2020 marks the first summer of Alaska Botanical Garden’s Guided Gardening: A Learning CSA program. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The concept refers to a customer subscribing to a weekly box of produce from a local garden or farm. ABG’s horticulture staff recognized an opportunity to use the Garden for Agricultural purposes in addition to our typical Horticulture practices. We adopted the CSA model and incorporated an educational twist. The two main components of this program are harvest and education. In addition to offering boxes of vegetables on a weekly basis, ABG’s Horticulture team: Lindsay Clark and Will Criner incorporated weekly educational videos accessed via Zoom and YouTube.
Virtual education opportunities via live-Zoom meetings and pre-recorded YouTube videos began in early May and lasted through September. Gardening topics covered include pre-season planning, sowing seeds, transplanting, soil fertility, weed identification, building your own compost, harvesting herbs, processing and preserving the harvest, and berry identification. In anticipation of each week’s harvest, Lindsay Clark (ABG Horticulturist) curated an informative newsletter for participants that highlighted what crops to expect and included accompanying recipes to explore. Harvesting began the week of June 19th and continued through September 3rd. Over the course of 12 weeks, participants received a vast array of produce. Early season crops consisted of broccoli rabe, radishes, sorrel, swiss chard, chives, lettuce, and herbs like lovage and mint; while mid-to-late season supplied treats such as tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and garlic. Each produce share holds enough food to supplement a family of 2-4 people. In addition to harvest boxes, ABG provided opportunities for participants to forage for berries in the Garden. Participants left the Garden carrying Tupperware filled with currants, serviceberries, and even cherries!
By hosting this program ABG was able to serve 18 families with fresh, organic produce. In the final week of the program, ABG sent out a survey and received feedback from participants. Guided Gardening CSA member, Nan, said, “I will use the knowledge I learned this summer forever. Lindsay, Will, and the CSA program as a whole taught me so much. I very much enjoyed the ABG’s CSA program, and I’m looking forward to next year.” Nan was one amongst many that reported to enjoy the educational aspect of the CSA in addition to the harvest.
Overall, ABG’s Horticulturists are thrilled that they can offer this educational CSA program. ABG plans to continue cultivating this program in the future. Considering the families served and the sustainable practices used to grow the produce, we see this program as a success! Access to fresh, healthy food is a large concern in Alaska, and ABG wants to do our part to increase our community’s food security by helping you become a successful home gardener.
You can find more information about Alaska Botanical Garden on our website: https://www.alaskabg.org/. Consider signing up for our newsletter to receive updates about upcoming workshops, events, plant sales, and future Guided Gardening CSA programs.