March 27, 2012
The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate, and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.
There were 24 in attendance today, including: Jim Sackett, Kat McElroy, David Poppe, Bonnie Reed, Tara, Bob & Jeannie Bennet, Virginia Young, Miles Martin, Brian and Simeon Blair, Art and Terry Thompson, Glennis and Gordon Bowerman, Audrey Roth, Eric Gebhart, Michelle, Todd, Mercedes and Hattie Ronnander, Elaine Mitchell, and Rebecca, Bill & Emily Troxel.
We enjoyed chicken wings & brown rice with Carrots and broccoli, mixed green salad and Ritz crackers with sliced cheese and raisins & pecans for lunch.
WELCOME followed by the READING OF MISSION STATEMENT, by this week’s chair-person: Jeannie Bennet
PRAYER was led by Bill Troxel, followed by the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIENCE
PRESENTATION OF AGENDA AND CALL FOR MODIFICATIONS: There were no additions to the agenda.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Minutes were posted at the WIN link at www.railbelt.org and submitted electronically to the WIN e-list.
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS: Glinnis and Gordon Bowerman and Elaine Mitchel were introduced by Jeannie.
Nenana Bio-mass Project: Jim Sackett gave us an update on our proposed Nenana Bio-Mass Project. He said that he initially became interested in looking into biomass when he attended a conference in Minneapolis in 2009. Since then Toghotthele has explored several options. They were looking into a diesel generation system but the costs are prohibitive. They began exploring alternative energy generation. Toghotthele is interested in furthering several projects for Nenana. One would be a bio-mass plant for heat to our Nenana City Public School. Because of the costs to run heat as far away as to the Living Center, a second bio-mass generator is envisioned for the Nenana Student Living Center. They are also interested in a Combined Heat & Power project, which would feed electricity back into the GVEA power grid and also be used to heat/light greenhouses.
He explained that there is a very precisely defined process to get grant funds to help build a bio–mass system, which begins with a pre-feasibility study. Brian Hirsch and the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) has been working with them on this. The initial analysis suggested that they go with a wood chip system. This would be similar to what was done down in Tok. Chris Gaul of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will be involved in analyzing the study data. If this passes muster, a proposed project could be slated for as early as summer 2013. Any red flags along the way, of course, could slow the project down.
Basically, this study would be looking at a multitude of factors: do we have a ready supply of wood large enough to supply a bio-mass generator; do we have the means to purchase the equipment needed; and very importantly, is the community behind the project. Toghotthele has forest land and some equipment; they provide access and some expertise. They have a stewardship plan in place and TCC has two foresters to oversee the work. Their intention is not to clear tut but to sustainably harvest our natural resources. Best would be if we could get the state to support the project with some start-up funding in recognition of the great savings the project would provide is forest fire mitigation.
There would be several immediate benefits of such a project for our community. Of course, the first would be the positive impact it would have on the estimated one hundred thousand dollars currently budgeted annually to heat our school, a cost that can only climb as the price for petroleum rises. Hence, this would be a huge step in decreasing our dependency on petroleum. Secondly, it would create several fulltime permanent jobs, in the logging arena as well as plant management. Such employment would require a strong work ethic but on-job training could be provided.
AEA suggested they start with a pilot project: the bio-mass heat for the school. Once instituted, they want to go on to build bio-mass for NSLC and then the Combined Heat and Power project. The idea of having greenhouse to grow food locally is apparently very exciting. Vigorous discussion ensued. It is understood that other natural resource development is in the works. Jim pointed out that due to the regulatory process, if natural gas is found out on the basin, the very soonest it could be brought in online would be 2022. The bio-mass project appears a more viable option. It was agreed to have a community dinner as the process progresses, to get information out to the larger community.
SARE Conference Update: David Poppe brought some literature in he collected from the SARE conference for people to peruse. He said that the first day, the pre-conference, featured two workshops. The first one was on how to create a business plan for a small farm business which will be needed if you are wanting to apply for loans, grants, or to bring partners into an enterprise.. The afternoon session was devoted to cultivation of gourmet mushrooms for the restaurant trade. Part of the work-shop was hand’s-on and each participant left with oyster mushroom spawn inoculated into wood chips or straw and the basic understanding of how to cultivate that crop.
