Alaska: tribal hydroponics project delivers first produce

Kodiak tribal members from the Native Village of Afognak and Tangirnaq Native Village in Alaska have received their first batches of lettuce produced using local hydroponic growing containers. The harvest came from Mal’uk Farms, the first tribally owned farm on the Kodiak road system. It is operated as a partnership between the Native Village of Afognak and Tangirnaq Native Village. A total of 230 heads of salanova lettuce were harvested and distributed locally during the past two weeks.

J.J. Orloff, the tribal administrator for the Native Village of Afognak, said the produce grown in hydroponic systems will help tribal community members, as access to fresh vegetables can be difficult on the island. 

“It is going to mean a lot to our Elders and tribal members as far as getting fresh vegetables on the table,” Orloff said. In Kodiak, buying fresh produce is expensive and not always an option for families, especially those who live in the villages and ship their food items from Kodiak.

“The challenge we have seen is trying to get people familiar with things that they haven't used before. There are people that have never used this type of lettuce,” Orloff said.

The hydroponic system was designed and built by Vertical Harvest Hydroponics based in Anchorage. The structure consists of rows of growing trays placed under lights in a cabinet-like structure.

Funding for the hydroponics project — called Suupet Neregkwarluki in Alutiiq language, or “We Are Feeding Our People” — comes from a three-year grant administered by the Kodiak Archipelago Leadership Institute (KALI). The money is from the Social and Economic Development Strategies Program under the Administration for Native Americans, part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

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