Sustainable Gardening: It Might Be “Snowtime” Outside, But …….


Mar 9, 2010

Recent drifts

Inside it is time for us gardeners and farmers to be in the thick of things for the coming spring and summer. Fishermen are too, but we skip them for now :-)

Last year a great number of you helped get me to a Sustainable Agricultural Conference and workshop in Fairbanks about this time in March.

From that came some great contacts, more information on how the state might support those of us  trying to provide more of our own food in our villages , and all sorts of other good things.

A few weeks ago I got a series of emails about the upcoming conference, what they were working on for an agenda and speakers. I took a look and was interested in a number of the subjects. (One of the things that came out the conference last year was that a few local farmers were getting together to do a CSA –Community Supported Agriculture- project that would try to reach out to the villages some)

Then came information about the Alaska Sub-Regional Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Conference that would be held in Alaska this year, later that same week, by invitation only. Now, this intrigued me.

They were asking six questions about how sustainable agriculture could be supported in the state. Anyone could answer, in fact the more, the merrier. Wow, don’t ask questions like that UNLESS you are ready for me to FILL each and every one with some darn lengthy and pointed comments.

Having lived a couple of times in my life in states where agriculture was one of the main industries, or was in the recent past, I have had the pleasure of seeing things that are well supported on the county, state and university levels.

Alaska is not as developed in the agricultural industry on many fronts as many states are.  Coupled with its vast size and many different climate zones, it makes it much harder to serve the industry it does have.

I got my input to the six questions submitted.

I started getting all sorts of email on the conference, and I was really wishing I could attend, but alas, it was invitation only. I gave input every place it said with the hope that at least my comments might get discussed!

Unbeknownst to me an email was buried in my spam account that was an actual invitation as one of the “100 Key Agricultural Leaders in Alaska” to the invitation only event of the Alaska Subregional Western SARA part.

Well, what do you know!!!! That whole bunch of emails I was getting on the event were for a reason :-) (They made it through the spam filter)

This whole thing took me a week or two of back and forth to figure out, not that I was a little busy during this time and thus slow on the uptake :-)

All of this came with an offer to assist in paying my travel, which I accepted. Next week I will head to Fairbanks.

Let’s pray for a tad warmer than the -50 chill factor they had last year!

To say I am excited is an understatement. I was excited to see, meet and learn new things last year.

This year it is more so as I realize the difference just this past year has made in contacts and projects getting started.

We will get an update on Tim Meyers Bethel farming projects, a new project in a small village in our borough, Igiugig, who  had a village member win a Denali Sustainable award in the past.

We should hear about goats, a personal favorite for a milk and cheese source, Galena, a community dedicated to sustainable agriculture, Agricultural tours for the cruise line industry, high tunnel updates from the USDA, berry and fruit production and still more goodies.

We have a few things getting started in our area too.

One that is of particular interest to me is  a family that is looking to increase their garden into a small produce farm in Pilot Point this coming summer. Our hope is to help enough to get them into a number of USDA projects shortly.

It looks like our next few weeks and months will busy, so keep an eye out for hopefully some great things to come!!

~ Victoria Briggs

Related threads:

Victoria’s garden journal

Cold weather gardens…HELP!


17 Responses to “Sustainable Gardening: It Might Be “Snowtime” Outside, But …….”

  1. alaskapi Says:

    Do we really have 100 Key Agricultural Leaders in the state ?!
    WAY overdue to have more folks involved in ways to feed ourselves in our own communities!
    Take your bunny suit and have a great time!
    Hoping for lots of info about projects around the state and ideas from those involved.

  2. GreatGranny2C Says:

    Congratulations Vic! It should be a fascinating and informative time. As one who grew up in a rural area where we relied almost exclusively on fresh garden produce of our growing, I can attest to there being nothing better for you, nothing tastes better, and seeing the results of your labor is so worthwhile. We have a huge family garden (aided by children and grandchildren), and there are newer and better strains of seeds coming out every year and what a chore to keep up with them! We do save many of our seeds from those we know are prolific, as well as tasty, so if what we produce in this area will grow in your colder region, I’d be glad to share and send some seeds your way.

  3. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Vic – that picture of snow drifts just cracked me up, it’s perfect for this Alaskan spring gardening post. Some people think we don’t have spring – well we do, and there you have it!

    I haven’t heard the first birds yet but it’s close to time in Southeast Alaska, the Banana Belt. I think this is just the coolest about the conference, you are a star! You are a big gardener in a small plot!

