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Bob Gorman, Extension Agent of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

Bob Gorman, Extension Agent of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Professor Emeritus Bob Gorman will lead a walking garden tour at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 31, as part of the Sitka Seafood Festival.

The tour should last about 90 minutes, and participants should dress for the weather and be prepared for a walking tour with several stops. The garden tour will feature visits to a mixture of ornamental landscapes and food gardens in the downtown area.

Many of these gardens on this tour are private, home gardens, so no public map will be released for privacy reasons. However, last September when a cruise was in town with participants in the 2013 International Master Gardeners Conference, there was a similar tour of public gardens in town and there was a map (PDF document) provided to participants (note, the USDA Experimental Farm site in Sitka usually is closed to the public).

The event is free, but pre-registration is required and can be done by calling UAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District office at 747-9440 or emailing Jasmine Shaw at jdshaw2@alaska.edu by noon on July 31.

OWL Happy Health Hour specific July 28

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service‘s Happy Health Hour talk this month will be about antioxidants in Alaska’s wild berries.

The talk takes place from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 28 (Happy Health Hour talks are the fourth Monday of every month) and is available at libraries statewide on the OWL Network. In Sitka, these talks usually are accessed at Kettleson Memorial Library. But this month’s talk will be available for Sitka residents in Room 106 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, because Kettleson Memorial Library is closed while it moves into temporary quarters for the upcoming library expansion project.

Roxie Rodgers Dinstel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service will talk about the health benefits of antioxidants, the levels of antioxidants in a variety of Alaska’s wild berries, and how different preservation methods affect antioxidant levels. Many wild berries in Alaska, such as blueberries, are considered super foods because of the high levels of healthy antioxidants in them, and Alaska wild blueberries are even richer in antioxidants than wild blueberries from the Lower 48.

To learn more about the Happy Health Hour and this presentation, call the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 1-877-520-5211 or go to http://www.uaf.edu/ces/.

StPetersSignWithToDoListSignYour Sitka Local Foods Network needs a few volunteer harvesters to help pick the veggies at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm on Friday afternoons and occasional Saturday mornings.

We need veggie pickers from 3:30-5:30 p.m. every Friday throughout the summer to help harvest for the Sitka Farmers Market or our booth at Chelan Produce on non-market weeks. Volunteer harvesters also are needed from 8-9:30 a.m. on the Saturdays when we host the Sitka Farmers Market.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is a communal garden located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street (above Crescent Harbor). The communal garden grows produce sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets (held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on alternate Saturdays — July 26, Aug. 9, Aug. 23, and Sept. 6 — at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall (235 Katlian St.). On non-market weekends, we host a booth with locally grown produce when the folks from Chelan Produce are in town across from AC Lakeside.

In addition, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Mondays the week of a Sitka Farmers Market (July 21, Aug. 4, Aug. 18, and Sept. 1) people who use WIC coupons can purchase produce from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. We will sell produce to anybody on those Mondays, but we are not set up to take SNAP (food stamp) EBT payments and so those without WIC coupons need to pay cash.

Volunteer harvesters usually can get small amounts of produce for their family when they help at the garden. For more information, please contact St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm Lead Gardener Laura Schmidt at 738-7009. Volunteer harvesters should call Laura ahead of time to let her know you’re coming. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Recipe Contest FinalDo you have a favorite kid-friendly and healthy fish entree recipe that uses local seafood? The program wants you to enter your dish in its recipe contest at the .

Do you have a favorite kid-friendly and healthy fish entree recipe that uses local seafood? The Fish to Schools program wants you to enter your dish in its recipe contest at the Sitka Seafood Festival.

The contest is free, just type up your recipe and email it to Sophie Nethercut of the Sitka Conservation Society at sophie@sitkawild.org. You also will be asked to make up a batch for sampling. A panel of local residents will judge the recipes at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Sitka Seafood Festival’s main tent on the Sheldon Jackson Campus, and the winners receive prizes (including a gift certificate for Ludvig’s Bistro for the grand prize).

2014SSFSchedule5The purpose of the contest is to collect kid-friendly fish entree recipes that can be made for school lunches as part of the Fish to Schools program. The dishes should be healthy and easy to make (no special appliances). Baking the fish is preferred over frying, and recipes should be low in sodium and fat. The top seafood dishes will be used in school lunches at the Sitka School District, the state-run Mount Edgecumbe High School, and the private SEER School.

Samples of the dish (enough for at least 15 people to nibble) should be brought by 4:15 p.m. on Saturday to the Sitka Seafood Festival main tent at Sheldon Jackson Campus for judging. Entrants are encouraged to print out a copy of the recipe to include with your samples, and bring a photo of you making the dish (if possible).

