A community garden update from Victoria…


Mar 10, 2009pilot_po17

Photo by Elizabeth Manfred

Thanks to all of you I am going to the sustainable/gardening conference!!!

L.Gardener stepped up and offered, Saturday I believe, have lost track of time:-), to pay for my plane ticket so it would be a ‘for sure’ thing. Then as people contributed we could gather funds and reimburse her.

That is now done with a number of people from all over jumping in to help defray the cost. (I do not yet know how much has been contributed to far but will give a full recap and thank you’s when we get it worked out)

I also had AF of Houston do the same for the hotel.

We will get the conference fees, $60, taken care from funds also. So it looks like I am on my way this coming weekend- March 16-18th!!!!

I have had a couple of offers of a place to stay in Anchorage if there is a lay over. It is not planned as of now but in Alaska you ALWAYS prepare for weather or other delays. I am in touch with the people that made the offers and will be happy to call on them if needed. The kindness is overwhelming at times!

I am excited about attending and feel this will be a jump start to our efforts to assist our villages in producing some of their own food needs.

We have had an offer for the local school kids to be adopted by a class room of kids in HI and we are working on that.

We have a plan to have the kids start seeds so we have a jump start on the season. A place in PIP has already been chosen and we are looking at getting a program through the summer school to help us plant and maintain.

Most of our local families are tied up from about mid May until the end of July prepping for commercial fishing and then participating. We are VERY MUCH a one industry/income town, both Ugashik and Pilot Point.

If we can use the school program to be the general overseers then the effort will not be neglected while families are fishing.

Usually during fishing we have time, here and there, to do other tasks we want to make sure our efforts are not lost by getting too busy. Also having these gardening skills learned by our children and others from the area will increase the chances of success.

There are also a few adults and elders that are not involved in fishing that will most likely assist also. The information I am able to bring back, as it ALL pertains to Alaska growing of food, will most likely allow us to skip some of the most common mistakes.

I also will be looking for ways to contribute to Ann’s area, about 400 miles north of us, so they can benefit too.

Ann’s area is located on the delta of the Yukon River so growing your own food is more of a challenge. Traditionally most “veggies” and “greens” were harvested from the tundra, like many did from the forests in the lower 48. Learning new ways is going to be a challenge but one many seem thrilled to try.

We are working together to support the traditional ways but also provide new avenues to provide these needs if they can not be harvested locally, as in the past.

All of the Western villages rely heavily on our salmon runs and access to local game. Both villages were impacted with the lack of a salmon run, for various reasons, with the most widely noted being the YK Delta run.

Ann and I are currently working to help in this area too. If the security of our salmon runs interests you please see the ‘Salmon Bycatch’ thread. It’s a complex but important issue. We will be glad to answer any questions you have about fishing issues on the threads in the new Fishing Issues section on the right.

Stay tuned as when I return I will have LOTS to report.

Thank you all so much for believing in our efforts and helping with our future,



14 Responses to “A community garden update from Victoria…”

  1. alaskantiger Says:

    Good job on making it happen for Victoria everyone. I’m glad she’s able to find time in her schedule to go to the conference and bring back info for the other folks around her.

    Victoria, just a small thing, but I wanted to mention that little kids are very useful for tasks like weeding. From about the age of six, my Mom would sit me in the garden, pull out one example of the plant I was *not* to pull out of the ground and set it next to me. I then would weed everything else in that row but have it to glance at to make sure I didn’t mess it up. :) Same deal when it came time to pick peas and green beans- she’d give us an example of how big the green bean should be before picking it and we could get to work. Our huge garden fed a family of six all winter (we were too poor to buy all our veggies) and 80% of the work in it was done by us kids. So, maybe it can become a task for the ones too young to help with the fish. Just wanted to toss out that perspective. I’m betting the kids up there are hard workers like us farm kids were. Weekends meant work not play for us, unlike our ‘townie’ friends. We were happy to go back to school on Monday. Heh!

