I visited Kake the last week of April. I arrived a couple of days before the shellfish workshop (see Capital City Weekly article, during the Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) meeting, and the Organized Village of Kake Council Meeting.
Rodger Painter, a long-time mariculturist and oyster farmer working with Kake, spoke with me about the potential for a cockle habitat enhancement project. Cockles are one of the favorite traditional foods of Tlingit people, and the system in which cockles exists has pressures from humans and other predators such as sea otters. People in Kake have noticed declines in the amount of cockles they are able to harvest. The Shellfish grower’s workshop brought to town Ray Ralonde, an Aquaculture Specialist from University of Alaska Fairbanks. He recommended they begin a monitoring program to asses the inventory of cockles, water quality assessments, and education on the growth and natural processes of these bivalves. With the guidance of Ray, Kake plans to move forward with this project and develop an action plan.
Preliminary meetings were conducted with school district staff for the Fish to Schools Evaluation- the goal of this evaluation is to strengthen the program to ideally support local fisherman. Additionally, there is interest in implementing a school garden and school greenhouse in the future.
Dr. Paul Koo of the local SEARHC clinic also expressed interest in collaborating on a project that involves getting healthy foods to kids.
I also had the opportunity to spend some time with Michael Hibbard and Robert Adkins from the University of Oregon. They have worked with OVK for the last ten years on their Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). At this meeting, community members reported on the status of some of the high priority projects from the latest edition of this strategy. In addition to reporting on the status of current projects prioritized, I had the opportunity to present on the topic of food security. This included some background information on what this term means and potential ways a food secure Kake can come to fruition. I spoke about the projects that a currently on the docket: cockle enhancement, Fish to Schools, educational opportunities, and in the longer term, a commercial greenhouse. There was especially high interest in the Natural Resources Conservation Service grant program to receive high tunnels. This was great to hear, as an increase in local capacity to cultivate foods is necessary for a greenhouse to be a successful project in Kake.
Priorities: 1) cockle enhancement, 2) Fish to Schools, 2) local capacity building for food cultivation and future commercial greenhouse
One of the prioritized projects in Hoonah is to launch the Community Garden. To do this, Kathy McCrobie (SEARHC) and I planned a day to harvest
seaweed to add to the garden beds and to kick off the community garden. Jessie Dybdahl (HIA) and I led a seaweed gathering event with the Big Brothers Big Sisters after school program participants. Jessie and I taught a short classroom lesson on soil nutrition and the value of seaweed. I also brought a sample of worms and demonstrated how worms can compost our food waste to produce nutrients for the soil. The community garden just received soil to fill the remaining raised beds, and I’ve heard through Kathy that community garden participants are planting and enjoying the space!
Priorities: 1) Community garden, 2) local Fish to Schools, 3) food growing business development, 3) oyster value added processing
I arrived in Klawock, drove to Craig to pick of Bethany, Tongass Policy and Communications Resident for the Sitka Conservation Society. We went to Hydaburg to meet with Minnie, Environmental Planner at the Hydaburg Cooperative Association and SSP Community Catalyst. Bethany, Minnie, and I met with Lauren Burch, the Superintendent of the Hydaburg School District and the Southeast Island School District (including Kasaan), and talked about the food-related projects the district has activated. In Thorne Bay, a greenhouse enterprise was created within the school district. Lauren would like to see Hydaburg (along with all the schools on POW) have greenhouses that are producing foods to create a full salad bar. More on the greenhouse later… Other food sustainability interests in Hydaburg include developing a wild mushroom business, reviving the fish processing plant, and improving the school lunch program.
Most of my work in Hydaburg will be focused on building the capacity and funds to build a greenhouse for the Hydaburg school. Additionally, there are efforts to engage the youth in gardening activities. We attended an evening “crafts” event. At this event children, their parents and grandparents participated in Haida songs and dances, practiced Haida words for salmon species, and worked in the community garden! There was a lot of enthusiasm among the youth once they had their hands in the dirt. Bethany wrapped up the evening by sitting in on a dancing/singing/drumming practice at the gym. A group of about 20 youth gathered to practice Haida songs and dances for an upcoming celebration of life. The next day we met up with Minnie to tour the carving shed. The carvers were busy working on totems for the annual Hydaburg Culture Camp.
Priorities: 1) school greenhouse, 2) local and traditional foods in schools
Thorne Bay Greenhouse
Minnie, Carrie (Kasaan Community Catalyst), Bethany and I toured the Thorne Bay Greenhouse (see Anchorage Daily News article). The students run and maintain the greenhouse, which can produce up to 1150 heads of lettuce at a time. There is a construction and maintenance department, marketing and business, purchasing and ordering and horticulture department – all student run, with associated curriculum (see Thorne Bay School Greenhouse website). The greenhouse is heated by the wood boiler that heats the school and uses LED lights to grow year-round. The leafy greens from the greenhouse are sold to the school lunch program, directly to customers and to stores- in Craig and Thorne Bay. Lauren Burch hopes that in the coming years all nine schools in the SISD and the Hydaburg School district will cumulatively have a full salad bar. In the coming months, we can expect to see a media piece on this project- an example of an enterprise supported by locally sourced inputs (cord wood) and local food distributed to the school, community and island.
Bethany and I headed to Kasaan and met Carrie Sykes, Economic Development Coordinator for the Organized Village of Kasaan and SSP Community Catalyst. The Organized Village of Kasaan hosted a community luncheon to discuss food sustainability priorities. There were 29 participants. Most of the participants are interested in educational opportunities, including soil preparation, field guides for wild foods, wild food propagation, preservation education, getting more local foods into schools, and getting a school greenhouse. The greenhouse is purchased for Kasaan, but the process is held up in some legalities of the land for the greenhouse. Additionally, the school district is seeking funding to buy hydroponic equipment for the Kasaan school greenhouse. I will be doing what I can to aid in writing grants and seeking these funds.
Carrie and I also spent time planning for a community wild foods preservation and Cottage Foods Industry workshop and wild foods harvest that will take place at the end of June.
Additionally, Carrie and I visited the Old Kasaan village site with the school kids from Kasaan and Hydaburg. We reached the site by boat on some rough seas and toured Old Kasaan, on Skowl Arm, with commentary by Fred Olsen, Culture Coordinator for the Organized Village of Kasaan. This site was likely established in the early eighteenth century and before 1900 it was one of largest Haida population centers. Skipping ahead a few years…. By the late 1860’s a cluster of businesses (salmon saltery, trading post, and the Copper Queen mine) were established on Kasaan Arm. These were employers of many people from the Kasaan village at the time and eventually this area (the current site of Kasaan) become known as New Kasaan (see more info on Kasaan history here). At the old Kasaan site we were able to see the remains of old houses, totems, petroglyphs and explored the area for old garden sites.
Priorities: 1) educational opportunities, 2) local foods in schools, 3) school greenhouse
Additionally, I met with culinary teacher Patrick Roach at Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau and Career and Technical Education director, Carin Smolin, to talk about the potential for a greenhouse for school’s culinary program and use with cross-curricular areas in the high school.
Will update on the Fish to Schools visits that are taking place over the next few weeks! Look forward to more posts soon!