Getting information to rural Alaskans

When Heidi Rader started working as a tribes Extension educator, she already knew a lot about gardening and farming; since then, she has added food preservation, blogging, teaching and technology to her list of skills.

Rader delivers workshops in villages and communities throughout Alaska, including Arctic Village in the foothills of the Brooks Range, Holy Cross on the lower Yukon River and Dot Lake near Tok. She teaches whatever a community requests from a list of workshops she has developed. They include topics like cooking fresh foods from the garden, seed starting, composting with worms, extending the growing season and even applying for grants.

Although she likes teaching hands-on workshops, she has also found different ways to reach far-flung audiences. Shortly after she joined Extension, she developed an online version of the Alaska Master Gardener Program to reach individuals around the state who couldn’t attend regularly scheduled sessions, and she has also developed a series of weekly webinars and teleconferences for the Alaska Growers School, an agricultural training she developed in 2011 that teaches the basics of farming and ranching.

Heidi Rader looking at plants
Heidi Rader

Rader recently developed a mobile app called Grow & Tell, which allows individuals in Alaska and other parts of North America to note where they are growing a particular variety of vegetable and see what varieties others are growing and how well they have done.Rader started the Alaska Master Gardener Blog so people could share information about what they were growing. When a gardener in Tok posted an item about the garlic she grew, she realized that others were interested in growing garlic. She has since developed a publication, “Growing Garlic in Alaska,” and a YouTube video on the subject.

“It’s basically citizen science agricultural variety trials,” she said.

Some 30 to 50 Alaska volunteers beta tested the app, which will be available to the public this spring.