The seasons change and our gardens die as summer turns to autumn, but that doesn’t have the be the end of the growing season in Hoonah. We, like several communities on Prince of Wales Island have demonstrated, have the ability to build an efficient, biomass-heated (wood) greenhouse that can provide for our community. On October 6th, 2017 a group of Hoonah citizens arranged a community meeting to discuss the the possibility of 365 day-per-year food production in Hoonah.
The meeting began with a presentation by Ian Johnson, HIA Environmental Coordinator. He explained the greenhouse systems on POW that make them so successful. Their greenhouses purchase wood from local cutters and insert about $50,000 dollars into the economy each year. The wood is put into boilers that heat the greenhouse and school building. The greenhouses are run by kids at the school with kindergartners taking care of composting, middleschoolers taking care of the greenhouse, and highschoolers taking care of the boilers. Highschoolers are paid for their position and learn how to manage their time and be effective workers. The greenhouse tasks are built into the curriculum of the school so that teachers can lead the students without creating an extra burden on their day. At peak capacity the newly built Coffman Cove greenhouse will be able to produce 400 heads of lettuce per week! The produce is distributed throughout the island for sale, and the kids use it during culinary classes. Southeast Island School District has created a business for the kids to sell their goods at.
In short, a greenhouse in Hoonah could provide benefit for our economy, our students, our health, and our community.
Local food was on display during the event. Kristi Styers made twice-baked potatoes and mashed potatoes from potatoes grown in the local community garden. Stephanie Harold, Genevieve Cook, and Wilma Davis made wild blueberry smoothies with kale (grown in Hoonah’s MOBY greenhouse!) or spinach. Ben McLuckie showed off home-scale hydroponics systems brimming with lettuce.
The community was extremely engaged in the discussion around the greenhouse. Aside from general excitement about the healthy lifestyle options a greenhouse could bring to Hoonah there were several great points mentioned. They included where to house the greenhouse, who would take care of it, how the produce would be distributed, how the greenhouse would be heated (other options than biomass?), how to get community involvement, and doing a market analysis to determine need in Hoonah. This meeting was the tip of the iceberg for the discussion around the greenhouse in Hoonah. HIA is currently finalizing a biomass feasibility study which includes the option for a greenhouse. A community group is continuing the discussion about the greenhouse and its logistics with the possibility of hiring a greenhouse coordinator.
To get involved in the discussion or to join the greenhouse group contact Ian Johnson, HIA Environmental Coordinator, 945 3545 ext 140, firstname.lastname@example.org