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Cannabis Fieldnotes: Growing organic cannabis in the Yukon

ArcticPharm is the first Licensed Producer in the Canadian territories. ArcticPharm grows its cannabis on a corner of a sprawling 116-acre organic farm just outside Whitehorse.

cannabis farm at sunset in yukonArcticPharm outdoor cannabis farm, photo courtesy of ArcticPharm

In the land of the midnight sun, ArcticPharm grows its cannabis on a corner of a sprawling 116-acre organic farm just outside Whitehorse.

ArcticPharm Map


ArcticPharm is located at 60.850320° latitude outside of Whitehose, Yukon. Spring to summer, plants spend about 20 hours a day in sunlight.

“At five in the morning, you start to see [the sun] come up over the mountains, down on the farm. It circles around the farm until midnight, then it kind of ducks behind the trees,” says Michael Austin, chief marketing officer at ArcticPharm.

The land, a legacy organic vegetable and fruit farm sold to ArcticPharm, began producing cannabis in 2021 with the arrival of the company’s cultivation and processing licence. It thus became the first Licensed Producer in the Canadian territories.

The growing season starts in early spring, beginning with germination. Seeds are placed in small pots inside the greenhouse, where they remain until adolescence. When the ground thaws, the seedlings are planted by hand into the field and sprinkled with locally sourced fertilizer.

Yukon landscapeYukon landscape, photo courtesy of ArcticPharm

As spring stretches into summer, the plants’ flowers and trichomes spend nearly 20 hours a day soaking up the sun, using its energy to mature into cultivatable bud. “That additional sun energy really allows us to grow a crop in a shorter amount of time than southern grows traditionally would outdoors,” says Austin.

ArcticPharm currently cultivates about 10 acres of cannabis, with the capacity to easily triple production. Two greenhouses on the property are primarily dedicated to dry flower, while the cannabis from the fields is harvested for pre-rolls.

Cannabis outdoor grow harvestFarming activities at ArcticPharm, photo courtesy of ArcticPharm

The farm’s natural landscape inspires the company’s suite of products — pre-rolls, mainly, infused with distillate showing off fruity, earthy terpenes. And their names — like Yukon Sunrise, Yukon Sunset and Yukon Sky — align with ArcticPharm’s natural branding. “We’ve tried to stay true to the botanical, natural-based terpenes,” says Austin. Beginning in spring 2023, the OCS started carrying several ArcticPharm products, including variety packs, high-THC joints as well as CBD-dominant and balanced pre-rolls.

Cannabis isn’t the farm’s only tenant. Elsewhere on the land, a large-scale solar farm — when fully operational — will electrify the farm and feed energy back to the Yukon power grid. A river runs through the property, providing another critical life force to the plants. “We use water from the Takhini River that’s pumped up to the irrigation pond and filtered, then gravity-fed back down to the field,” says Austin.

Even the pest control is natural. They rely on low humidity levels and predator mites to do the job for which non-organic cannabis farms in southern Canada might use pesticides.

Cannabis farm in yukonBird's eye view of the ArcticPharm landscape, photo courtesy of ArcticPharm

The low humidity, late summer frosts, river water and organic pest control all contribute to the experience of smoking ArcticPharm cannabis, says Austin. For one, lower humidity helps stave off mould. And organic growing, he reports, is known in the cannabis industry to produce a “smoother smoke” — one that is less harsh on the throat, allowing the consumer to become more fully aware of the bud’s flavours.

Meanwhile, the high sun energy and low humidity help concentrate the plants’ resin, and the early onset of frost in late August produces darker buds than typically seen in southern climates.

“The 18 hours of sunlight, low humidity and organically managed soils will produce a crop with characteristics of flavour, aroma and effects distinctive from southern growers,” master grower John Lenart told the Whitehorse Star newspaper in 2021.

Most of the team works remotely in the depths of winter, coming together on the Whitehorse farm for the growing season. Year-round, workers live on the land up on the banks above the farm, making use of snowmobiles in the winter and ATVs and fishing boats in the summer.

ArcticPharm teamArcticPharm team photo, photo courtesy of ArcticPharm

“A team of about four or five are up in Whitehorse at any given time,” says Austin. “Then during harvest, that explodes to a few dozen people temporarily. We use local labour. A lot of the community loves to come out and help.”

Austin says the company is also thinking of dipping its toes in ecotourism, with the idea of using some of the cabins on the expansive property and building others to offer nature retreats in the Arctic.

The goal, says Austin, is to become a fully self-sustaining farm over the next few years.

It’s key to ArcticPharm’s unique value proposition not only as the sole Licensed Producer in the Yukon, but as an exclusively outdoor organic operation in one of the world’s harshest climates.

This spring, under a product suite called Craft Select, ArcticPharm will bring bud from a small grower in northern Saskatchewan to Ontario stores. “We’re pretty excited about that,” says Austin. “We’re always open to working with other micros that want to bring their flower to Ontario and other markets that they just can’t access otherwise.”

That kind of community spirit is what drew founders Chris Cornborough and Sean Stofer to the North in the first place, a part of Canada known for being enterprising, creative and invested in mutual support. Austin says they’re in it for the long haul, with hopes for a kind of sustained, organic growth that lets them evolve the business naturally and responsibly — much like the cannabis itself.

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