By Miriam Mezzetti
Alaska Pacific University cares deeply about education and giving back to the community. The students, staff, and faculty on APU’s Kellogg Campus are doing an exemplary job at growing and strengthening the educational community and the greater Alaskan community.
The APU Kellogg Campus, located in Palmer, is home to a learning center as well as to the Spring Creek Farm. During the school year, students studying for their Masters of Science and Environment use the learning center to host an educational enrichment program for local homeschooling families. In the summer, the learning center is used for similar educational programs and camps.
The Spring Creek Farm is dedicated to education as well, for both children and university students. Student interns at Spring Creek learn about operating an economically feasible and environmentally sustainable farm through their work. The Children’s Garden, planted and maintained by volunteers, provides a safe and educational location for field trips and families who visit.
The work of Spring Creek Farm is important to the next generation of farmers and to the future of the Alaskan economy. As Megan Talley, Farm Manager, explains, “The team here at Spring Creek Farm is working to make the food system of Alaska more resilient and immune to outside pressure.” Joshua Faller, Spring Creek Production Manager and Farm Educator adds, “Across the US, small-scale, sustainable farms are seen as aging businesses. Spring Creek Farm is helping to change this perception by teaching the next generation of farmers that small-scale, local, organic agriculture is not only healthier for the environment and consumers, but is economically viable and healthy for the local economy.”
The interns and volunteers, students and recent grads from all across Alaska and the US, share an enthusiasm for sustainable agriculture. One intern, MacKenzie Stamey, a Biology and Natural Resources major at University of Alaska Fairbanks, is excited to learn about sustainable agriculture. MacKenzie hopes to work with the Peace Core and to share the knowledge she has learned on the farm about sustainability. Another intern, Molly Shouweiler, an Alaska Pacific University graduate, grew up with a garden but wanted to learn about larger-scale sustainable farming. Her internship at Spring Creek Farm learning to grow her own food, Molly notes, has been truly educational. The programs at Spring Creek Farm, Joshua explains, help to grow the new farming culture and to mentor new farmers, like Molly and MacKenzie, to meet the growing public interest in healthy, local AK agriculture.
In addition to educating the next generation of Alaskan farmers, Spring Creek Farm gives back to the community in several ways. There is a work share program in which a certain percentage of the harvest is shared with the volunteers who help to grow it. The farm sells much of the remaining fresh produce at the APU and Spenard farmers’ markets. Spring Creek also donates 10 shares of produce per week to Project Tilth, a philanthropic partnership between APU’s Kellogg Campus, the Matsu UAF farm facilities, and chef Wynona Benson of Family Nutrition. The program feeds needy families and educates them about healthy, affordable eating. All extra food is distributed to the people in need attending the program. Spring Creek Farm is working on several other community and philanthropic endeavors. It supplies the APU dining hall with fresh produce, as well.
The generous fruits of the Kellogg Campus in the community are clear to see! Through educational enrichment, sustainable agriculture, community building, and philanthropy, the Spring Creek Farm is creating a better environment for all of us.