Domestic Berry Trials

McGrath's project garden, summer of 2007
Following in the long tradition of experimental horticulture at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, this project used applied research conducted by village-based volunteers to assess the feasibility of growing cold-hardy produce, including berries, in six Interior Alaska villages. In addition, this project had a Fairbanks-based component. Situated at the university’s experimental farm, university researchers evaluated the use of high-tunnels to protect and aid in winter survivability of fruit trees.

The village-based portion of these trials had the following goals:

  • Evaluating winter survivability, palatability, and potential for home and small commercial use of several domestic berry varieties, some of which are not commonly grown in Interior Alaska,  
  • Evaluating community interest in different vegetable crops (both garden and small greenhouse) for distribution to elders, use in nutrition programs, or through cooperative or marketing venues, and 
  • Developing information sheets and spreadsheet calculators to help people evaluate the costs and benefits of small village agricultural enterprises.   
Tilling the garden, Tanacross

Nenana, Tanacross, Minto, Galena, Holy Cross and McGrath participated. Village-based volunteers and their willingness to develop, plant and tend the gardens were essential to the project’s success. Because these trials were carried out in the villages, both vegetables and berries were grown under conditions common to village gardens, as opposed to the more controlled and care-intensive conditions typical in research trials. Therefore, trial plants were planted in rocky soil, often fill, with little organic matter, watered only by rainfall, infrequently weeded, not treated for pests, and received no additional enhancements such as frost protection, weed block, or mulch to warm the soil.

Taylor, Koby, Lawrence and Darien with vegetables from the Tanacross garden
At the end of the second summer, data loggers that automatically collected and recorded soil and air temperatures were installed at each berry plot. The data loggers were identical to those used at the fruit tree trials in Fairbanks, which recorded air and soil temperatures daily. These data from Interior villages will be compared to those collected in Fairbanks and will be used by university researchers in their recommendations for berry and fruit tree varieties for Interior Alaska climate conditions. 
As part of the project, the project coordinator  developed information sheets and simple spreadsheet templates that can help home gardeners figure out the costs of expanding their garden into something larger. These and other publications from this garden and domestic berry trial project can be downloaded from the project publications page.
Use the drop down menu for photos and information from each of the participating villages. 

This material is based up on work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Award No. 2006-34567-17332. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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