For more information, click this link or call Sophie at 747-7509. This is one of many events as part of this year’s Sitka Seafood Festival, which has events on July 31-Aug. 2 at various locations around Sitka. Additional info about the Sitka Seafood Festival can be found here.

 

FishConsumptionCalc

Eat all the salmon you want, but limit your amount of salmon shark, the Alaska Section of Epidemiology (part of the Division of Public Health) said when it recently updated its safe seafood consumption guidelines.

The Section of Epidemiology, in partnership with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, started testing Alaska seafood for toxic heavy metals, such as mercury, and other pollutants, such as pesticides, back in 2001. The main reason for the research was to determine safe levels of seafood consumption for pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants, and others. According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the research involved testing fish, and using human hair samples to see how the heavy metals moved from species to species.

The Division of Public Health Division recommends eating fish at least twice a week. Medical research shows salmon are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are believed to improve cholesterol and fight heart disease. Many types of Alaska seafood also are part of the traditional Alaska Native diet.

The good news is Alaska’s five salmon varieties (chinook/king, sockeye/red, coho/silver, chum/keta/dog, and humpy/pink) all tested as safe for everybody, with no limitations for pregnant women or others, as did halibut smaller than 40 pounds and Alaska pollock (commonly found in fish sticks and fast food fishburgers). This year’s expanded testing increased the number of safe-for-all species to 23 from 11 in 2007 (see chart above for complete list).

However, there were some seafood species where the Office of Epidemiology suggests consumption limits. Alaskans should use a point system, where people can eat up to 12 points a week (the safe species get zero points), with points based on six-ounce portions. Halibut (40-80 pounds), lingcod (35-40 inches) and lake trout are worth three points. Halibut (80-140 pounds), lingcod (40-45 inches) and longnose skate are worth four points. Halibut (140-220 pounds) and yelloweye rockfish are worth six points. Halibut (220 pounds or larger), lingcod (45 inches or longer), salmon shark and spiny dogfish are worth 12 points and should only be eaten once per week.

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SarahLewisThis is a great time of the year to be in Sitka. The fish are running, gardens are starting to produce, and berries are ripe for the picking.

Many Sitka residents have pressure canners to preserve their harvest, and this weekend Sarah Lewis of the Juneau District Office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will be in town to teach three classes about canning on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She also provide free pressure canner gauge testing at the Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

“People can bring the gauge or the lid with the gauge still attached,” Sarah said. “If they have any questions about the full canner (gaskets, damage, how to use, etc.) they can bring the whole thing.”

In addition to testing pressure canner gauges, Sarah plans to work with Jasmine Shaw of the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service to have a wide variety of publications available about home canning. In addition, the UAF Cooperative Extension Service has a series of online tutorials on its website called “Preserving Alaska’s Bounty.” Pressure canner gauges should be tested at least once a year to make sure they are hitting the right pressures for safe food preservation.

We posted earlier about Sarah’s canner classes this weekend, hosted by the Sitka Kitch project, and info can be found here. However, the location for the first two classes has been moved to the Sitka Presbyterian Church (from Sitka High School) and the topic and time have been changed for Sunday’s class (new topic is Canning Jams and Jellies, new time is noon to 3 p.m., location remains Sitka High School). The canning classes are $20 each, and preregistration is required (call Marjorie at the number below).

For more information about the Sitka Kitch project and to register for Sarah’s canning classes, contact Marjorie Hennessy of the Sitka Conservation Society at marjorie@sitkawild.org or 747-7509.

WilcoxFamily25thAnniversary

WilcoxFamilyRunMapAfter nearly 3,000 miles and six months of running, the Wilcox family from Sitka reached its finish line Saturday, July 19, in Ocean City, N.J., to complete its cross-country run across the country to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food system and the roles of large agribusiness companies, such as Monsanto, in making it difficult for consumers to know which food contains GMOs.

Fifteen-year-old David Wilcox decided he wanted to run across country back in 2010, when he read about another teenage runner to complete the USA crossing, so he and his father, Brett, 53, started training. In January, Brett quit his job as a behavioral health clinician and David’s mom, Kris, put her cleaning business on hold, and the family rented out its home in Sitka. Brett and David started the run on Jan. 18 in Huntington Beach, Calif., and started running about 20 miles a day, six days a week. While Brett and David ran, Kris and David’s younger sister, Olivia, 13, drove ahead on the course in the used pick-up truck and trailer the family purchased for the trip. Along the way, Brett and David took turns pushing a runner’s stroller loaded with their supplies for the day, water bottles, lunch, some GMO-free lettuce seeds, GMO literature, a few copies of Brett’s book, We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie, Book One, and the 15-year-old family dog, Angel. (Note, after awhile, Angel decided she didn’t like riding in the stroller and preferred riding in the truck, so the Wilcox family adopted a new dog, Jenna, while in Texas.)

