Fiskars Grant Feeds Starvin’ Marvin in Alaska
August 13, 2016 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
The Fiskars Project Orange Thumb community garden initiative provides groups across the U.S. and Canada with the tools, materials, and resources they need to bring their garden plans to life.
One of this year’s recipients, The Takshanuk Watershed Council in Haines, Alaska, will use their grant to further their Starvin’ Marvin program that brings gardening and nutrition education to local schools.
The program thrives on the belief that ownership of the garden and knowledge of the origin of their food will cultivate increased confidence in the young gardeners so they may ultimately become responsible adults.
150 Students and 1,200 Pounds of Local Produce
In 2009, when local parents questioned how they might utilize school food scraps and establish a sustainable food source, the TWC launched Starvin’ Marvin for the Haines Borough School District and home school community curriculums.
To date, volunteers and 150 students have participated in the program, providing more than 1,200 pounds of local produce for the school’s lunch program.
Garden Compost From Over 3000 Pounds of Lunch Waste
Students separate their compostables from non-compostables in the lunchroom, then compost them in an old school greenhouse where they and volunteers built four compost bins. They compost over 3000 pounds of school lunch waste a year, and over 18,000 pounds to date. Composting has been a win-win for both the students, who have benefited from the hands-on experience, but it has also saved the school thousands of dollars in disposal fees. The school sells excess compost not used in garden to the community then invests the profits into the Starvin’ Marvin program.
With their Fiskars Project Orange Thumb grant, the Takshanuk Watershed Council plans to expand their Starvin’ Marvin program to include composting organic waste from commercial businesses like the Haines Brewery and Ripinski Roasters. The funds will go toward expanded gardening efforts including better seed starting, planting native fruit trees and berries, and the addition of more beds.
Growing Collaboration Between Students
Starvin’ Marvin has now been incorporated into the Middle School Science Curriculum. Following lunch, a 9th grader oversees a pair of 6th graders who bring the compost to the Starvin’ Marvin greenhouse, weigh it, add carbon material, and stir in the new scraps.
Fall Harvest Goes Into School Lunches
The kids plant a variety of produce including Tlingit potatoes, onions, kale, peas, carrots, and strawberries. Two years ago the school added a hoop house to extend their growing season to grow vegetables and herbs, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and squashes, which would not survive outside in winter. Students harvest the produce in the fall and use it for their school lunches. Prior to this program many students had not seen a cucumber on the vine or broccoli outside of a supermarket. One long-term goal is to produce enough extra food to supply five Haines families with weekly fresh produce throughout the growing season.
The Starvin’ Marvin program demonstrates what a small composting and gardening program can produce–measured not only in pounds of fruits and vegetables, but also in the quality of a well-educated student and community population–and in vast quantities of good will.
Formed in Haines, Alaska in 2001 to provide stewardship to the Chilkoot, Chilkat, and Ferebee river watersheds, the Takshanuk Watershed Council (TWC) has over the past eleven years matured into a respected community resource that provides place-based youth education, ecological research, restoration, and watershed stewardship.