Belated congratulations to the 2009 Yukon Farmers of the Year, Grant Dowdell and Karen Digby. Recognition came at the annual North of 60º Agricultural Conference Banquet last November.
They missed the ceremony because the Yukon River gets choked with ice during freeze-up making it impossible to leave their island farm, about 13 kilometers up river from Dawson City.
The YTG press release says, “They are admired by the Yukon agriculture community for their ability to consistently supply local markets, while offering a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and bedding plants.”
Admired by their colleagues, and non-green-thumb people like myself.
As a friend I’ve enjoyed participating in their life-long adventure both vicariously and in reality, by some measure, while witnessing the evolution of a Yukon homestead literally coaxed from the deep roots of the forest and cultivated into a productive market garden. Grant displayed the same tenaciousness and drive as the early Canadian Pioneer on a Yukon River island with Baker Slough on one side and the main channel on the other.
Over the last 35 years Grant and his former spouse (Karen Quinn) raised a wonderful family of two boys and a girl. During this time they engaged in animal husbandry, ran a trap-line, kept chickens and worked tirelessly sowing and reaping a wide variety of market garden produce.
Once in awhile I’ll dip into my bank of Dawson stories and remember when Paula and I got wedged into Grant’s dog sled with fur and blanket chinking in preparation for a Christmas Eve ride to their welcoming oasis – somewhere in the snowy moonlit wilderness.
The crunch of sled runners scraping along the bumps and twists of the frozen trail pulled by panting sled-dogs remains a classic movie soundtrack for many northerners.
Today Grant and Karen come to market every Saturday during the summer. They have to put up with my pacing back and forth, impatient for their first crop of delicious tomatoes.