Fall is harvest time, and at the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (TH) Teaching and Working Farm School, there will be a feast to celebrate a summer’s worth of hard work by students and staff alike.
“TH has wanted active farming for the community for a long time, and I’m honoured to be spearheading the project,” says Dexter MacRae, director of human resources, education and training for the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Government.
The farm school was able to begin its first year of operation this summer with funding support from the Training Policy Committee, established under the Umbrella Final Agreement to provide training programs for Yukon First Nations.
“TH is very grateful for the policy committee’s foresight in supporting educational efforts to improve food security and sustainability in the Yukon Klondike,” says McRae.
The farm consists of a three hectare garden. There were 20 students enrolled, 16 post-secondary, and four from the local Robert Service High School.
“Ages ranged from 16 to over 60 years old,” McRae says.
The curriculum was made up of two hours of classroom time on site, with the rest of the day being spent by each student researching, building, planting and maintaining their own small, 150 by 75 foot patch of land.
Students grew such crops as potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, kale and peas.
“The gardens did well,” McRae says. “They really flourished.”
Students also had the option to live on site for the season. There’s a cookhouse, a wash house, as well as 12 wall tents for students and guest instructors to live in.
Along with farming, students helped build and make repairs on the farm, earning credits towards a journeyman’s certificate from Yukon College, which is a partner in the project.
“It’s a part of farming and these are very important skills to have,” MacRae says.
After a successful first season, the school will continue to evolve. Plans for next year include building a 25 by 100 foot greenhouse, a 40 by 80 foot Quonset hut to be used as a barn, as well as six more wall tents, pigs and chickens, and a plan to hire a full-time manager, who will live on site over the winter.
But in the meantime, there is a feast to organize. The public is invited to come and enjoy the harvest bounty at the feast, which will be held on Friday, September 16 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. out at the farm site, which is located 15 kilometres east of Dawson City. Up to 300 people are expected to come out and celebrate.
Along with all the vegetables grown by the students, there will be a quarter hind of moose roasting on a spit, with a ham for back up. For most of the day, TH staff will be at the site for a bonding event of games, including throwing straw bales and sack races.
Local transport Husky Bus will be operating a shuttle from Dawson to the feast, then back again after the meal. The North Klondike Highway Music Society Fiddlers’ Group will be playing during the feast, as well as the Hän Singers. Graduation ceremonies for the students will also be taking place.
McRae is overjoyed to see all the hard work to set up this project come to fruition.
“My feet haven’t touched the ground for a while,” he says. “It feels wonderful and it’s really cool. It’s taken us over two years to get here. It’s a long term project, and we’ll be ready to hit the ground again in early April of next year.”
For more information on the feast of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Teaching and Working Farm School, go to www.Trondëk.ca.