Wintertime in the northern produce aisle can be dispiriting — with mealy tomatoes and tired greens on offer. Even in fair weather, food shortages caused by washed-out roads and landslides (as Yukoners experienced this June), force us to consider our food supply.
Even Yukon’s busiest berry pickers, hunters and canners tend to rely on imported foods throughout the year. However, the desire to gain more control over both the quality and source of our food has renewed interest in self-sufficiency.
As a result, some Yukoners are embracing “locavorism.”
In Dawson City, ten-year resident Florian Boulias is working on a way to produce more food locally. While he admires the efforts of food suppliers to bring fresh produce to the Yukon, Boulias has concerns about the amount of pesticides we ingest with our food. He’s researching the possibility of building a year-round greenhouse heated by a boiler chipper.
The City is building a boiler chipper to heat the new water treatment plant. And because it will be run by waste wood from the local mill, the greenhouse idea is green in more ways than one — creating organic, carbon-neutral foods from resources that might otherwise be unused.
Boulias is an advocate of simple means for ambitious projects.
In addition to herbs and lettuce, Boulias is investigating growing heat-loving plants such as tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant during the September to April growing season.
The greenhouse would function as a co-op with the harvest shared amongst members.
Currently in conversation with Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Council, Klondike Development Organization, Dawson City Council, farmers and engineers, Boulias and his greenhouse collaborators are in the first stages of making their fresh produce dreams come true.
“Sharing an ethical, tasty meal with friends is one of the most meaningful things one can do,” he says. “Whether you look at it from a health, safety or environmental point of view — having more local food sources solves a lot of different issues relating to food.”
Boulias is also spearheading the Dawson City Food Secure Advocacy Group (DCFSAG).
This recently-formed group will network through an email list serv and act as a platform to keep interested Yukoners informed about food issues and allow them to share ideas and learn about food projects in the territory.
In addition to the greenhouse, the advocacy group would like to hatch plans for a communal root cellar, investigate sites for co-op gardens in Dawson and encourage local stores to stock more non-GMO/pesticide-free foods.
DCFSAG also plans to host movie nights to view and discuss films that explore food matters. And on a larger scale, DCFSAG hopes to persuade governments to hasten the process of availing land for agriculture around Dawson City.
“Dawson could be a hub for testing ideas that could be relevant in all other Yukon communities,” he says. “The dream scenario would be to build expertise in Dawson with the support of the territorial government. Experts from Dawson would then be able to travel the Yukon to help other communities achieve what is relevant for them.”
If you are interested in receiving updates from the DCFSAG, please contact Florian Boulias at: [email protected].
Aimée Dawn Robinson is a Whitehorse based writer and dancer.