  2. anonymousbloggers Says:

    This comment was posted on the marketing thread. I’m putting a copy here because poster Mark Springer mentions Tim Meyers, of Bethel, who is successfully gardening there.

    This article about him illustrates what could happen in Pilot Point and Nunam Iqua in the coming years.


    You know how Google is always smarter and makes suggestions of alternate spellings? Turns out Tim “Myers” is on the program for the conference Vic is attending! (Program)

    When you come across a post that belongs in another thread, copy it over and alert the poster to check that thread for comments too. Thanks!!
    Mark Springer Says:

    March 10, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Marketing per se is never a problem for high quality Alaska Native arts and crafts. Many artists have a fairly established customer list either in the village (teachers, manly) or out. Personally, I am a sucker bet for a particular oomingmak knitter (you know who you are, now where’s my scarf!).

    The Bethel Saturday Market at the Cultural Center represents possibly the best-kept secret in our State in terms of one-stop shopping for all your malaqai needs. It’s worth the price of a r/t ticket from Anchorage, and a nice article in the Alaska Airlines magazine would really be helpful.

    The internet is a good place to sell stuff, eBay has been successful for a number of Alaska Native artists of various media, so there isn’t a real need to build a new website every time. On the other hand, lets not forget that the global economic crisis might have an impact on that disposable income we all want to see flowing into pockets out here!

    So, lessons learned: Ask local artists where and how they are already selling their work; check with the University of Alaska rural campuses to see what sort of outreach they have available on small business development and arts and crafts marketing in particular (there is a lot of help to be had there!)

    And a brief note on gardens- we have a very successful farmer, production-wise here in Bethel (Tim Meyers) who recently got an Alaska Marketplace award and who has been champing at the bit to share his well thought out technology with villagers. Gardens in Rural Alaska are nothing new at all. From Holy Cross to Hooper Bay vegetables have been grown with no problem at all.

    Mark Springer

  3. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    I would like to point out that Bethel is a BIG CITY by village standards. In the villages, a lot of the crafts people do not have internet access or know how to use a computer. Many of the elders, who can be master craftsmen, do not speak English, they speak YuPik. Ebay, etc, may not work for all folks. In the villages, there is not a big base of folks to buy the goods made by the craftsmen.

  4. Alaska Pi ∆ Says:

    Congratulations Anony Bloggers!

    Here’s hoping the conference gives Victoria lots of info and contacts to work with.
    This state has plenty of successful gardeners but folks are so far flung that sharing success stories is tough.
    Have been concerned about Vic’s mention that potatoes have not done well in her area in last 2 summers -when they have traditionally. The effects of the just past El Nino /La Nina weather patterns have been very hard on gardening here in MY end of the state . Watching things , which normally flourish- like peas- , fail is tough.
    So , here’s to lots of ideas and not having to “re-invent the wheel” on all fronts , Victoria!
    And thanks to all the ABs who have made it possible!

  5. Mark Springer Says:

    Hi Joe, my perspective is not just from Bethel. I’m also a 20+ year resident of Hooper Bay, the grass basket capital of the world LOL.
    You’ll find very few artisans, no matter how small the village, with a surplus of production!
    Your point is well taken about the possibility that an Elder might not be internet savvy, but that is, as we say, what 15 year olds are for.
    Out here on the YK Delta we are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of a significant technological build-out of a terrestrial microwave backbone (albeit terminated to a satellite connection for the time being) which offers a number of opportunities for brainpower-based economic development, including marketing arts and crafts, eco-tourism and other things which have been kicking around the steamhouse for a number of years.
    BTW, apologies for misspelling Tim Myers’ last name. He has quite an operation out here in Bethel, well worth a field trip for anyone interested in what can actually be done in cold sand!
    Mark Springer

  6. anonymousbloggers Says:


    Now I’m not sure how he spells it. I just found these photos on Flickr of “Meyers Farm”

    Awesome slideshow of a farm in Bethel!

    How does the climate in Pilot Point compare to Bethel?


