Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:41 PM on Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A little green helps gardens grow

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Micro-grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 have been awarded to 22 projects from Ninilchik to Nanwalek to launch new garden projects or strengthen existing ones.

The money comes from a $110,500 People's Garden grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture. In November, the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District, in partnership with MAPP (Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership), received that garden grant and solicited community garden proposals.

Representatives of the winning projects met Monday evening to introduce their plans and sign memorandums of agreement.

"You can see why this is so exciting," said Kyra Wagner of Sustainable Homer, chair of Monday's gathering.

"We had $30,000 more requests than we had funding. ... Even people who aren't here are building gardens this summer, so it's very inspiring."

The grant-awarded projects vary in detail, with the resulting gardens expected to be maintained for a minimum of five years. Some of them involve the efforts of children and some involve senior citizens. There are schools, nonprofit organizations and churches. There are gardens grown in boxes, gardens grown in wheelchair-accessible raised beds and gardens grown in the ground.

Zucchinis to be grown by youngsters at Homer Farmers' Market will be used in the market's zucchini races. Vegetables raised by St. Augustine's Episcopal Church will be donated to the Homer Community Food Pantry.

Old Town Neighborhood Association has designed a landscaping project using edible plants.

"The objective of it, besides the obvious aesthetic enhancements and food security, are things like neighborhood collaboration for improvement, for healthier community and safety, which is a critical issue for us," said Asia Freeman, representing the Old Town Neighborhood Association.

All of the projects share three characteristics:

• They will benefit their community;

• They include sustainable practices;

• They are collaborative.

Through that collaboration, numerous organizations have become part of the People's Garden effort.

Anchor Point Girl Scout Trip 515, led by Billeen Carlson, is working with local residents, Anchor Point Greenhouse, Chapman School and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10221.

"This is super exciting. It's not just me. That's the thing. It's everybody doing this, pulling it all together," said Carlson told the Homer News when the project first began last September.

Representing the Homer United Methodist Church project, Karin Sonnen reported it would collaborate with Boy Scout Troop 555 and the Homer Community Food Pantry.

"The Sunday school kids will be tending the garden every Sunday," said Sonnen.

Lara McGinnis, representing the Ninilchik Fairground project, said it involves the efforts of 4H, Native Youth Olympic athletes, American Legion Post 18, Project GRAD and more.

"And we still need volunteers," said McGinnis.

With volunteers needed and welcomed by many of the projects, Bronwynn Kelly gave a presentation on the recently developed time bank and how volunteers can earn "time credits" for working in the People's Gardens. More information on the time bank can be found at aha.timebanks.org.

One word of caution came from Janice Chumley of the Cooperative Extensive Service in Soldotna. She urged gardeners to "not plant things that will become invasive. Once their planted, they are extremely difficult to remove. Think carefully about what you plant." Toward that end, she encouraged cleaning borrowed tools before and after use.

For more information on the People's Gardens, call Homer Soil and Water Conservation District at 235-8177, ext. 5.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

Receiving mini-awards were:

Anchor Point Girl Scout Troop 515

Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

Fireweed Academy

Flex High School

Friends of Homer Library

Haven House

Homer Chamber of Commerce

Homer Farmers' Market

Homer High School

Homer Senior Citizens

Homer United Methodist Church

Kachemak Heritage Land Trust

Nanwalek Summer Youth Worker Program

Ninilchik Fairground

Ninilchik Traditional Council

Old Town Neighborhood Association

The R.E.C. Room

Seldovia Village Tribe

South Peninsula Hospital Long-Term Care

South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services

St. Augustine's Church

West Homer Elementary School