Partner Blog Post

Planning an Earthday Event in the Far North

Blog by Katherine Helmuth, Randy Smith Middle School, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

Starting a garden in the far north has unique opportunities and challenges. We are starting a garden at our middle school in Fairbanks, Alaska, latitude 64.837N. Aside from short growing seasons and extreme -40C. temperatures in the winter, one of the challenges is moose that like to graze on garden produce. An eight foot high fence is required to protect our harvest from the meandering menaces. Our Earth Day event plan grew from a need to raise funds for the garden fence; the plan is to host a Garden Bazaar and Earth Day Fair on a Saturday in late April.

Our first Challenge:

Finding space. Could the school accommodate such an event and was it available? Happily the answer to both was yes, so the cost of putting on this event was made much more manageable. We will have both inside and outside events and use of the large kitchen, commons and gym spaces to accommodate all the activities.

Our second challenge:

Recruiting vendors. While we have many gifted artisans and crafters in our area, they have been a little worried about the changing economy and have not been willing to commit to being a part of our event. We are marketing the reasonable booth fee and Mother’s day shopper’s angle in our renewed advertising campaign. We have been expanding the scope of our event to attract people. By including workshops, a seed swap, silent auction, live music and some activities for youth we should pull in more people to help support us.

Our next challenge:

Filling workshops. We have enlisted resources like our university and non-profit organizations to provide information booths. We broadened our focus to bring the other local schoolyard gardens into the event. Our school garden partner, Calypso Farms (calypsofarm.org) who oversees all the schoolyard gardens, paved the way by offering to provide a large outdoor tent and a live sheep sheering demonstration. We now have plans for workshops on landscaping for wildfire safety (a big issue here), growing garlic, composting, vermiculture and more.

Challenge #4

Advertising to a wider audience has become a priority. We altered the name of our event to bring the Earth Day component into it. We are using many tools to advertise including a listing in the local paper, hand-outs and flyers to parents, contacts and local businesses, and most of all the Internet. We periodically list aspects of our event on resources like Craig’s list, and similar websites. We have our event on every event list for every radio, TV and newspaper website in our area. We have listings on craft sites to attract buyers and sellers to our bazaar and most important We started a wiki to help advertise the event and keep people informed about the progress of our gardening efforts. (rsmsgarden.pbworks.com) It is an easy way to steer people to a place to find information and to download forms. Like our bazaar this too has grown to include more and more facets and has become a portal for many local garden resources.

Our fifth challenge:

Making it happen. Our group of staff meet every other week to make plans and keep this project moving forward. We have so much to do for the bazaar and the garden; getting kids involved, getting parents involved, recruiting volunteers, and telling the public. We have to plan the fence building days, other fundraisers, and ways to bring our garden into the curriculum and the lunch program.

When first conceived, this event was going to be a small spring fair to get the students and parents involved with the school’s garden and bring some money to our effort. The realization that we need significant funds and a desire to make this event a showcase in the community’s spring line up has changed that plan. We are excited to think we are starting a new annual event in town that can include many chances to raise awareness of gardening, eating locally grown food, preserving the earth, and more.