Anna Best stands proudly by her first community garden plot. She shares the plot with two Sockeye Cycle co-workers. Cash Stricker samples some snap peas, one of the local favorites. Josh Wilson

Community Garden enjoys productive summer
Farmer’s Market last weekend a huge success, more planned for next year

By JOSH WILSON

Harvest time in Skagway has yielded a fruitful summer for Skagway’s Community Garden. Increased participation, more interest in a sustainable Skagway and a recent farmer’s market have made for a productive summer and paved the way for next year.
“I think all across the country community gardens are getting a lot more interest,” said Garden Club president Dorothy Brady, “and it makes me happy that Skagway is getting more involved in that.”
Community involvement has significantly increased this summer, with garden plots nearly doubling from about 11 beds last year, Brady said. This includes locals and summer workers alike who seem to be catching on to the community garden movement. Brady expressed the unique seasonal garden culture in Skagway.
“I love meeting the different people from around the country,” she said. “We have people coming from all over the place. I don’t think other community gardens have the same clientele.”
Several summer workers started new plots this year. Anna Best, 25, of Sockeye Cycle is one example. She started a plot along with her fiance Michael Hulburt and co-worker Christine Hulburt. She appreciates the chance to participate in a local food system and said it is a very rewarding experience.
“I appreciate the peacefulness and the harvest,” she said. “I think being out here grounds me. It gives me some space to myself, and I get to have some quiet time to focus on this beautiful thing I am creating.”
Many people have been eager to help this summer, Brady said. She was surprised at the number of calls and e-mails she has received offering help. A crew member from one of the cruise ships has even signed up for a plot this year and gardens on fridays, his only day in port.
Along with increased involvement in the gardens, many seem more interested in the gardens as part of a more sustainable community. The gardens provide a place to compost and practice sustainable farming techniques. Brady encourages using compost, manure and seaweed instead of artificial fertilizer. She also wants to teach the concept of heirloom seeds and saving seeds to plant for next year.
“It’s a hands-on experience,” Brady said. “People are learning how leaves and seaweed can turn into leafy vegetables instead of using artificial fertilizer.”
Sustainable Skagway, the local sustainable action group is also closely tied to the community gardens, and according to community garden member Anna Marchant, “the more sustainable Skagway is in the summer, the more successful the community is.”

Women try to guess the weight of Anna Marchant’s turnip, left (7 lbs., 7 oz.). Sarah Andrerson gives a sample of her canned cherries to a visitor. Jeff Brady

Another area of growth this summer for the community garden was its recent connection with the Farmer’s Market, held Saturday, September 4. The event featured local produce, arts and crafts. Much of the inspiration and planning behind the event came from Marchant. After selling some produce last year, she felt it was time to introduce a larger scale farmer’s market this year, hoping to generate interest for a more frequent farmer’s market next summer.
“I think it’s a heads up for people. A lot of people had extra produce,” Marchant said, “and in another three weeks the vegetables are going to be frozen.”
Marchant and other community garden members sold local produce, whether from community garden plots or elsewhere in town. Locals and tourists could browse the food and arts and even guess the weight of Marchant’s hefty turnip for a chance to win it. Other community gardeners who participated included Emily Willis selling a variety of herbs and salves and Mary Beth and Sarah Anderson with cherry tarts, apple sauce, and baked goods.
Marchant thinks there is enough food and interest in local produce to have more farmer’s markets next year. She sold all the produce she put out and believes it’s something that can work well for farmers next summer. It may also make sense for many locals.
“I think, considering all the talent in Skagway, this is pretty much a no brainer in terms of farming and arts in Skagway,” said Jorje Munoz, vendor for the market and summer worker for You Say Tomato.
The farmer’s market is planned to possibly take place three or four times next summer. As it did this year, the market would feature local produce from the community garden and other locally grown produce, as well as arts and crafts.
“We hope it develops organically,” Marchant said. “If it’s called for it will just naturally happen.”

Trying a mask by Von, one of many locally made crafts on display at the Farmer’s Market. The Windy Valley Boys entertained the market by the fire hall. Jeff Brady

With a productive gardening summer now nearly complete, the community gardeners are now looking forward to next year. The garden club is currently working to get a state grant to fund a greenhouse for next year, Marchant said. An herb garden is also in the plan for next year, and 14 maple trees are proposed to be planted as a wind break for the beds. The first order of business for next year, Brady said, will be a shed to store tools and supplies.
The community gardens have been operating for nine summers. Plots are $35 for a four by ten foot garden space and $50 for the larger family beds. Due to the rocky ground and hard work required to dig the plots, they are free the first year if dug up from scratch. Brady and Marchant also said that donations and volunteer work are welcome at any time. The gardens are a non profit organization and use the school’s property with permission from the city.
“I am really hoping the city and school continue to let us use their land,” Brady said, “and we really appreciate their generosity.”
More information about the gardens can be found at www.sustainableskagway.org or by contacting Brady or Marchant. Any comments, questions or criticisms about the gardens can be sent to P.O. Box 647.