Kachemak Bay Campus announces advances to the sustainable agriculture program

Homer campus opens high tunnel as a teaching lab

The Kenai Peninsula College’s Kachemak Bay Campus continues to advance its new sustainable agriculture program with the completed planting of the campus high-tunnel greenhouse.

The tunnel is located just below the campus buildings on the corner of Kachemak Way and Klondike Avenue.

The campus started its “Ask a Grower” event on Aug. 8 in the high tunnel. The series will continue to take place every other Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. Anyone interested can stop by the facility to ask questions about gardening and agriculture of local grower, Monica Kopp of Homer Soil and Water. There are also opportunities to help plant, weed and harvest current contents in the facility.

Greenhouse produce is being distributed to the Homer Food Pantry and a bumper crop of tomatoes will soon be available through the Alaska Food Hub. Other contents this year include cabbage, basil, beans, broccoli and rutabagas.

Homer Soil and Water Conservation District produced a 2018 report titled “Growing Local Food: a Survey of Commercial Producers on the Southern Kenai Peninsula” and that inspired the campus to start to get involved in and contribute to community efforts, Jill Burnham, programs coordinator for the Kachemak Bay Campus, said.

“We realized there were a lot of things going on around town related to local food production but there wasn’t a central hub for classes or lectures so we decided we would try to be that resource for the community,” Burnham said.

She said the campus already owned property right below the campus that wasn’t being used.

“So we figured if we put a high tunnel there, we could use it as a teaching lab and use it productively through the growing season and do some experiments with extending the growing season on either side of the summer.

“We want to be able to support what is already happening here in the community.”

In January 2023, the college began hosting “Know Your Land” talks in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service and Homer Soil and Water Conservation District. They offered beginning gardening classes in the spring 2023 semester and will provide more in spring 2024.

Jennifer Becker was the sustainable agriculture program manager from November 2022 until the start of summer 2023 and was responsible for designing and planting current contents of the high tunnel.

The high tunnel will offer a garlic planting workshop with Synergy Gardens in September.