SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Alaskan Growers School Targets Rural Alaska Natives


August 27, 2011

(SitNews) - Donavan Kienenberger picked up a blue, three-gallon plastic tub and turned to his students, “OK guys. Let’s do worms.” The 11 participants in this year’s Alaskan Growers School gathered around Kienenberger for their class last week on composting with worms. Each participant used an electric drill to puncture ventilation holes in a tub and added torn newspaper, handfuls of soil and around 10 small red worms - the ingredients of a composting factory.

The students, who hail from Ketchikan to Fort Yukon, attended the recent two-week Alaskan Growers School in Fairbanks. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service coordinates the school, which aims to teach Alaska Natives skills to grow enough food for themselves and 10 other families. The school is funded by a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Project director Heidi Rader, tribes Extension educator at Tanana Chiefs Conference, said she hopes the school will help Alaska Natives in rural communities grow food to complement subsistence activities. “The goal is to introduce people to a variety of skills and maybe even start a business,” she said.

The school drew participants from Dillingham, Nikolai, Tetlin, Ruby, Aniak, Fort Yukon, Manokotak, Holy Cross, Ketchikan and North Pole. Some want to learn how to raise enough food for themselves and their extended families. Others are considering selling their produce.

Dale Gimple of Nikolai said he hopes to buy less from the village store, where 10-pound bags of potatoes cost more than $20. He also hopes to provide for a large extended family. Diane John of Tetlin gardened for the first time last year and raised enough to share with family members and elders. She doubled her garden space this year. She has two raised beds, a greenhouse and a potato patch. She’s learned a lot about gardening from the school, including how to build a better greenhouse and test her soil.

In addition to the in-person school in Fairbanks, Kienenberger and Rader offered a beginning growers’ school this spring through various distance delivery methods. More than 40 participants from 26 Alaska communities participated in the series of 10 lessons, which were offered by correspondence, teleconference and two online methods. Kienenberger and Rader will evaluate which method works best for rural residents.

Rader expects to offer an advanced class this fall by distance delivery and more classes next year, once the effectiveness of the distance delivery methods is evaluated.

Applicants for the advanced school must have completed the beginner’s school or the online Alaska Master Gardener program. The Master Gardener Program covered many of the same topics in the Beginning Alaskan Growers School.will bring you up to speed with other students taking the Advanced Alaskan Growers School.

Although the program is open to anyone in Alaska, students from the Tanana Chiefs Conference region will be given priority for enrolling in the course as they are a partner on the grant.

The project was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


On the Web:

Alaskan Growers School

Master Gardener Program

Master Gardener Online Course

Alaska Master Gardener Blog

Source of News: 

University of Alaska Fairbanks


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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