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 gone from being self-reliant and independent to completely vulnerable, completely dependent on the next plane.” Ionia has cleared 30 acres of spruce and muskeg for agriculture, found appropriate grains for growing in the short Cohoe growing season and enjoy extended season garden vegetables, local sea vegetables and mushrooms and local berry pies, jams, and vinegars. Ionia is known for its delicious wholesome meals.
Ionia’s Barn is the largest straw/clay building in this country and perhaps the world. It attracts many volunteers and visitors interested in natural building. This ancient type of construction originated in dry southern areas of the world, and have now been adapted to the northern regions. One of the benefits for Alaska is the low carbon footprint and energy-efficiency, perfect for our cold wet climate. 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, birch flooring from Palmer and cedar siding from Prince of Wales Island. Ionia wishes to share these inexpensive, natural building techniques. We have developed a large mechanized system for the production of straw/clay insulation which can be adapted for many kinds of construction.
At Ionia, we also support and help to develop a wide range of food grown on the Kenai Peninsula. For this dream to be successful, it will take many parties involved on many levels to bring about the ability to produce food locally and the desire to consume the food that is grown. We promote local foods by sharing our experience, cooking and preserving, collecting seeds and sharing our harvesting/processing equipment with other growers. Ionia’s Barn will be a comfortable learning environment for common sense pathways to food security. It is based on an assumption of commonness rather than an assumption of separation.
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.