  7. Mark Springer Says:

    Oh I think Pilot Point is much more temperate than Bethel. And, they have plenty of fertilizer :)
    Like I said, you can raise vegetables anywhere in Alaska. Tim haws it nailed, he is a certified production gardener by Cooperative Extension.

  8. anonymousbloggers Says:


    Tim will be presenting at the conference but maybe you should call him beforehand and try to set up a time to meet with him to pick his brain.

    An article about Tim Meyers’ farm.

    This is Tim’s farm:
    Awesome slideshow of a farm in Bethel!

  9. Michigander Says:

    In case Victoria (or others) tried to email me re: receiving check – my email has been down for several days now so here’s hoping it arrived.

    And Victoria – I am so excited for you and the potential this will have for the villages! Have a safe and happy trip – Rainie

  10. Secret TalkerΔ Says:

    I am really impressed with the photos of Tim Meyers farm, paticularly noticed the nice use of pallets for walls or windblocks. I am very excited that Victoria will be able to make connections and learn useful techniques.

  11. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    That farm is most impressive. If villages could start growing vegetables or raise chickens, etc, that would be so great!

  12. JuneauJoe Δ Says:


    I just noticed you are from Hooper Bay! I have seen some of the baskets – they are amazing.

  13. Jim Says:

    Mark: I have been traveling. I have communicated with Hooper Bay on the phone and ‘d like to send them some food. Could you help coordinate food distribution to Hooper Bay?

  14. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Here’s an update from Victoria. Thanks to everybody’s help, she’s in Fairbanks attending a sustainable gardening conference.


    I heard as I was leaving Anchorage for Fairbanks, known for it’s cold weather, glorious Northern Lights and hot summers that they were also getting a ‘cold snap’. I had brought my one piece snow suit thinking it was probably overkill but……guess not ;-)

    I arrived to -28 without wind chill on Sunday night right before midnight.

    Met one of the presenters I especially wanted to hear in the airport waiting for our luggage. We got to talk over all sorts of ideas for growing in the windy, cooler conditions we both face just getting to the hotel.

    We spent Monday touring a local hot spring resort that is ground breaking in energy production. They use the geo thermal heat, from a local warm water, 160 degrees, source to run their operation, heat greenhouses and various other operations.

    I can tell you the wind blew and the zipper, plastic, on my suit froze white in a less than 5 minute walk. Also all the windows on the van, despite being plenty warm inside froze from condensation of our breath – on the inside windows! None of us wanted to know how cold it was!

    In all this there were a number of things that look like we can easily apply them to our village lives. We got information on LED grow lights, extending the growing season even without heat and using our fish waste for compost.

    Today, Tuesday, was spent hearing all sorts of presentations from the growing of apples in a zone two (colder than even Ann and our area is) to egg production year around.

    I was able to make some connections for possible project assistance in our villages, probably the hardest thing I have found in Alaska as we do not have an extensive coop extension service like in other state.

    I was able to meet people from various agencies that do not usually even pay attention to our parts of Alaska.

    I am thrilled to say there is another representative from the Bristol Bay area, a young lady who just graduated from Dartmouth who is assisting her tribe to get a new greenhouse and how they might use it to extend their season attending the conference too.

    The western villages are starting to be heard and we have to thank all of you for part of that voice.

    I will get into more details when I return but so far the workshop has been excellent.

    Oh yes, it warmed up to only -14 today:-)


    We are collecting comments to send to a meeting of the Northern Pacific Fishing Management Council meeting next week. They will decide what the salmon bycatch limit will be. Bycatch is everything that winds up in the nets of trawling fleets that fish for pollock off Alaska’s coast.

    Last year, tens of thousands of salmon were caught and thrown back, most already dead, that might have made it to Nunam Iqua last summer.

    Please let the NPFMC know that rural villagers aren’t the only ones who are watching as they make this decision. We need comments from outside Alaska to guarantee the voice of rural Alaska will be heard.

    There’s more info and a link to a simple form for you to send your comments on this thread.



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