DavidAndBrett“Being able to run 20 miles with David is a good thing,” Brett said. “Running with him for 20 miles a day, day after day for six months across 13 states is a great thing. I got to know David far better than I would have in our routines back in Sitka. I have a lot of respect for David for sticking with it even when it was tough going. Of course our run would not have been possible if Kris and Olivia had not been there to support us. Our last day’s run included a big radio interview and a police escort to the beach. Kris and several other runners joined in and ran with us. We passed through a cheering crowd as we entered the boardwalk. It was a special moment. Of course, the fact that Kris and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on the same day we finished our run gave the whole occasion a fairy tale sort of ending.”

The Wilcox family decided to use the run to raise awareness about our food supply because the family is vegetarian, and they don’t like seeing more GMOs enter the food supply, and consumers not being able to find out which foods have GMOs. “Running For a GMO Free USA was the perfect cause for us. We learned that virtually all people — regardless of location — oppose chemically-saturated genetically modified organisms,” Brett said.

Trying to find GMO-free food on the run did become an issue for the family, and for part of the trip they stopped eating corn tortillas because of how much of our nation’s corn now has GMOs (they did find some Navajo corn tortillas they decided to try). GMOs also are in soy, sugar beets, and several other plants, and they may soon be coming to potatoes used by large fast food corporations. Along the way, the Wilcox family passed through St. Louis just in time to participate in the annual March Against Monsanto (an international event on May 24 this year) right outside Monsanto headquarters. Last year, the Wilcox family hosted a March Against Monsanto event in Sitka.

BrettWilcoxAtMonsantoHeadquartersWhen they planned the run, the Wilcox family hooked up with several anti-GMO groups across the country, and those groups helped connect the family to local media outlets and runners where they could spread their message. The anti-GMO groups helped the Wilcox family raise some funds and find places to stay for the trip, and there were two Indiegogo crowd-funding campaigns coordinated by Owen Kindig of Sitka (the first campaign raised $7,500 when it closed in January, and the current campaign still has 40-plus days left to run and has raised roughly $1,400). Along the way, Brett and Kris regularly updated the family’s Running the Country blog and Facebook page. Different media groups covered the run (here’s a link to our story before the run), and the media coverage increased as Brett and David neared the finish line. In recent weeks there has been coverage from small media outlets and large ones, such the Philadelphia Inquirer and Runner’s World magazine. Here is a link to the KCAW-Raven Radio story that aired July 21 about the Wilcox family run.

DavidWHIZNewsInterviewBrett and David trained for the run, but soon realized their training was a little lacking in LSD (long, slow, distance) runs. David won the Southeast Conference (Region V) cross-country running title in October, but most of his runs during the season were about five miles. Brett, a regular bike commuter, also ran shorter distances, and he and David had one or two longer runs a week. Running 20 miles a day, six days a week resulted in a lot of blisters, several worn-out pairs of shoes, and a couple of injuries along the way. Brett was hobbled early in the run by a bad foot, David had a bad leg, and Brett said he plans to have minor surgery in the near future for another injury.

“I had a couple of months where I couldn’t run, so instead I just walked,” David said. “Probably the best day for me was the day the fourth chiropractor fixed me. He was really nice to us, he let us take a shower. I told him where it hurt, and he told me what was wrong and he told me he was going to fix it and I was sort of wondering if he could really fix it. A muscle that’s supposed to be on the inside of my hip was on the outside. He pulled it over and told me I was fixed. Then he adjusted something else that I didn’t even know was wrong. He also worked on my mom and dad.”

As the miles piled up, the Wilcox family enjoyed the scenery. But sometimes the weather was a bit too hot for folks used to a temperate rain forest and then there were the ticks.

“Pennsylvania was probably the most beautiful state, but I could never live there because it’s too hot and humid,” David said. “I can’t wait to get back to Sitka so I can run the trails and not have to worry about ticks.”

WilcoxFamiyFinishesCrossCountryRunNow that the Wilcox family is done with the run, the next plan is to go to Washington, D.C., to talk with members of Congress and various agencies about GMOs. They already have meetings scheduled with Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and hope to add a meeting with Sen. Mark Begich. “It will be fun to pass on to them what we learned from our cross-country run,” Brett said.

The family also will be doing more fundraising to help pay for the trip. “Our run is now over but we’ve spent far more than we’ve received from donations,” Brett said. “If you’d like to help us out with our expenses, please donate online at RunningTheCountry.com or at Indiegogo.com. The name of our Indiegogo fundraising campaign is ‘Help the Wilcox Family Finish Strong.’ Thanks to all the people who have helped us help David achieve his big dream to run across the USA.”

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