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"They see agriculture here as a blot on the environment," Mr. Tone said.
In the Northwest Territories and Yukon, food questions are thornier because history suggests these territories, cold and isolated as they may be, are capable of growing substantial amounts of their own food. In decades past, missionary priests and workers at isolated posts tilled large, productive gardens. The Dawson gold rush, which swelled the Yukon population to a size near current levels, was largely fed by local product.
Agriculture remains a tough sell in the North
Still, some entrepreneurs have begun to take matters into their own hands. A trio of cattle growers have banded together under the name "Farmers 3" and last fall built cold storage they can use for slaughtered beef. And a pair of Albertans, Steve and Bonnie Mackenzie Grieve, moved to Yukon specifically to begin farming. They have spent the past seven years establishing an operation that now grows oats, barley, carrots and, most famously, Yukon gold potatoes.
In part, that's because agriculture remains a very tough sell in the North. In Yukon, for example, land prices exceed those in places such as Saskatchewan, and yields are far lower. A government program launched in 1988 studied how to grow wheat, peas, oilseeds and raspberries. But growing conditions aren't good. The number of frost free days ranges from 93 in some places to 21 in others. The soil is generally poor and nutrient deficient.
"It is a growing problem, at least in my observation," she said. "If there's a snowstorm or a breakdown of a vehicle or anything that happens on a highway and the trucks don't come in, there's no food in the store. And it becomes a running joke."
To encourage more agriculture, Mr. Tone's association has laid plans for an abattoir, cold storage and kitchen operation that could be used by small time community farmers. But erecting that $2 million facility has not been easy. It has been discussed in various forms since 1972 but never built, although the territory does subsidize a mobile abattoir.
But, she acknowledged, it's hard work. The family, which calls its operation Yukon Grain Farm, mills and markets its own grains and washes, bags and delivers its own potatoes.
"We could have an industry that could support about a third to 40 per cent of Yukon's food needs, rather than perhaps the 1 per cent to 2 per cent that we currently supply," said Rick Tone, executive director of the Yukon Agricultural Association.
It's not just a matter of northern black humour. Yukon is criss crossed with fault lines. Without enough food, an earthquake, such as the 1964 temblor that killed 131 in Alaska, could become much more serious without enough food on hand.
Rather than wait for government funding, the couple built their own cold storage. They now sell potatoes through the winter to the local Loblaw owned supermarkets, which Ms. Mackenzie Grieve said have "been really supportive of us."
When Liz Hanson walked into her local Yukon grocery store on Saturday, she found the shelves bereft of beef.
In Whitehorse, where Ms. Hanson was recently elected as MLA and now serves as leader of the territorial NDP, such a sight is not rare. She said mounting difficulties with northern food logistics are Women Canada Goose Camp Down Hooded Jacket Grey Nz shining a spotlight on how Canada's most distant communities feed themselves, especially in times of crisis and during periods when energy prices soar.
"We need to be looking at how we begin to transition into having some basic supplies in the North in our communities at all times," she said.
The latest figures show the entire Yukon is home to a quantity of farm animals that could be contained on a single southern farm: 220 cattle, 160 hogs, 62 elk, 130 goats and sheep, 150 wood bison and 21 llamas.
The only meat she could find? "Three little packages of poultry," she said. "And you're thinking, 'there's something wrong with this picture, when your supplies can't be maintained.'"
Worse, some Yukoners believe agriculture will mar the territory's untouched vistas.