An Indoor Farm in Alaska that’s Designed to Alleviate Food Insecurity

The Lempert Report
June 03, 2021

It’s called the Calypso Farm and Ecology Center and was founded in 2019.

It contains vegetable and flower gardens, greenhouses, goats, sheep, honeybees, and even a nature trail. Eva Dawn Burke, a native Alaskan, is partnering with Calypso to promote local food production and combat food insecurity in Alaska Native communities. She currently researches the link between health and traditional food practices at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where In 2020, Burk received the Indigenous Communities Fellowship from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a business model for implementing biomass-heated (or wood-fired) greenhouses in rural Native villages.

The project, according to the High County Times, is still in its infancy, but Burk told the newspaper she hopes to help spur an agricultural revolution in rural Native villages, where food costs are exorbitant and fresh produce is hard to come by. Alaska Native communities face numerous challenges to food security. Many communities are accessible only by boat or plane, and some lack grocery stores altogether. For example, the residents of Rampart, a small village on the Yukon River, have to order groceries from Fairbanks, delivered by plane at 49 cents per pound plus tax, or else travel there to shop — a $202 round-trip flight, a five-hour trip by boat and truck, or a four-and-a-half-hour drive overland. Sometimes orders are delayed due to weather, or because the delivery plane is full, said Brooke Woods, chair of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, who is from Rampart. Indigenous families that depend on traditional foods, such as salmon and moose, have to contend with rapidly shifting ecosystems and declining wild food sources, largely due, according to Indigenous leaders as well as several studies, to climate change. A 2018 review in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health found that “studies that estimate the prevalence of food insecurity in remote Alaska Native communities ... are virtually absent from the literature.”

The limited and outdated data available indicates that about 19% of the Alaska Native population — 25% in rural areas — experiences food insecurity, compared to 10.5% of the total population nationwide, according to the USDA. No matter where, we all must work together to eradicate food insecurity.