Pilgrim Hot Spring’s new garden to provide veggies for Bering Strait residents

A steaming lake in front of mountains.
Mountain view at Pilgrim Hot Springs. (Maddie Winchester/ KNOM)

What does it take to grow a garden in the Bering Straits?

That’s the question facing the staff at the remote Pilgrim Hot Springs, located about 60 miles northeast of Nome.

The hot springs staff recently received the “Gather Grant” from the First Nations Development Institute, and it allowed them to plant a produce garden to distribute fresh vegetables throughout the Bering Strait region.

They’re starting with a small “test crop” to determine what kind of produce will be most successful, said Pilgrim Hot Springs General Manager Amanda Toerdal.

“We can see which vegetables are doing the best,” she said. “And then after we harvest this year, we are hoping to work with possibly Norton Sound Health Corporation and their weekly produce market or just hand out vegetables to the community and do a little bit of surveying and kind of see what folks want the most, what is the most popular vegetable.”

[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]

Teordal and her staff are hoping to get the bigger garden up and running by next summer. Right now, she said, the most important thing on her mind is creating a plan to distribute produce through as much of the region as possible.

The main goal is to find a distribution model that works. So, if that’s sending out our vegetables weekly on planes or working with a local distributor or the village stores — we’re not sure yet,” Toerdal said.

Efforts to distribute produce as widely as possible may be aided by future produce preservation efforts, Toerdal said. Pilgrim staff may be able to use Pilgrim Hot Springs’ geothermal resources to build greenhouses in coming years to grow vegetables in the winter. Canning and preserving efforts are also a part of Pilgrim Hot Spring’s history, Toerdal said. They may be used in the future to extend the shelf life of Pilgrim’s garden produce.

RELATED: Bristol Bay sockeye are abundant but shrinking

Even though the growing season for Pilgrim Hot Spring’s vegetables is short, in some ways the area is an ideal place to undertake a gardening project, said Toerdal.

Many have called Pilgrim a microclimate in itself, just because of the way it is sheltered from the mountains,” she said. “And then because of the geothermal hotspot we have the trees that protect from the wind and the soil is warm, you know, it doesn’t freeze. There is no permafrost in that area.”

The beginnings of a greenhouse with trees in the background.
Pilgrim Hot Springs (KNOM)

The soil is also rich minerals too, due to the hot springs, and the recent rainy weather has provided the vegetables with plenty of water, said Toerdal. She hopes that this combination will have a positive outcome for the Pilgrim Hot Springs community.

The hot springs staff, she said, hope to also create an environment where individuals can learn more about growing and preparing vegetables and a model for other communities to follow if they decide to grow a vegetable garden.

Previous articleTroopers investigating murder case after finding body in freezer near Tok
Next articleVaccinating during pregnancy has become even more urgent as ICU beds fill up, says CDC