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Sofani "Soso" Charles is hoping to bring some farming skills he's learned in Dawson City, Yukon, to his family in Haiti.

Charles was born in France but his family is originally from Haiti. He is currently on a two-year working holiday visa and has been working at the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin teaching farm in Dawson City since April.

"It was by chance. I came last year to Dawson City and met Derrick [Hastings, the farm manager]. It was the end of season so not that much work. So he told me to come back in March, April," Charles said.

 

Charles stayed in Whitehorse over the winter and returned to Dawson City last March, a week before the COVID-19 pandemic shut most things down.

"It was a bit tricky for me when I was going to start, but I keep the faith. And then two weeks after they hired me and I'm still here."

Charles says it's been an excellent experience. Working on the farm has given him the opportunity to learn about livestock, vegetables, medicinal plants and mushrooms.

 

Sofani 'Soso' Charles bagging potatoes for distribution. (Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Farm)
"It's a school also. This is why I kind of like it. We are here to learn, and if people are better feeling about meat or vegetables, they can be focused on that."

Charles is hoping to focus on growing vegetables. He does not eat meat but he enjoys working with the different livestock.

He hopes to one day have sheep and produce milk.

'I want to show them the way'

Charles's family on his mother's side used to be farmers in Haiti. His mother still has a house in that area of the country, but the family doesn't use it anymore.

Three years ago, Charles travelled to Haiti to visit relatives, and was inspired to learn farming for himself. He decided to travel abroad to learn the skills — and that led him to Yukon.

"If I can grow vegetables here in the Yukon, I can do it anywhere. The conditions here — you get cold and the wildlife are like bears, so you need to be vigilant with everything. So it's really challenging but that's what I like," he said.

Natural disasters are not uncommon in Haiti, and Charles finds it very important to increase food security.

"Why I'm here is really for my family and for my village. I want to show them the way. Like, this is possible," he said.

"I'm not going to tell them, 'do this' or 'do that,' but I will tell them if you want to eat, this is the way."

Hands in the dirt

For Charles, the best thing about working at the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin farm is being in close contact with nature. He says he feels good when his hands are in the dirt.

Working with the animals has been a great experience and he considers his co-workers on the farm as family.

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