As the harvest for the farm at Pilgrim Hot Springs, 65 miles north of Nome, winds down for the winter, plans are in place for expansion and refining the crop list and rotation for next summer.
The sub-Arctic farming effort is an amazing feat, made possible through the geothermal warmth of the site and fueled by a partnership of local and regional corporations. Together, they’ve transformed what was once a roadhouse, then a Catholic orphanage, into a farm at an Arctic oasis.
Pilgrim Produce manager Tasha Lee says some of the crops, like kohlrabi, kale, and arugula, were foreign to local folks. “At the beginning, we would put out pamphlets on how to eat them, ways to prepare them.” So they learned.
One customer’s elderly mother was raised at Pilgrim as an orphan. She loved the onions. “I bought some onions, bagged them up and brought them over to her,” says Lee. “She was very excited. She had been waiting this entire season. She was there the first day that we were selling vegetables. As soon as I had a bundle to give her, I did.”
There’ll be more room for crops next year, with staged plantings to ensure a longer season for each vegetable. Lots more spinach. Says Lee, “I was amazed by how much people enjoyed spinach in Nome.”
Image at top: Pilgrim Produce manager Tasha Lee smiles at the discovery of an earthworm: a sign of enriched soil. Photo: Karen Trop, KNOM.