Ionia’s Barn is designed to be a place where therapy and subsistence meet.
While sustaining ourselves and our families in a village of our own building, Ionia has been involved with increasing local food independence for a very long time. Alaska’s food security has recently become a priority concern. As Danny Consenstein, Director of USDA Farm Service Agency says, “In 1955 we were pretty self-sufficient, but from 1955 to 2012, we have…become completely vulnerable, completely dependent on the next plane.” Ionia promotes local foods by sharing our experience in many ways with growing, gathering, cooking and preserving. We are known for our delicious wholesome meals and beautiful gardens. We are researching and adapting seed appropriate for growing in the short Cohoe growing season – we are very interested especially in adapting grains and beans. We also harvest bountiful wild sea vegetables, wild spring greens and herbs, mushrooms and berries. For this dream of locally produced food to be successful, it will take many parties involved on many levels to bring about both the ability to grow more food and the desire to consume the food that is grown.
Ionia’s Barn is also the largest straw/clay building in this country and perhaps the world. It attracts many volunteers and visitors interested in Natural Building with inexpensive, local materials. The breathable straw/clay walls are a radiating heat mass and have three times the R value of log or conventionally insulated buildings. Most of the materials are sourced from Alaska: quality clay from Kasilof and barley straw from Delta Junction, log beams from Kenai, Rocket mass heaters from Kasilof clay and stone, and cedar siding from Prince of Wales Island. Simple natural building techniques are considered therapeutic here at Ionia and we have developed a large mechanized system for the production of straw/clay insulation which can be adapted for many kinds of construction.
The Ionia Barn Project is funded by matching grants from the Rasmuson Foundation, MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Alaska’s state legislature, USDA Rural Development (planning grant) and Paul G Allen Family Foundation as well as generous private donations.