Arctic Inspiration Prize win will mean new slaughterhouse in central Yukon

·3 min read
The Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation acquired what was once known as the Partridge Creek Farm, near Mayo, Yukon, in 2018 and it's been operational since last spring. The project has just received an Arctic Inspiration Prize worth $485,000.
The Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation acquired what was once known as the Partridge Creek Farm, near Mayo, Yukon, in 2018 and it's been operational since last spring. The project has just received an Arctic Inspiration Prize worth $485,000.

(Sonny Gray/North Star Agriculture - image credit)

The Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation is looking to get a long-disused slaughterhouse up and running once again at its farm in central Yukon — using Arctic Inspiration Prize money.

The First Nation's farm is home to the "Indigenous Food Sovereignty Hub," which is one of this year's Arctic Inspiration Prize winners, announced last week. The project will receive $485,000 "to reduce barriers to healthy and culturally relevant foods," according to the prize's website.

The First Nation's farm manager Teresa Samson says winning the prize is "absolutely amazing."

"It's been a great project right from the beginning," she said.

The First Nation bought the Partridge Creek Farm, near Mayo, Yukon, in 2018 and it's been operational since last spring. It's on the North Klondike Highway about 325 kilometres north of Whitehorse and 75 kilometres west of Mayo.

The farm was first built in the 1980s and has several old farm buildings on it, including an abattoir.

"This was one of the first slaughterhouses in the territory, but it hasn't been operational and it needs some equipment. So [the Arctic Inspiration Prize] is all going to be directed to getting that abattoir online," Samson said.

The First Nation has been working with management company North Star Agriculture to bring the farm into operation. North Star CEO Sonny Gray says having a functioning slaughterhouse opens up a lot of possibilities.

"We're looking at expanding it and putting in a commercial kitchen," Gray said.

"That way there we can process things like, you know, pork and beef and chickens, rabbits — but also with the commercial kitchen capabilities, which means, you know, morels or birch syrup."

Sonny Gray of North Star Agriculture and farm manager Teresa Samson with the farm's first chicks.
Sonny Gray of North Star Agriculture and farm manager Teresa Samson with the farm's first chicks.

Gray said the slaughterhouse will also be useful to other farmers in the area, as it will be the only one in the central territory, and likely to be operational year-round. The Yukon government's mobile abattoir now typically comes to the region for just a few weeks in the summer, he said.

'Our people are not typically farmers'

Samson says the farm is an important project for the First Nation, as it's all about food sovereignty.

"Our elders have always told us, you know, hard times are going to come upon us and we need to be prepared. We need to learn to live off the land. We need to be holding true to our traditional values and culture," she said.

"But we also have to find new ways to be able to sustain ourselves in hard times like the times that we're currently in. We don't know whether the food truck will make it up the highway or whether we'll be able to go to the grocery store."

An aerial view of the farm.
An aerial view of the farm.

Samson says working with North Star Agriculture has been a boon.

"Our people are not typically farmers," she said. "They've really helped us catapult this into being a real possibility."

Gray said his job has been to facilitate, teach and mentor. The goal is for the First Nation to ultimately take over and manage the farm itself.

Samson said it will ultimately be up to Na-Cho Nyak Dun citizens to determine what happens on the farm, and what's produced.

"We're constantly trying to check in with the citizenship to see what it is that they want, what they think for their future. It's not a project where we are dictating on what's going to happen there," she said.

"It's definitely going to be a project of the people."