The Tanana District Extension Office is temporarily closed due to  COVID-19 health concerns. However, we are still working to help keep our community well-informed and healthy.
  • For most questions, you can reach us through our “Ask an Expert” portal.
  • For pest, plant or plant disease identification, submit your questions and photos through our Citizen Scienceportal.
  • And remember, even when our office is closed, you can download all of our free publications anytime at
* PLEASE NOTE: Our office is currently short staffed, so responses to questions about agriculture, horticulture and pests, in particular, may be delayed while we work out scheduling. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience and understanding. Thank you!


HELLO! The Tanana District is one of the largest Cooperative Extension districts geographically in the United States, covering an area of more than 120,000 square miles with a current population of approximately 100,000 distributed in 64 Native villages and the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Much of the district is inaccessible by road. The Tanana District clientele is very diverse including 4-H leaders, youth groups, homeowners, homemaker clubs, private and commercial agriculture, local government, military personnel, subsistence families, cooperating agencies and the general public. We have agents here to assist you in areas of agriculture and horticulture; health, home and family development; and 4-H and youth development.

LOCATION: UAF University Park Building,1000 University Ave., Room 109, Fairbanks, AK 99709 Map it!

MAILING ADDRESS: P.O. Box 758155, Fairbanks, AK 99775-8155

HOURS: We are available to assist you Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We close daily for lunch from 1 to 2 p.m. (Office is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 health concerns.)

PHONE: Still have questions? Please call us at 907-474-1530 — we are happy to help!

CESTD LISTSERV: Be one of the first to hear about events at the Tanana District office! Send an email to to be placed on the CESTD listserv.


VACANCY NOTE: Our office is temporarily without an agriculture/horticulture agent as well as an integrated pest management technician. While we are in transition, please feel free to contact the following for questions:

  • Other pest questions (insects, diseases, dead or dying plants):
  • Joey Slowik, IPM tech, Palmer, 907-746-9489,
  • PSEP training, pesticides:
  • Phil Kaspari, ag agent, Delta Junction, 907-895-4215,, or Katie Rubin, IPM/PSEP, Delta, 907-895-4215,
  • Soil testing:
  • Extension offers two helpful publications for obtaining a soil test; please review Soil Sampling (FGV-00044) and Factors to Consider in Selecting a Soil Testing Laboratory (FGV-00045). Pease note, there are fees associated with the soil laboratories listed. If  you prefer to get your soil test done locally, for a reasonable fee, contact  Fairbanks Soil & Water Conservation District. Brian Atkinson is in charge of the FSWCD soil testing program. Main number 479-1213, ext. 108, or


Congratulations, Julie,

on your well-deserved retirement!

You will be missed by your

Extension family across the state.

You've come a long way, baby!

Here's to new adventures!

Julie Riley 1985




 Julie Riley 2017

Longtime Extension horticulture agent Julie Riley retires

She has been with Extension in Alaska for 36 years, making her one of the longest-serving agents in Alaska Extension’s 90-year history.

Riley came to Anchorage in August 1984 as the newly hired “urban horticulturist.” She said, “My first week here frost killed the zucchini and I thought to myself, ‘What have I done?’ ”

Before coming to Alaska, the horticulturist had worked two years for a county Extension program in Wisconsin that encouraged the development of community gardens in inner-city Milwaukee.

She thought a lot of her work in Anchorage would focus on developing community gardens but discovered many already existed. Instead, she found what she calls a wave of interest in horticulture. “There was just this tremendous interest in gardening,” she said.

Riley spent 32 years in Anchorage, where she trained more than 1,500 Master Gardeners and advanced Master Gardeners, and, after transferring to Fairbanks in 2016, continued her work with farmers and gardeners.

In addition to training gardeners, she worked with organizations to develop community gardens at churches, elementary schools, housing units, etc. She was also interested in horticultural therapy, and worked with entities including the Salvation Army, Alaska Psychiatric Institute, the Anchorage Pioneers Home, the McLaughlin Youth Center and many other institutions.

One of her best-known projects was a 10-year collaboration with Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services and Catholic Social Services. She coordinated the Refugee Farmers Market Project, providing horticultural and marketing education to Hmong, Bhutanese and West African refugees in Anchorage. They grew vegetables and herbs on city parkland and sold their produce at a farmers market. Sales reached an all-time high of more than $12,000, but it wasn’t about the money, she said. The project introduced refugees to new vegetables and gardening techniques and got them out interacting with others in the community.

She has developed a loyal following among Master Gardeners. Anchorage retiree Jane Baldwin said becoming a Master Gardener was on her bucket list when she signed up for the training in 1999.

“I really, thoroughly enjoyed it,” she said, Not only did she learn a lot more about gardening, she said, “It taught me how to find answers.”

Baldwin learned a lot about gardening and also found a community of like-minded people. She is the unofficial historian for the Anchorage Master Gardeners Association and has a whole new network of friends.

She said Julie was good at providing the training at a level people who were not grounded in science understood, and she was always accessible and approachable.

“She’s certainly got a heart of gold,” she said.

