There's more to farming than feeding animals and planting seeds."
This is a quote from my husband, Al. When he said this a few weeks back we were talking about the firewood he had just finished bringing home. He's right, too.
The typical farmer tends to be a "Jack of all trades, master of none." Just living in a rural setting will encourage people to become more self-sufficient in a lot of ways.
When the water pump froze and broke, we didn't call a plumber. We just replaced it ourselves.
If the driveway needs to be cleared of snow, Al goes out with the tractor and does a very good job. I've plowed the driveway, too, but I am not as good at it as Al is.
We change the oil, spark plugs, whatever the tractor needs to keep it maintained. We haul our own water, cut our own firewood. And most important, we grow our own food.
Farming in the Yukon, we need to wear more hats than farmers down south.
If I were to raise chickens down south, when they were ready for butchering, they would all be loaded onto a truck and taken to the abattoir. I wouldn't even need to market them either; I would just receive a cheque in the mail and that would be that.
Here, every chicken we raise, we butcher and sell ourselves. Our customers can come, see where the birds were raised and enjoy those animals still running around in the barn.
Recently, I was at an agricultural workshop in Whitehorse. One of the topics of discussion was food security.
Food security and food sovereignty are terms that have been in the media more and more of late. But they don't always have definitions attached to them. And depending on whom you talk with, they could have several meanings.
The best explanation I have found so far is that food security means the supply of food; food sovereignty means the control of food. Having both leads to food self-reliance.
When you have food self-reliance, communities will have a resilience and adaptability.
As we know, living this far north, if a grocery truck doesn't arrive, we end up with empty shelves and nothing to buy or eat. While most of us just take it in stride, reasoning that living this far north we have to expect such things, some of us would rather see a more sustainable food system.
There isn't a single answer to make this happen. Rather there are several different answers: planting your own garden and preserving what you harvest, so the food lasts longer than the summer; raising animals for meat, milk or eggs.
If these aren't options, supporting a local farmer would also help to make our food supply more secure.
And what could be more self-sufficient than feeding ourselves?
Joan Norberg and her husband, Allan, run Grizzly Valley Farms on the Mayo Road. They have successfully endured the Yukon’s short seasons and less-than-ideal soil conditions. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.