The next two days were back–to-back presentations by a host of people involved in sustainable agricultural production themselves or government or other agency officials that support agriculture in Alaska. One of the highlights was a presentation by Bryce Wrigley who is growing and milling barley in delta and has begun placing his product for sale all over the state. His is a family run operation and his slideshow depicted the long-term process from concept to execution. His motivation he said was food security for our state. They are selling ground grain cereal and flours and have plans to expand their product line.
Another interesting presentation was about cultivating grass on gravel runways in rural/remote Alaska. They found that Arctic Red Fescue grew best, with the least trouble, and really held the gravel in place, which reduces maintenance on the runway. Calypso Farm in Ester sponsored a woman who talked about injury prevention. She had a slide show depicting some of the problems associated with posture and positioning that can result in lifelong back pain. She did demonstration exercises with the whole group on better ways to sit, bend and lift. There was a panel discussion on how to locate and finance the purchase of agriculture land in Alaska.
A very interesting presentation was on the Alaska Grower’s School which is a unique opportunity for people living in remote villages to gain the knowledge and skills to grow and raise food to complement a traditional, subsistence lifestyle. Although the program is open to anyone in Alaska, students from the Tanana Chiefs Conference region will be given priority for enrolling in the course as they are a partner on the grant. After students complete the course, they will gain the knowledge and skills necessary to grow enough food for themselves and 10 other families. The course consists of 22 units and can be delivered telephonically or web-based. Students will gain a variety of skills besides gardening, including raising bees, livestock, chickens, starting a business, and marketing garden and value-added products.
Other presentations included bee-keeping, contraptions that help do garden work, grants that are available for hoop houses and other infrastructure development, seed libraries, raising peonies as a market crop, raising heritage hogs and how to avoid or deal with potato blight. This is the fourth year David attended the SARE Conference and Kat’s third year. He said one of the best parts was getting to sit with John Dart from Manley Hot Springs at lunch. He is reclaiming farmland around the hot springs that was in farm production a hundred years ago. He has begun a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business from Manley that is supplying vegetables and fruits to the Fairbanks area 28 weeks a year. Kat added that he is growing grapes in his greenhouse! David said that John Dart is running water from the hot springs in pipes under the grow beds to warm the soil. We had a lively discussion about some of the farm and garden opportunities and activities in our community.
WELLNESS THOUGHT: “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means. “ Albert Einstein.
Jeannie: Freecycle and pot luck, Friday, March 30th, starting 5 PM, at the tribal hall.
Kat: Won’t be here next week due to a training she must attend in Fairbanks. Bonnie volunteered to cook lunch.
Miles: Has Black Prince tomato seeds available for anyone wanting to try this sub-arctic-hardy tomato.
Bonnie: Wednesday night at 7, at her house, a themed devotion on The Divine Art of Living.
Don’t forget the Chose Respect Walk Thursday, starting at the Depot and ending at the school for a community lunch. They will also have a community dinner that night to honor Chose Respect, at the tribal hall, at 5:30.
Art: City Assembly meeting the second Thursday of each month, at the Senior Center, starting at 5:30 P.M. They have two new nominees for vacant seats. Also Nenana has a chance to purchase at a reasonable cost the original Nenana Number One fire truck from a person who lives north of Fairbanks. It still runs!
Michelle: There will be a Ski Meet in Galena starting Thursday.
Music Fest starts April 19th in Healy at TriValley School, culminating in the big concert there on the 21st.
Jim: The seismic crews will be doing work for another month, including some blasting. Be sure to check in with them before going out there on dog sled or snow go.
Also, he understands there will be work going on widening the Parks Highway, making passing lanes, from the Rex Bridge area to within five miles of Nenana.
Rebecca: March 30th we will do set-up for the Nenana Health Fair, at the Civic Center, in the afternoon. We need volunteers!
March 31st will be the Sixth Annual Nenana Health Fair starting at 9 A.M. through 1 P.M. at the Civic Center, focusing on adult health issues.
Eric: April 3, 4, 5th will be testing at NCPS; the Exit Exams will be administered. April 6th is an in- Service day. No late start that Wednesday.