THE ARRIVAL AND WELCOME
My third journey around Southeast Alaska brought me to beautiful Yakutat, Alaska, a town of about 650 people. Carol Pate, the greenhouse coordinator and high school teacher, drove me from the ferry terminal to my new home outside the school, which has almost 100 students. Pate and the other teachers had been doing garden lessons from the Mobile Greenhouse Teacher Guide in their classrooms since winter. When I arrived, everyone was ready and super excited to get started with planting!
“The day the greenhouse got here was my favorite day. I got to plant my own food!” – Hunter, 7 years old
GROWING NEW FRIENDS
About 30 students became my new friends. Over the course of the season, over 122 hours were logged by students and over 57 hours by other community members. They filled my boxes with potatoes (both red and white), herbs (Basil, Thai Basil, Sage, Rosemary, and Oregano), peppers, peas, radishes, carrots, zucchini, Arugula, spinach, leaf lettuce, nasturtiums, and forget-me-nots. The junior high kids, ages 11-13, were the most dedicated to their plants, but all ages of people came to visit and try out their green thumbs. Marry, one of the teachers for the Tlingit language immersion program brought preschoolers from Yakutat Tlingit Tribe’s Language Nest to look at the plants when they were learning about plants and food. She also came to take care of the plants without her students! Yvonne, the school secretary was my other best friend, who stopped by nearly everyday. Altogether, there were four main volunteers and ten other supporters. Other partners included Yakutat Tlingit Tribe’s Environmental department, the community health clinic, the US Forest Service and the National Civilian Conservation Corps.
Everyone’s hard work paid off! By summer, the kids were enjoying lots of fresh veggie goodies. Radishes and peas were really popular. Some kids and volunteers took vegetables home to their families, so between 12-20 households. Some veggies were shared at a kids’ culture camp. Whether it was a few herbs, bunches of spinach, or a head of lettuce, the vegetables were appreciated.
“I really wanted to try and grow a vegetable and it was actually really fun. I grew carrots and then I ate them.” -Zoey, 6th grade
CLEANING UP AND MOVING ON
Alas, too soon it was time get cleaned up and ready to catch the last ferry back to Juneau. Many of my new friends were so inspired by our good times together that they made plans to keep growing local food! One teacher has already started a year-round herb and lettuce garden in her classroom to be used in cooking lessons. A local lady will do a new garden at her home, as well as an indoor herb garden. Another already started building a greenhouse in her backyard. Compost and making soil is on everyone’s minds.
“ I really looked forward to spending my time there, everyday when I went to work. It was therapeutic for me to take breaks and go outside and be with the plants. In the summer my boys would go for a walk a day, and they would walk to the greenhouse.” -Yvonne, Yakutat School secretary
I’m back in Juneau, but I will cherish the memories of good friends and good times in Yakutat. It’s exciting to hear that community leaders are planning with the Food Sustainability Catalyst at the Sustainable Southeast Partnership to look for opportunities to advance work on community gardens, greenhouses, and more garden education and workshops in Yakutat.