  4. InJuneau Says:

    Vic–congrats on the opportunity. If there is talk of goats, esp. for your area, please consider goats that would also be useful for fiber; I think pygoras, which are a cross between angora and some pygmy variety or goats, are supposed to be good for milk and fiber and are prob. smallish. I SO would buy fiber from Alaskans raising good fiber animals (for spinning).

  5. Nhrtuvdxi Says:

    I hope there’s help for you in these links. I read your garden journal of last year re: composting and I gathered the “stuff” below from files and bookmaks and then found this site. This does some explaining for the methods below. I haven’t explored beyond this page but will and might “sign up”….link for info in lower left column.

    Seed info and much more.
    Effective microorganisms..make your own fertilizer 51fdf4f013ad#12e1dd99-f263-46b9-8b83-4de2f0d848ec

    the cheap easy fertilizer I’ll try this year. I’ll add more E.M. from the instructions in the link above.

    this site makes “living soil” make sense. you can get to the other chapters from here.

    Instructions for using E.M……I’ll use these instructs. but cultivate my e.m.

    another method w/good photos

  6. Nhrtuvdxi Says:

    I I meant to post that on the other page…sorry.

  7. UgaVic Says:

    AK Pi-
    Not sure if there are 100 leaders, or even 100 farmers, but they asked and I care a lot so off I go ;-)

    GG2C –
    so agree on the gardens and have ALWAYS had one where ever I lived, even apartment! We are doing our best to encourage more of it here and coming up with ways to give people options

    Yes, spring is on the way, it is just buried, especially the last few days with all our snow!! All I am seeing for little birds are those little gray and white sparrow types, still not sure what they are.

    In Juneau-
    you got it, will ask around too just in case someone is raising them in state !!

    Great links. I am exploring now!!

    Thanks all.

  8. InJuneau Says:

    Vic–doesn’t look like anyone is, based on the list on the Pygora Breeders Assoc. website, but in case anyone is interested:

    Looks like there are some in Ontario, Can., so maybe they’d do okay in AK.

  9. Helen Says:

    Thank goodness you got the invite before it was too late!

  10. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    This made me start thinking about the Ugashik greenhouse grant again. I don’t think we ever received confirmation from the town on the status of the greenhouse acquired through Pebble Partnership-endowed Pebble Fund:

    “Ugashik Traditional Village: Greenhouse Project – $14,875.12
    This grant is for purchase and shipping of a greenhouse, construction costs and miscellaneous supplies required to start growing fresh produce.”

    Our webmaster Jane brought this up in the comments of the AB post:

    I was curious then, and still would love to know if this project is progressing since spring is just around the corner!

    Victoria – can you give us an update on this project? Has anyone gotten a confirmation that the greenhouse actually arrived? It seems like the greenhouse construction and use would tie in with what you are bringing back from the conference. How cool could that be? Thank you!

  11. UgaVic Says:


    Well yes, and no, on the greenhouse.

    IT did finally arrive sometime in the either the late summer or early fall. I did not hear exactly when it arrived and heard no plans for getting it assembled.

    I do think it was SUPPOSED to be assembled this past fall by some of our summer residents but any work, besides our on going dock project, seemed to be thrown to the winds when those people left after the dock collapsed!

    I did ask about this and other issues when we had an informal meeting with the tribal administrator when he came out after some training in King Salmon in Jan.

    He was very helpful and attentive in hearing what those of us who live here in the winter, and they are supposed to deal with for all CDQ issues, were concerned about. He did let me know that if we could find out some needed information about getting the greenhouse up he would try to make arrangements to get it done this ‘spring’.

    I believe the actual greenhouse is a Costco model that is about 14’x20′ with 16mm polycarb lexan walls. I was provided with a link for it but don’t have it handy right now. When I first starting looking for a greenhouse, when I moved to AK, I would have thought this type would be good. Once I talked to others who know better I found out for our part of AK this is probably one of the worst. We, overall, deal with winds more than snow load and this type of structure usually doesn’t hold up well.

    Even in the info on it they state they are not responsible for wind damage.

    Anyway…I did let the admin and one of our more involved members from the tribe, since our council member that lives in the village did not attend this meeting, my concerns.

    I agreed to find out what was the best way to construct and reinforce this to help with wind issues.

    I passed that info onto the involved village member with the understanding she would pass it onto the administrator a number of weeks ago.

    I also mentioned that it needed to be up in March some time to really be of much use for us, even summer people, but have heard nothing since that meeting.

    Looks like I need to do some more follow up and see where they are with all of this.

    It would be nice to have it up and running soon as we will need to get things going no later than mid April to be ready for both our local residents and summer people.

