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About Yukon Agriculture

Courtesy of Farm Management Canada

The ability to raise crops and livestock in the Yukon has been demonstrated from the late 1800s through to the present. In 1931 there were only 41 active farms in the Yukon. During the 40s, 50s and 60s, transportation systems were improved making the demand for local farming less urgent, but by the 1970s a resurgence of interest took place and as of 1993 there were 140 farms in operation in the Yukon. Today, there are approximately 160 farms are in operation. The people profiled in this document have learned from the history of Yukon farming that is possible to feed ourselves and our animals from homegrown resources. Climate is the greatest limiting factor to agriculture in the Yukon. Our semi-arid climate, cold winters, and shorter growing seasons have several consequences for the Yukon agriculturist. Farmers have to choose early-maturing crops, hardy plants and animals, and compensate for the lack of moisture. As you will see from the following profiles, Yukon farmers have to persevere and be determined in order to have successful operations. Wherever climactic data was available for specific regions it was included in the farm profile. The two key reasons for not using this data as an accurate indicator are 1) the climate data represents averages collected between 1951 and 1980. More recent recordings seem to show longer frost free seasons and higher growing degree days. 2) the climate data has been collected at major weather seasons, not on the farms.

The farms' actual proximity to water and valley location affect the microclimate they experience. Effective growing degree days were calculated by adding 18% to growing degree days. This 18% factor accounts for the boost that plants receive from the long hours of daylight during our northern summers.

Farming north of 60° presents special marketing opportunities and obstacles. Although southern imports may be available at lower costs, several farms raise pesticide-free and free-ranged foods for prices lower than imported "organic food". The price for Yukon hay is comparable to imported hay. The profiles include mixed farms and single-product farms, whether the product be sod, animal breeding stock, or hay. Most Yukon farms are capable of raising several different crops for the sake of self-sufficiency but in order to make some monetary profit, like anywhere else, the farm focuses on one or two types of cash crops. The higher expenses for necessary inputs, including fertilizer, irrigation, supplementary protein for animals, and fuel, compared to the price of outputs mean that most Yukon farmers do not become rich. Many farms depend on an off-farm income to support the family lifestyle needs. Many farmers pursue this occupation for the love of the lifestyle and/or the sense of security from having the ability and resources to produce food.