Community garden improves fresh food options
Fresh produce in Iliamna and Newhalen usually comes in the form of produce with a long shelf life — apples, oranges, onions and potatoes, for example. Three years ago, George Hornberger and Evelyn Trefon started a community garden to add variety.
The process starts in the school. Newhalen school's 65 students raise starts, including radishes, kale, swiss chard, snap peas and potatoes. The high schoolers replant those starts in a greenhouse when the plants are large enough. The community comes together in June to put those young plants in the ground in the community garden. At the end of the summer they harvest the bounty.
"Our strawberries just did amazing this year. I can't believe how many strawberries we got off of the little plants. Also the kale just went crazy this year. It was bright green and full of vitamins and nutrients," said Trefon.
This week, they harvested the last of the potatoes. Those will be divvied up between all the families in the community. The kale, rutabaga, squash and radishes went to school lunches.
Trefon also started a pop-up produce market this year. Once a week she set up shop with produce from Anchorage, Igiugig, Port Alsworth and Pope Vannoy. Of all the fruits and greens, one was a clear favorite.
"Bananas were definitely my number one seller this summer. I sold a case of bananas, which is 100 bananas, every week," Trefon said. Some weeks she sold more. In total, she sold 1,800 bananas.
Others in town brought bread, jam, sushi and crafts to sell.
Trefon said that the market was more about meeting a need than making a profit. Still, she, and her business partner in Anchorage, ended in the black, covering their costs with a little bit left over.
The market wrapped up for the season Wednesday. Trefon has not decided yet if she will continue the market next year. But between the community gardens and the personal gardens people are starting, fresh food is on the rise in Newhalen and Iliamna.