Daniela, Julia, Julia (!), and Nathanael will serve Fairbanks from August 16, 2021 - August 15, 2022. As full year VISTAs, they will build the capacity of their individual organizations through indirect service, and in Daniela's case, for the very first time at her site (trailblazer, she). We're excited to welcome them to the team and see the impact they have in the coming year!
Tessa served at the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District from August 31, 2020, until August 30, 2021. Throughout the year, Tessa was able to immerse herself in FSWCD outreach events, food policy groups, and natural resources education. She recruited a community-led advisory council, pursued integral partnerships with the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, successfully wrote a grant to support Community Gardens in Fairbanks, and conducted soil samples and soil health workshops at multiple gardens throughout the summer. Tessa will continue to support food security in Fairbanks through her work on an urban agriculture conservation grant as a Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District employee.
Tessa was a complete dream of a VISTA. She started with a quarantined two weeks but worked and researched the whole time. When she started we just learned that we received the large USDA grant and she was raring to go with ideas and setting the tone for the grant process. She dove right into the project head first and was my right hand help throughout the whole process of getting everything set up and structured. I don't think I could have survived the process without her help. She was always flexible, working through the hills and valleys, sometimes deep valleys, of this enormous project with a smile on her face the whole time. Her professionalism and super attitude was noted by so many that we worked and connected with during her service. She was always willing to help and learn new skills at the office. She was an integral part of our FSWCD team all year. I'm so happy that she chose us and we are so happy to have been a part of her VISTA experience. She is truly amazing."
By: Tessa Holmes, FSWCD 2020-2021
Interior Alaska is one of the most expensive places to live in the nation, with households spending an average of 4% more of their income on food than households elsewhere in the nation(1). 12.5% of borough residents are classified as food insecure and 8.1% of residents live below the poverty level(2). 75% of children qualify for free and reduced-price school meals(3). My VISTA project at the Fairbanks Soil & Water Conservation District (FSWCD) aims to combat cycles of poverty and food insecurity by creating a year-round source of local greens while also providing agricultural job training opportunities in both indoor and conventional farming methods.
The AmeriCorps VISTA project goals and tasks at FSWCD have evolved through time. Over two years ago, Melissa Sikes, the Natural Resource Education Specialist and VISTA supervisor at FSWCD began discussing a community farm project with local stakeholders. Inspired by an indoor hydroponic farm in Anchorage that employs and supports at-risk youth, Melissa sought to connect key community players who would support the creation of a hydroponic farm in the Fairbanks community. The previous VISTA (June 2019-20) recruited stakeholders and conducted research on how to viably fund the creation of a hydroponic farm. Over their service year, the previous VISTA set me up for success by finalizing a team of representatives from community organizations that include the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Alaska 4-H, and a for-profit farm specializing in indoor growing technologies. In collaboration with these organizations, multiple grant applications were submitted and the scope of the project was adjusted slightly based on funding opportunities. A large part of the first VISTA’s work on this project was to determine the viability and scale of the project based on different funding opportunities.
As if the stars aligned with the AmeriCorps VISTA calendar, about a week before I started my service, FSWCD got word that their grant application for the USDA NIFA(4) Community Food Project was accepted. Beginning my service year in September 2020, I have been able to directly and tangibly continue the work of the VISTA before me. Beginning with our project partners, I have created contracts, organized and implemented regular project meetings, collaborated on local radio and television advertisements, and will be creating and managing a website and social media presence for the Community Farm Project. In December, we hosted a
Community Input Meeting with 33 participants and are now recruiting a community-led Advisory Council.
Thus far, the most meaningful part of my service has been telling the community about the farm project, gauging their feedback, and finding ways to infuse the project with their ideas. In order for the indoor farm to succeed and thrive, the project needs to bring value to Fairbanks community members so they accept and support it long-term. Thus, a big focus of my VISTA year is to tailor our program’s classes and workshops to reflect community input and respond to community need. The ideation, planning, and fundraising of the previous VISTA has provided me with clear direction and set me up for success in my VISTA service. Following my year, a third VISTA will support the Community Farm Project as it grows into a fully-operational farm, sustaining funding and community support along the way.
Photos courtesy of Yukon Farms, the AFFECT Project's hydroponic farm collaborator.
Mikayla, Tessa, Hal, Sol, Nicole, and Stephen will serve Fairbanks from August 31, 2020 - August 30, 2021. Year-long VISTAs perform indirect service focusing on capacity building. Stay tuned for updates as their year progresses!
