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In the Yukon, climate change is changing the face of agriculture

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Sarah Ouellette has been farming 0.4 acres of land near Whitehorse since 2016.

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For 40 years, the face agriculture has changed significantly in the Yukon, a development that is expected to accelerate even more due to climate change. While this is a source of concern for some farmers, others see it as an opportunity to be seized.

Farming north of the 60th parallel presents its share of challenges, immediately admits Sarah Ouellette, market gardener for 10 years in the area and owner of Sarah's Farm Harvest.

Since we are in the North, our season is very intense. We have late spring frosts and very early autumn frosts, but with the bright sun the crops grow very quickly, she emphasizes, adding that certain crops more fragile to the cold, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, must, however, be grown in a greenhouse.

This reality could, however, be expected to change in the years to come, maintains agronomist Randy Lamb, of the Government of Yukon.

With climate change, each year the growing area in North America shifts 10 to 20 kilometers northward. It’s coming, it will arrive in the territory one day and we are trying to learn more to prepare for it, he said.

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In the Yukon, four First Nations operate agricultural land and a farm for their community.

To help define which crops can be planted in Yukon fields, the government's Agriculture Branch has operated the experimental farm for more than 40 years to test the adaptability of seeds developed elsewhere in the country.

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ELSE ON NEWS: Supreme Court keeps Donald Trump on the ballot< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">A new crop developed in southern Canada and that works well for the south of the country is not necessarily going to be successful here, with our colder soil, our shorter season and our very, very long sunshine, explains Randy Lamb.

This summer, the farm will try growing corn to see what will happen to this crop in fields outside. We call it our climate change barometer, illustrates the agronomist. If the heat continues, we may have plenty of corn.

In recent years, climate warming has also extended the harvest period by almost two days for the Whitehorse region and up to four days for regions further north, towards Dawson and Mayo.

This extension of the season allows Yukon farmers to plant grains such as canola and ensure a harvest each year.

When we talk between the provinces and territories and with the federal government, everyone says climate change is bad, climate change adds a problem and I raise my hand to say climate change is rather an opportunity, says the agronomist.

Sarah Ouellette operates a small 0.4 acre organic farm in Lake Laberge, near the capital, and uses the cold of winter to make ice which she then stores for the rest of the year in a well-insulated building . This ice is used to transport and preserve vegetables.

According to her, if warming could possibly allow new crops to be grown in the Yukon, it could also bring in its wake new insects and new plant diseases with which farmers will have to learn to deal.

Added to this fear is the impact that floods, forest fires and drought caused by climate change can also have on crops.

Last year, we broke heat records. I admit that most cultures have benefited from it, but it's worrying at the same time and with the forest fires […] it worries me, she said.

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