individuals behind those numbers are people like Sarah Ouellette who moved from Ontario and established a vegetable farm here in 2014. Women now account for 41.5 per cent farm operators in 2016, a number well above the national average of 28.7 per cent.
Ouellette’s arrival also added to the 2.6 per cent overall increase in farm operators here; total farm operators now number 234.
Sarah’s Harvest (see photo at top) is established on land she secured through a tenancy agreement on the Lendrum Ross Farm in the Lake Laberge area near Whitehorse, a small-scale organically certified market garden on about a third of an acre.
Her production is sold direct to stores and restaurants in Whitehorse and through a farm stand she operates in the city’s Fireweed Community Market.
Ouellette was recognized as Farmer of the Year in 2019 by the Yukon government for her work promoting local agriculture and supplying high-quality food to Yukoners.
Local food has become a key plank in the Yukon’s new agricultural strategy, released in 2016.
Public lands program in Yukon
The 2016 Census reported the 142 farms operating here encompass a total farm area of 10,330 hectares, with 6,801 ha under production (crops and pasture).
Farmers have acquired land over the years in various ways, including traditional private sales, but the Yukon government also administers various programs that enable people to acquire public land. Farmers, producers and livestock owners can acquire public land for agriculture production through an agreement for sale or areas for grazing through a grazing agreement.
The three ways to apply for public land include a planned land application, an agricultural spot land application and grazing agreements to access natural forages.
The Government of Yukon does not provide land for homesteading or any land free of charge, but determines a value for the parcel and collects it through the land development process.
The programs are accessible only to Canadians and permanent residents who have been living in the Yukon for more than a year. As well, successful applicants must pledge to make various investments in the property within a seven-year period before title is transferred.
The aim is to attract more farmers who see opportunities in agriculture in the northern region.
Their office gets routine inquiries expressing interest in these programs, say Yukon officials. Actual applications to the Agricultural Land Program have historically been small but steady.