Story last updated at 6/24/2009 - 10:46 am
As a vendor and presenter at the first Juneau Farmers Market in August 2008, Joe Orsi was impressed with the turn-out: 1,500 people enthusiastic to buy locally grown produce, many of them eager to learn how to plant their own. As such, Orsi has already registered for a booth at Second Annual Juneau Farmers Market and Local Foods Festival which will be held August 29.
A fish biologist by training, Orsi enjoys hobby gardening and trying new things. In the past, he's raised bees for honey and to pollinate his fruit trees (yes, apples in Southeast Alaska!). And for the past few years, he's added hard-neck garlic to his organic Juneau garden.
"Hard-neck garlic is a plant well-suited to Southeast Alaska's climate," Orsi says. "The garlic itself has an earthy, robust flavor many people prefer to store-bought garlic."
At last year's market he sold more than 50 pounds of bulb garlic This year he expects as much or more from his organic garden of 1,500 plants.
As an organic gardener, Orsi doesn't use any chemicals, pesticides or chemical fertilizers - only organic materials such as compost, and chicken manure from his own chickens. He's also a big proponent of the enriched compost available through Ed's Edible Landscaping.
At the upcoming Farmers Market Orsi will talk about growing and processing garlic in Southeast Alaska and he'll also discuss Southeast Alaska gardening techniques beneficial to other crops. For example, his use of raised beds and IRT plastic sheeting last year meant he avoided many problems other gardeners experienced with that summer's wet weather.
For Orsi, the timing of the August 29 Farmers Market event couldn't be better:.
"Fall is the perfect time to buy garlic to plant," he says. "You plant it in September and harvest the next July and August."
Last year, a number of his customers said they would replant some of his bulbs in their own gardens. This season, Orsi's raspberry canes have been flowering profusely. With a little help from the bumblebees, he may just have some jam for sale at the Farmers Market this year as well.