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FAIRBANKS FISH WILDLIFE FIELD OFFICE: Students Create Food for Pollinators and People.
Alaska Region, August 29, 2013
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Youth for Habitat students Zoe Ratzlaff and Emily Monicken remove a copious amount of weeds to prepare the bed for planting.
Youth for Habitat students Zoe Ratzlaff and Emily Monicken remove a copious amount of weeds to prepare the bed for planting. - Photo Credit: Laurel Devaney, USFWS
Evan Brashear puts in a grid to help with placing plants.
Evan Brashear puts in a grid to help with placing plants. - Photo Credit: Laurel Devaney, USFWS
Brooke Gottmeier digs native iris at Chena Lakes farm.
Brooke Gottmeier digs native iris at Chena Lakes farm. - Photo Credit: Laurel Devaney, USFWS
A flurry of activity takes place as the plants go into the ground.
A flurry of activity takes place as the plants go into the ground. - Photo Credit: Laurel Devaney, USFWS
Smiles all around as we celebrate completing our project.
Smiles all around as we celebrate completing our project. - Photo Credit: Laurel Devaney, USFWS

The J.P. Jones Community Center is located in an urban area of Fairbanks, Alaska. The surrounding neighborhood offers few places for people to get fresh produce, and little habitat for native pollinators. The solution? Students in the Fairbanks Youth for Habitat program rehabilitated a large overgrown flower bed and replaced weeds with plants that provide food for both people and pollinating insects.

 

To prepare for the project, students spent some time researching native plants that provide nectar to attract a variety of pollinator insects, and learning more about the challenges being faced nationwide by pollinators. This included learning about plant height, space requirements and color, so that they could help design a garden that was pleasing to look at along with providing habitat for insects. A local farm specializing in organically grown native plants donated plants to the project in exchange for our labor to dig up and transport them.

The flowers of strawberry, raspberry and rhubarb, native roses and Labrador tea attract pollinators along with producing fruit, leaves, and stems for human use to make jellies, baked goods, and tea. Specimens of these plants were donated by local gardeners and added to the mix of native plants making up the rest of the garden.

The students started the project by removing an abundance of weeds from the site and creating a grid on the 110 x 12’ bed to help with plant placement. Planting the large space took two days and included placement of stepping stones to make easier access for picking the fruit producing plants. In addition, a copious amount of water was needed to re hydrate both people and plants in the record-breaking heat we experienced during the planting process.

The community center has plans to offer a class in making bird baths out of rhubarb leaves cast in resin. Adding a water source to the garden will make it attractive to birds as well as insects. In addition, neighborhood children will make personalized stepping stones to place in the garden. This will help develop a sense of community ownership for the garden and increase its use.

The result of this project is that students in the Youth for Habitat program have developed a sense of pride in their ability to give back to their community. In addition, an under-served part of our community now has a garden to beautify the grounds of their community center along with a free source of fresh food for local residents. Pollinators in the area have also gained some quality habitat.


Contact Info: Laurel Devaney, 907-456-0558, Laurel_devaney@fws.gov



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