Four of Kodiak’s villages just wrapped up their second year growing local as a way to supplement their diets and incomes.
In 2015, the Administration for Native Americans gave Larsen Bay, Old Harbor, Ouzinkie, and Port Lions a three-year grant to establish hoop houses and other growing operations. It’s one answer to the high cost for fresh food, which residents would otherwise need to import.
On Thursday, the project partners held a reunion in the City of Kodiak.
Village residents and local gardeners gather at the Kodiak Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center to chat, exchange tips, and get an update on the progress in the villages.
Dorinda Kewan from Port Lions is one of the original members of the Kodiak Archipelago Rural Regional Forum, which tackles issues in Kodiak’s communities – like food security.
She helped develop the grant proposal to the Administration for Native Americans and has been involved with the process ever since.
Kewin says Port Lions had a late start this year.
“A lot was identified that had never been cleared or improved, so port lions has had the additional obstacle of – in addition to learning how to farm – it had to clear the property and prepare it, put a fence up, do all of that, so luckily, the community really has embraced this project, and they’ve been really good partners.”
She says Port Lions surveyed residents to decide what they wanted to grow.
“The community’s number one wish was broccoli, which was a surprise, and so all the things you need to make perok – cabbage, carrots, onions, rutabaga, those are all automatic, but broccoli, and things for making salads people have asked for too. And I know the focus of the Port Lions farm is eventually to have fruit trees and berries so that there’s a mixture of fresh eggs, produce, and fruit available.”
She says predators occasionally cause a problem, especially with the poultry.
“For one brief moment in time when the electric fence wasn’t working quite properly – ‘cause it was a solar electric fence, didn’t quite have enough sunlight to have the charge high enough – a fox managed to get in, and destroyed the chicken flock, so we had to start over.”
Kewin says the flock has since recovered, and farmers are now pursuing some winter crops in the hoop houses, like garlic and spinach.
“And then their other plan is, along with Ouzinkie, getting a second layer of plastic on the high tunnels with the spacer bars so that they will be able to extend their growing seasons in the future and have more available to sell longer for longer periods of time.”
She says weather and a late growing season put all the villages behind schedule.
Daniel Rich, the first year agriculture technician for Ouzinkie, says he tried to plant potatoes, but they froze.
There are successes too.
He says the apple and plum trees grew easily, as did the strawberries, which he planted in the hull of a skiff.
And Ouzinkie, like some of the other villages, has also found raising poultry rewarding.
“My first batch of chickens that I got, we got a straight run, so I ended up with 15 roosters and 15 hens, and the roosters were eating me out of house and home, so I had to eat them. But no, I ended up donating a lot of meat to seniors and people that didn’t have jobs and such.”
The villages are at the beginning of some experimental moves. Kewin says Port Lions would like to sell produce all year-round eventually. And Larsen Bay plans to raise honeybees starting in the spring.