  12. anonymousbloggers Says:

    “I do think it was SUPPOSED to be assembled this past fall by some of our summer residents but any work, besides our on going dock project, seemed to be thrown to the winds when those people left after the dock collapsed!”

    The new dock or the old dock? Has it been repaired?

  13. elsie09 Says:

    All this talk about greenhouses got me kind of curious. I went online at, then wandered on over into the greenhouses. They sell a 14′ x 20′ version like the one mentioned above, and it is currently priced at $8,999.99 (Item # 226766). However, the web site says Costco doesn’t ship to Alaska or Hawaii.

    So, did Ugashik people order one of these, or something like it, directly from one of the two Costco stores in Anchorage and THEN then have it shipped to Ugashik?

    The original grant was $14,875.12. If such a greenhouse was purchased for the current, listed price, the difference between that and the grant is $5875. Would shipping, handling and state taxes, if any, reach nearly $6,000 for something costing maybe $9,000?

    And if any money remains after paying the cost of the item and the shipping, where is the rest of the cash left over from the original grant?

  14. Erin Says:

    Hi Vic,

    Le us know how the conference goes – I think it would be great if more of the food in rural Alaska didn’t have to be processed stuff shipped from who knows where. We have our own garden in Seldovia, as do many others, but there’s no community-wide system for growing or distributing produce. There’s been talk, but it’s hard to get enough of an effort together to make anything happen.

  15. UgaVic Says:

    Same old dock that was going to be rehabed some to help it hold up for a few more years which instead, after those part time residents started work on it, pretty much collapsed into the river.
    This is the same dock that is in ‘stage 3’ of a how many year plan that no one will answer questions on like, what are we getting for all those CDQ funds spent on it?? :-((

    I believe that is the same one or darn close. It SHOULD NOT have even come close to having the remained used up in freight. Since AK doesn’t have any state sales tax, and we are exempt from WA sales tax if it is being shipped out of the state there should not have been any extras tagged to that amount. I THINK it was free delivery in the lower 48, which should have gotten it to the dock for the base price.
    From what I saw on the pallets it was not much as far as materials so if there were big freight charges someone saw them coming.
    We will see.

    Good to see you here :-) Hope the book tour went well!!
    I hope to be posting next week while at the conference. I believe there are many discussions going about those who like gardening to give it a try to make it into an income maker for themselves, so there is hope :-)
    There is more and more talk on getting community gardens going in more places in AK, and trying to encourage people to do more gardening altogether. I would also like to see more of our smaller communities looking into building community kitchens to assist in the food movements. It gives people a low cost place to process their foods, usually getting support for learning new ways, and if they want a DEC approved place to process any number of products to sell via the web or at local markets. Overall can make us all more sustainable in the area of food.

  16. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Vic –

    I, too did a little checking on the Riga greenhouse design. From this site, I am copying what sounds like good news regarding wind resistance:

    “The RIGA is truly a greenhouse by the European definition of a greenhouse. Designed, engineered, and manufactured in Germany by Hoklartherm, a leading manufacturer of commercial and hobby greenhouses with 28 years experience. The Riga backyard greenhouse has a beautiful “onion-shaped” design, as well as being one of the sturdiest hobby greenhouses on the market. One major advantage of the Riga’s construction method is that the frame profiles are permanently attached to each other, and won’t come loose over time due to wind pressures. The “onion” has no eaves or shoulders giving it significantly less wind resistance.

    The Onion has been tested against winds up to 80 miles per hour and has never been blown away (when properly anchored to the ground). No eaves also means no significant snow build up! This is not only attractive but aids in shedding snow loads. The Riga XL Greenhouse comes standard with 16 mm Triple wall polycarbonate glazing. No other hobby greenhouse kit on the market comes standard with this kind of insulation.”

    Granted, most folks don’t get wind like Ugashik! But let’s hope those German engineers know what they are doing. I certainly hope it gets built so you have a chance to find out! This could be very exciting, that is if it doesn’t blow away.

    Question – do your strongest winds usually come from the same direction? Would you want the onion sides, or onion front or back facing the wind? Seems to me the sides would have less resistance. But all is moot if the big winds comes from more than one direction. Hey, that engineering hubby of yours is probably the best consultant for questions such as these!

  17. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Here’s another site which has a good description of the construction details. I chuckled when I saw this about German construction:

    “…The polycarbonate glazing on the Riga is German made and believed to be of superior quality then the much more common Polygal or GE glazing.

    …German engineering – guaranteed top quality!”

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