This update comes from Alaska Community Action on Toxics, a Presbyterian Hunger Program grant partner.
The goal of the Yarducopia organic gardening program is to build a grassroots movement of gardeners in Alaska who will work toward a toxic-free, climate stable, and food secure world. This program continues to grow significantly, with the inclusion of additional community partners such as schools, churches/synagogues, food banks, and other non-profits. We provide or help locate seeds, seedlings, and organic materials for building the gardens, as well as training in gardening techniques for success in the challenging local climates. We create neighborhood gardens by matching up homeowners who are willing to donate yard space with 1-3 neighbors who would like to learn organic gardening techniques. Ten percent of the produce from Yarducopia gardens is donated to local food banks.
Nick Riordan, PhD, serves as our knowledgeable and enthusiastic Organic Gardening Coordinator. During the spring-summer season of 2021, the program added a part-time staff member, Mary-Ellen Garner, an experienced sustainable agriculture expert, and Jordan Ebert, an intern from the University of Alaska Environmental Sciences Department.
Our summer canvass was a door-to-door canvass in two low-income neighborhoods in Anchorage, reaching out especially to Indigenous women, women of color and youth, to talk about food security needs and to recruit participants and volunteers for the Yarducopia program. We are informing people about opportunities to grow healthy food in their neighborhoods and to make use of community gardens and food banks that provide fresh produce. We hosted a series of organic gardening workshops in 2021, including the following:
- Pesticide-Free Anchorage: Protecting Neighborhoods, Parks, Watersheds, and Health (February).
- Designing Your Garden and Seed Starting (March).
- Propagating Perennials and Composting (April).
- Harvesting and composting workshops (throughout the summer).
In January 2021, Nick initiated and now serves as editor for a bimonthly newsletter, “Currant Affairs,” which includes a compilation of local food system events and opportunities. His goal with the newsletter is to support local food systems and increase connectivity between individuals and organizations working to improve the production, processing, marketing, and waste streams associated with food in Southcentral Alaska.
In addition to 20 neighborhood gardens, we have worked in collaboration to create larger-scale school and community gardens, including Tudor Elementary, West High, Government Hill Elementary, Steller Secondary School and Peace Garden, Spenard Community Garden with Lutheran Social Services, AARP, Alaska Workers Association, AFL-CIO (for unemployed union members in the food service industry), Mountain View Boys and Girls Club, Alaska Poor People’s Campaign Advocate in Residence House (housing for 18-24 year-old residents transitioning from homelessness to housed), NAACP (Climate, Equity, and Action Group), Fresh International Gardens (part of Catholic Social Services’ Refugee Assistance and Immigration Program), Cook Inlet Housing (community garden beds for multi-residential low-income housing). We also established a community composting and material exchange site in mid-town Anchorage that serves as a space to host composting workshops, where volunteers gather to learn about composting while helping us build, turn, and amend composting materials for the community. Nick is collaborating with others in the gardening and urban agriculture community to compost organic materials and find solutions to reduce plastics and other waste.
Grants to PHP partners are possible thanks to gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.