For the last three years, the Tyonek Tribal Conservation District (TTCD) has worked with the Native Village of Tyonek (NVT) to develop an agricultural program aimed at enhancing food security and providing fresh organic vegetables in their off-the-road-system community in rural Alaska.
In 2012, TTCD assisted with planning and implementing a community garden which included raised beds built from local materials, a solar powered irrigation system, and starts grown by students at the Tebughna School. Each year the garden grows a little larger and in 2014 the project had become a 1.5 acre operation with two NRCS high tunnels (48ftx22ft), solar powered irrigation and ventilation systems, 15 raised beds, 1,000 row feet of potatoes, 45 rhubarb plants, 15 raspberries bushes, and plans for expansion in the coming years.
The Tyonek Native Corporation leased the land for the garden to the Native Village of Tyonek (NVT). The garden is owned by NVT who have asked TTCD to be technical managers of the project. TTCD currently manages organic vegetable production, soil and nutrient management, an educational program, and seasonal garden employees.
Youth Involvement and Education:
“I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life.”
- Tyonek youth gardener
Education and youth involvement has always been an important goal of the Tyonek garden. Students at the local school have been engaged in every step of the farming process from planting and caring for seeds in the school in late winter, transplanting them in the garden in spring, turning in soil amendments, weeding, harvesting, to produce distribution.
Tyonek youth have unique exposure to the subsistence lifestyle including the activities of salmon fishing, moose hunting, berry picking, and more. However, the availability of fresh healthy produce year round is extremely limited since the knowledge of gardening has been significantly decreased and cheaper processed foods are shipped in via small bush airplanes. Exposure to gardening is bringing back this knowledge of growing food one student at a time.
The goals of the Tyonek people guide what is grown, how it is grown, and how food is distributed. All fertilizers and compost are organic, the garden operates off of renewable energy to be as sustainable as possible, and food is sold to support the economic future of the project.
The 2014 season was the first season produce sales were used to support funding for future garden seasons. Tyonek and Anchorage elders received a total of 140 pounds of the first and last harvest, with additional weekly contributions made to the Elder’s Lunch Program totaling 170 pounds. TTCD and NVT appreciate your support of this program as we work toward its environmental and economic sustainability.
2014 Crops included: Tomatoes, corn, pumpkin, zucchini, spinach, lettuce, celery, herbs, peas, green beans, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, potatoes, beets, carrots, rhubarb, and strawberries.
Distribution Strategies: Weekly Tyonek Farmers Markets, Tyonek Elder’s Lunch Program, Weekly Anchorage Markets
Funders and Support:
This project has received financial and technical support from the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Rasmuson Foundation, the Tyonek Native Corporation, Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Agriculture Farm to School Program, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Local Food Production Program, USDA NIFA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program, and other individual donors.