Leah was an amazing addition to our team at FSWCD and the Fairbanks community. We chose Leah for this position because of her impressive academic background in economics and community service. She seamlessly became part of FSWCD staff, the Fairbanks community, and the VISTA community. Her dedication to the indoor community farm project began even before her first day of service and continued to be impressive in the successive months. As part of her service year, she assisted us with gathering the necessary support within the community by connecting with a wide variety of organizations. She was a part of a number of outreach events throughout her year in Fairbanks, helping with our information table at the Chena Hot Springs Energy Fair as well as a local food event at the Tanana Valley State Fair. She presented about her project to the local City Assembly, spoken briefly at the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce weekly meeting, and given information and updates at the city Housing and Homeless Coalition meetings. She assisted with the planning and leadership of our local Interior Alaska Food Network (IAFN), our local food policy group. Every chance she had to represent and share her work she jumped at without question. Her confidence and demeanor was excellent, and her representation of Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District was consistently impressive. She wrote at least two very large grant proposals during her time with FSWCD and her ability to collaborate with a large group of agencies and folks guided the process with ease. Her dedication to ensuring the positive outcome of her projects is evidence of her high standard of professionalism. We are so happy she chose FSWCD for her VISTA service. We know she will go on to do great things with her career and will miss her smile and laughter terribly."
Leah, thank you for your service to our community. You helped our local program with your input, positivity and dedication. We wish you the absolute best in your future and know you will be successful in anything you do!
Hydroponics in Anchorage and Racing to Build a Grow Tower
We headed out to Alaska Seeds of Change where we were met by Sara Renard, the AKSoC staff coordinator. We stopped to discuss the successes and challenges of both AKSoC and the project I am working on, the Fairbanks Urban Hydroponic Farm (FUHF), and offered each other advice on methods of best practice.
The next day started early as Mel and I headed over to the Z. J. Loussac Public Library to set up for the workshop. Our students for the day, all teachers by trade, arrived at nine and we got right into the hydroponics education. Mel took them through a PowerPoint to teach them all about gardening in the classroom, from soil fertilization to which types of seeds will grow best. Just before lunch we got up on our feet and explored different interactive stations, each with an easy classroom activity the teachers could do with their own students. Then after lunch, it was all hands on deck to build a seven foot tall hydroponic grow tower.
With power drills out and at the ready, instruction packets in hand, and disassembled buckets, pipes, and screws scattered around the floor we were given a challenge: build the tower in 1.5 hours, beat the previous workshop’s record and someone will get to take the grow tower home. With our deadline looming in the near future, we rushed into action, naturally splitting into groups to tackle different aspects of the tower. I got to work helping with the sump basin, which is the foundation of the tower and holds all the water.
AGENCY: ACCESS ALASKA
AGENCY: ALASKA COALITION ON HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
AGENCY: BOYS & GIRLS CLUB
AGENCY: BREAD LINE INC.
AGENCY: FAIRBANKS SENIOR CENTER
AGENCY: FBX CHILDREN'S MUSEUM
AGENCY: FBX HOUSING & HOMELESS COALITION
AGENCY: FBX NATIVE ASSOCIATION
AGENCY: FBX NORTH STAR LIBRARIES
AGENCY: FBX REENTRY COALITION
AGENCY: FBX RESCUE MISSION
AGENCY: FBX SOIL & WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT
AGENCY: FBX WELLNESS COALITION
AGENCY: FBX YOUTH ADVOCATES
AGENCY: FOUNDATION HEALTH PARTNERS
AGENCY: INTERIOR ALASKA CENTER FOR NON-VIOLENT LIVING
AGENCY: JP JONES CENTER
AGENCY: LION'S DEN
AGENCY: LOVE INC
AGENCY: MORRIS THOMPSON CENTER
AGENCY: NORTHERN HOPE CENTER
AGENCY: NORTH STAR COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
AGENCY: RESTORE INC
AGENCY: SALVATION ARMY
AGENCY: TANANA CHIEFS CONFERENCE
AGENCY: THE DOOR
AGENCY: UNITED WAY
AUTHOR: AISHA PEREIRA
AUTHOR: ASHTON VARNER
AUTHOR: CAITLIN RAMPY
AUTHOR: HALLE GENSLER
AUTHOR: KELSEY SNYDER
AUTHOR: KENZLEY DEFLER
AUTHOR: LEAH SHAFFER
AUTHOR: MEAGAN SCHEER
AUTHOR: MIKAYLA RILEY
AUTHOR: MIKE REIDERER
AUTHOR: SHEA BRENNEMAN
AUTHOR: STEPHEN GREENLAW
AUTHOR: TARYN WILLIAMS
AUTHOR: TESSA HOLMES
AUTHOR: VICKI SLOBODYANIK
AUTHOR: ZAK MITCHELL
Child Tax Credit
EVENT: COMMUNITY NEEDS DRIVE
EVENT: IN-SERVICE TRAINING
EVENT: PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT
FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWS MINER
FRED MEYER REWARDS
IN THE NEWS
OFFICIAL CNCS STATEMENT
RADIO 970 KFBX
SERVICE YEAR BEGINNINGS
TOPIC: GRANT WRITING
YEAR LONG VISTA