An artist’s rendering of the rebuilt café with attached greenhouse in the back. (Image courtesy Chichagof Conservation Council)

Residents in Tenakee Springs are working to convert the historic Blue Moon Café into a geothermally-heated greenhouse and public gathering space. The project will use local renewable energy to extend the town’s gardening season.

The site is still under construction, but, if all goes according to plan, the new greenhouse-cafe will be up and running by springtime.

Molly Kemp, with the Chichagof Conservation Council, says the greenhouse will provide local greens year-round, with the help of some LED lighting during the darkest months. That would be a big deal for a remote town like Tenakee.

“In the winter months, when the ferry’s not running and the planes are grounded by weather, the fresh vegetable situation can get pretty bleak,” Kemp said.

Kevin Allred is spearheading the project. He and his wife Carlene bought the derelict café in the hopes of restoring it and adding a greenhouse.

The space will be heated with renewable energy, thanks to Kevin’s handiwork as a self-taught geothermal expert. He’s refitted several buildings in town, in addition to his own house, to take advantage of hot water coming right out of the ground.

“When we bought our home we tried it out and we’ve been here 10 years and haven’t had to pay anything for heat ‘cause we got it for free from a warm spring,” Allred said.

Other residents have turned out to help the Allreds, contributing over 120 volunteer hours. Kevin says he wants the greenhouse and café to produce some economic benefits alongside the winter greens.

“I’m really excited about it, I’m hoping it can provide first of all a little income for whoever’s managing, taking care of the cafe,” he said. “And the greenhouse might feasibly be used to make a little bit too.”

The Conversation Council has helped raise money for the project, supplementing what the Allreds have paid out of their own pocket. Kemp says she expects the greenhouse to be operational by the end of winter, in time to plant seeds for summer gardens. 
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