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Tubs of potatoes are loaded into the back of a pick-up truck after they were picked at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Tubs of potatoes are loaded into the back of a pick-up truck after they were picked at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

While this site is about the Sitka Local Foods Network and projects in Sitka promoting local foods, occasionally we have news from a nearby community that’s worth reporting.

This summer, the new WISEGUYS men’s health group in Klukwan, a Tlingít community just north of Haines, decided to build a potato patch to raise potatoes and a few other vegetables for community members of the Chilkat Indian Village.

“The idea was to provide a sustainable subsistence based crop that could supply every house in Klukwan with potatoes every year,” said Mike Adams, a Community Health Practitioner at the SEARHC Klukwan Health Center. “This would also allow us to get together with the community kids, exercise and spent time together doing something for our community.”

Adams said the group started with a donated piece of land from the Chilkat Indian Village and began clearing it of debris and cleaning it up so the ground could be tilled for planting. The WISEGUYS received funding from the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program so they could purchase the potato seed and fertilizer, and the SEARHC Behavioral Health Prevention Program (a program to educate youth about drug and alcohol abuse) bought a few hand tools.

Sixty hours were spent in clearing and ground preparations, as well as 20 hours of donated heavy equipment time from Chilkat Indian village and Hank Jacquot. This got us to a 100-foot-by-100-foot piece of usable ground. The preparations for planting then began. Many of us spent several days with three Roto-Tillers tilling the area, digging furrows for planting, adding organic fertilizers and ultimately planting 1,000 potato plants. Four varieties were planted — Kennebec, Tlingít, Yukon Gold and Chippawa’s.

The summer was unseasonably hot and there was a minimal water supply from a nearby creek. To supplement the creek, watering was done using the village fire truck to spray the patch with 750 gallons of water every three to five days.

“We harvested the potatoes on Sept. 25th and had many community members participate as well as all the kids from the Klukwan school and their teachers,” Adams said. “We grossed approximately 1,500 pounds of potatoes. Every child and teacher was sent home with a large bag of potatoes and every household in Klukwan was given potatoes. Due to the prolonged unseasonable hot weather all summer the final harvest amount was a bit lower then we’d hoped, but everyone was given potatoes and we all had a great time harvesting.”

Adams said the WISEGUYS received a positive note when they applied for a small grant from RurAL CAP in August to purchase supplies and equipment, and they recently found out they were awarded the grant. He said the group plans to build a sprinkler system in the potato patch next year.

“Thanks goes to everyone for all your support,” Adams said. “We look forward to another great year in 2010!”

Potato pickers gather for the potato-picking party on Sept. 25 at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Potato pickers gather for the potato-picking party on Sept. 25 at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Barren land before it was cleared to become the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Barren land before it was cleared to become the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Potato plants growing in the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Potato plants growing in the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Community members pick potatoes during a potato-picking party Sept. 25 at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Community members pick potatoes during a potato-picking party Sept. 25 at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Lani Hotch and Bev Klanott stand behind a big cabbage growing at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan. The cabbage weighed nearly 30 pounds when it was harvested.

Lani Hotch and Bev Klanott stand behind a big cabbage growing at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan. The cabbage weighed nearly 30 pounds when it was harvested.

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