Kodiak Island is home to a burgeoning local food movement – one that could get a whole lot bigger this summer, thanks to one gardener’s ambitious plan to plant half a million carrots across the archipelago.
You could say Dave Jackson is Kodiak’s carrot kingpin.
Jackson’s got a thriving garden at his house on the sunny side of Bell’s Flats – just past Kodiak’s Coast Guard Base. There are onions and asparagus and rhubarb and beds of greens, but carrots are the main attraction.
“Three out of these four beds right in front here is where I’m going to grow carrots,” Jackson said. “And I grow quite a few carrots. I give a lot away. I probably put 2,000 seeds in there.”
That might seem like a lot of carrots. But it pales in comparison to Jackson’s bigger goal for this summer: to distribute 1,000 growing kits – each containing hundreds of carrot seeds – to gardeners across the island.
“The goal is to put half a million seeds out there and try to get people to plant them,” he said.
But Jackson said the plan started off much smaller. One of his friend’s asked if he could put together a carrot planting packet to give to the neighborhood kids, who kept eating carrots out of his garden.
So, he posted on Facebook to ask if other people wanted their own packets, too.
“And it got like 150 hits right off the bat,” said Jackson. “And I went, ‘Whoa.’ Next day, I ordered this bucket of seeds.”
That bucket – which contains 500,000 seeds – and other materials cost about $1,800 altogether, according to Jackson. The local 4-H club, Kodiak Harvest Food Cooperative and some friends pitched in money for him to upscale the project.
Jackson worked as a fisherman and then for Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game for three decades. He said carrots are perfect for commercial fishing communities like Kodiak. You can leave them for weeks at a time – which is especially convenient with salmon season on the horizon.
“I learned how to do these carrots, high intensity, low maintenance, I do no thinning and no weeding,” said Jackson. “And so once I get the carrots up a couple of inches, I can go away and go fishing or whatever. And come back in six weeks and start eating carrots.”
Each carrot kit comes with an envelope filled with 500 seeds and everything you need to plant them. Jackson said the kits are perfect for aspiring or established gardeners, and they’re available for free at locations around Kodiak, including the Little Store in Bell’s Flats and Kodiak Harvest’s Food Co-Op.
He’s not shipping the kits outside Kodiak – but they have made it to other parts of the state, including Homer and the Aleutian Chain.
He said he doesn’t have a long term goal for the project – just that at least this summer, it means more locally grown food will end up on people’s plates.
“I really don’t have a way to judge how effective we are, you know, scientifically or anything, but I’m expecting there’s going to be lots of carrots,” he said.
Jackson’s advice is to plant by mid-May to have carrots in time for fall.