Riley also became interested and informed about peony production and worked with peony growers. She consulted with them as well as hosted workshops. She also participated regularly in the Anchorage Herb Study Group and Rose Society. She and another agent, Leslie Shallcross, hosted a Potato Bash several years to introduce consumers to more than two dozen specialty potatoes.

After coming to Fairbanks, she has become interested in insects because Fairbanks did not have an integrated pest management technician and she wanted to be better able to answer clients’ questions.

Riley has received many recognitions for her work, including the Achievement and Distinguished Service Awards from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. The Refugee Assistance and Immigration Service gave her the Guiding Star Award on World Refugee Day for her work with refugees and Bhutanese gardeners honored her, along with the Municipality of Anchorage. The Anchorage Master Gardener Association gave her its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.

“Working for Extension has been my life,” Riley said. “It’s been a very satisfying career. I’ve learned so much. I learn something every day.”

One thing she learned from refugee gardeners is that gardening and your approach to it is based on what you grew up with.  

“Over the years, I’ve been able to see that there’s more to gardening than just planting vegetables and flowers,” she says. She is also helping to develop leaders. Master Gardener training requires gardeners to complete 40 volunteer hours in the community, and she has encouraged Master Gardeners to become involved with gardener or master gardener associations as officers and to stay involved in their communities. Many have.

Reflecting on her retirement, she writes, “My retirement dream was to be dropped off on an atoll 1,400 miles northwest of Hawaii where I could pull invasive weeds for six months. I thought this would be the perfect way to decompress after working so long with the university, no Internet, no cell phone and 300 5-gallon buckets of food. Plus as a volunteer, I’d be helping to make Kure Atoll safer for seabirds who used the site UNESCO World Heritage Site for nesting.” Alas, she notes. She is not able to walk 10 miles a day and carry a 40-pound back.

She wants to learn more about insects and volunteer with Derek Sikes’ team at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.


FAIRBANKS MASTER GARDENER COURSE is usually scheduled in late fall/early winter so that our gardeners are geared up for spring. While our office is temporarily without an agriculture/horticulture agent, we are currently working out the details of a future class offering.  For general information on the Master Gardener program, visit the MG website. Information about the Master Gardener Online Course can be found here. To be placed on a class interest list, contact Ronda Boswell at 907-474-2450 or

PESTICIDE SAFETY APPLICATOR TRAINING is available as a self study option if a face-to-face class is not currently scheduled or if class dates are not convenient. (Face-to-face classes are typically scheduled during the spring months.) For general information about the Pesticide Safety Education Program, visit the PSEP website. Program contact: Phil Kaspari, 907-895-4215,

CERTIFIED FOOD PROTECTION MANAGER TRAINING (ServSafe) is offered as a face-to-face class a few times a year as well as online through the self study option. Please visit the CFPM website to learn more about these training options. Program contact: Julie Cascio, 907-745-3677,

FREE TESTING OF PRESSURE CANNER DIAL GAUGES! Gauges can be tested on or OFF the lid of the canner (no need to haul in the whole canner). If we have someone available to test, it only takes a few minutes while you wait. If not, you may leave your gauge and we will call you when it is ready for pick up (usually within 24 hours). It is important to have your pressure canner dial gauges checked annually to help assure home canned food is safely processed. (Pressure canners that use weighted gauges do not need to be checked.) While visiting our office, be sure to pick up some free food preservation publications! Information contact: Leslie Shallcross, 907-474-2426,

DIABETES PREVENTION PROGRAM offers a year-long lifestyle change class that focuses on making small gradual changes in exercise, food, stress management, etc., that have been shown to delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. Contact Leslie Shallcross at 907-474-2426 or to find out if the program is right for you and when the next class will be offered.

FREE PEST IDENTIFICATION! Got a weird insect that is puzzling you? Specimens can be identified through our Citizens Monitoring Portal. To learn more about the Integrated Pest Management program and the Citizen's Monitoring Portal, please visit the  IPM website. (NOTE: Cooperative Extension Service does not identify pests found on the human body. For such cases, please contact your physician or visit the emergency room.) Information contact: Joey Slowik, 907-745-3360,

STRONGWOMEN is a nationally recognized nutrition and moderate intensive physical activity program developed and tested by scientists and exercise physiologists at Tufts University. Staying physically active and being properly nourished is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy for life. Scientific research has demonstrated that exercise with weights (strength training) will increase strength, muscle mass, and bone density in middle aged and older women. Strengthening exercises also reduce the risk of numerous chronic diseases such as diabetes, hearth disease, osteoporosis and arthritis. Strength training has been shown to reduce depression and improve sleep, and it contributes to a sense of well-being among older individuals. To find out about trainings and classes in the Fairbanks area, visit the Fairbanks StrongWomen website. You can also learn more about the program at the national StrongWomen website. Program contact: Leslie Shallcross, 907-474-2426 or

4-H logo made smallerALASKA 4-H PROGRAM is open to all youth in grades K-12 and their families. See what exciting things the program has in store for your youth by visiting the Alaska 4-H website.  Program contact: Marla Lowder, 907-474-2427,