The shelves of home improvement centers, garden stores, and plant nurseries are lined with petrochemical fertilizers and a wide range of pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides.
Pesticides contain toxic chemicals that may be highly mobile and can poison the air, leach into soils, and contaminate our water and food. Pesticides applied outdoors can also be tracked into our homes.
Pesticides are designed to be toxic and are inherently harmful to the health of animals and humans—even at low levels. They can persist in the environment long after the initial application. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only requires pesticide manufacturers to list “active” ingredients on product labels even though other ingredients may make up more than 90% of a pesticide formulation. These other ingredients are deceptively termed “inert” even though they may be chemically or biologically active and increase the bio-availability and toxicity of a pesticide.
Current pesticide registration protocols and regulations under the EPA and State of Alaska are outdated, do not reflect the latest science, and leave gaps in the protection of public health, especially the health of children, who are disproportionately exposed because of their closeness to the ground and hand-to-mouth behaviors.
Exposures to pesticides, even at very low levels, have been linked with adverse health effects including reproductive and developmental harm; cancer, kidney and liver damage; immune system impairment; and endocrine disruption. For more information about pesticides and health, visit this link.
How we choose to deal with pests and weeds can affect fish, wildlife, and people well beyond our own yard and garden. The good news is that there are safe and effective alternatives to pesticides and petro-chemical fertilizers.
Here are some resources for growing and finding healthy foods in Alaska:
- Yarducopia (a program of Alaska Community Action on Toxics) is accepting signups for gardeners looking for growing space, landowners offering space, and volunteers offering time to help make it all happen. Get involved with local neighborhood, school, and community gardens through our Yarducopia program, Growing Food and Building Community in the Far North. Contact [email protected] or visit the Yarducopia page.
- Check out Currant Affairs, a newsletter compiled regularly by Yarducopia (a program of Alaska Community Action on Toxics) and the Alaska Food Policy Council. The newsletter is rich with information for those interested in growing and eating healthy foods, and includes information about community workshops and events, jobs, and more! To sign up, please send an email to [email protected].
- Buy fresh, healthy produce locally! The Alaska Farmers Market Association’s Market Directory is a simple, easy way to find and learn more about farmers markets near you, locations, hours, payment options, and more.
- The Alaska Food Policy Council’s goal is to create a healthier, more secure, and more self-reliant Alaska by improving our food system.
- Anchor Gardens aims to make gardening resources and expertise accessible to everyone in the Municipality of Anchorage regardless of income or home ownership status.
- A List of Anchorage Food Pantries.
- Community Composting at the Midtown Garden Depot (2930 Cheechako Street). Help divert yard waste from Anchorage’s landfill by making compost to share with Anchorage gardeners. Contact [email protected] / (907) 717-4392.
- Good Earth Garden School offers classes and workshops about organic, sustainable gardening, as well as great information about soil biology, composting, compost tea, and how to grow delicious organic vegetables.
- Calypso Farm is a non-profit educational farm in Fairbanks, Alaska offering hands-on education programs for all ages and growing fresh food for the community. Community leader Eva Dawn Burke, Denaakk’e and Lower Tanana Athabascan from the villages of Nenana and Manley Hot Springs, has been working with Calypso to promote local food production and combat food insecurity in Alaska Native communities.