Island communities are growing their own produce and raising their own poultry as part of an ongoing hoop house project, and each village has its unique innovations to add in. Like beekeeping and guard geese.
The participating communities of Larsen Bay, Old Harbor, Ouzinkie and Port Lions are in the midst of preparing for the summer season.
Daniel Rich, the first year agriculture tech in Ouzinkie, says the recent sunny weather has melted some of the ice and they’ve been able to gather soil samples.
Over the winter, he says they’ve been working on a processing facility, where they’ll clean and package up produce and eggs for sale.
“Getting it plumbed in and finished up. We started with a shack that was a maintenance shack for vehicles and it was full of garbage, really, and that was all cleaned out. We got electricity hooked up to it. We insulated it. Or we re-insulated it.”
He says they’ll also use that structure as the village store.
In addition to raising chickens, Rich says they’ve got a goose.
“He’s a white Chinese winged goose. He’s a male. He’s really loud. He’s really nice to humans or at least me and Herman and the other workers that are around all the time, and we haven’t had a single fox come around. And the air strip that our farm is situated on is known to have three or four families of foxes year round.”
Guy Bartleson from Port Lions says they also have an animal guarding the garden.
“Our big black tom is about a 40 pound turkey who doesn’t like anything coming around the farm either. We have no dog or fox issues as well. I attribute that to the birds being large and loud and aggressive.”
Port Lions is the only village currently raising turkeys. And if Larsen Bay has its way, it may be the first village to import bees.
Agriculture Director for the Native Village of Larsen Bay, Tiffany Brown, wants her community to get into beekeeping, a pastime which her dad and uncle introduced to her and which she’s seen in Kenai.
She explains originally Larsen Bay residents were debating whether or not to keep chickens, and she suggested bees as an alternative.
“So [we’d have] income with honey and then [we’d] also have our pollinators. We’re keeping the chickens but I’m still going forward with trying to get bees. It’s not going to happen this year, unfortunately, but I will definitely be working throughout the year. I’m fully prepared to find the funds and get a honeybee hive going next year.”
Brown says she’s determined to bring beekeeping to Larsen Bay.
The communities are in the second year of their three year project and, according to organizers, are right on schedule for the progress each village hopes to make.