When Toni Loop started working on building a community garden in Nikiski, the price of lumber was a lot lower.
Before the pandemic, she could cover all the costs with a $3,500 grant she had from the Alaska Farm Bureau. But lumber costs have skyrocketed during COVID-19, due to supply shortages and high demand.
Still, Loop is charging ahead with the project and plans to open it this summer. She wants a garden for people who don’t have their own at home.
“I can see people who are struggling financially, they can help with the volunteer side," Loop said. "At the end of the season, they can go and bring things home. We are talking about doing some gardening classes so people can learn how to can stuff. Or any of the youth organizations who want to work in the garden.”
Loop is planning the garden in two parts. The first is where those raised beds come in, though she can’t build those until she can get ahold of more lumber.
She’s hoping eventually to have 15 beds set up — seven for volunteers and seven for rent.
“’Cause not everybody can have gardens in their yards," Loop said.
One bed would be set aside for a youth organization.
“I’m heavy into 4H, I have my own club," she said. "But I also know there are two other youth organizations who also would be interested in having a raised bed."
The other part she’s planning is a community plot where people can come volunteer and, at the end of the season, take home produce. She’d hope that garden could be used by those who are financially insecure or homeless.
She also sees elderly people benefiting.
“I’ve seen several of them who would love to garden but don’t have a place to garden," Loop said. "And I know a few who can’t do the manual work. But they could benefit coming and planting seeds.”
Seward also has a community garden and there are several in the Mat-Su Valley. Soldotna Rep. Ron Gillham has suggested starting a similar garden near the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank on K-Beach Road.
Loop, a long-time Niksiki resident, has been gardening for many years.
“I kind of did the size to begin with based on my garden size so I can get a visual,” Loop said.
The land for the garden is already cleared. It’s a spot about 60-by-85-feet at the Nikiski Community Park on the Kenai Spur. Loop said the garden now falls under the umbrella of the park.
Even though she’s still waiting on materials for the raised beds, she said she has what she needs to set up mounds, build a fence and start to plant this summer.
Toni Loop is looking for pressure-treated lumber for the raised beds, plant, soil and equipment donations, and volunteers for the summer. She can be reached at 907-740-1476.
Monetary donations can be brought to Jackie Carlson at the North Peninsula Recreation Center.