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.”


Sitka Farmers Market Co-Managers Debe Brincefield, left, and Ellexis Howey, third from left, present the Table Of The Day Award to Allison Sayer of Hearts and Flowers, second from left, while tablemate Kitty Sopo looks on at the second Sitka Farmers Market of the 2014 summer on Saturday, July 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall in Sitka. Allison is a new vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market and she sold fireweed syrups and jellies, salmonberry fruit leather in the shape of a heart, journals and pendants. Allison received a gift bag with fresh greens, fresh rhubarb, and a copy of the Alaska Farmers Market Cookbook. This is the seventh year of Sitka Farmers Markets, hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network. The next market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St. Bring your canner pressure gauge to this market to have it checked. Also, check our website to learn about our new bus service to the market. For more information about the Sitka Farmers Markets and Sitka Local Foods Network, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/ or check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork. (PHOTO COURTESY OF SITKA LOCAL FOODS NETWORK)

SitkaFarmersMarketSignThe second Sitka Farmers Market of the 2014 summer took place on Saturday, July 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian St.

We wound up with a bit of rainy weather for this market, but we still had a nice crowd and some new booths. We also launched our new bus service from Sitka Tours. This free service will be available at all of the rest of our markets this summer.

The third Sitka Farmers Market of the season takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, at ANB Founders Hall. Sarah Lewis of the Juneau District Office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will be at this market providing free pressure canner gauge testing, so bring in your gauge or pressure canner. To learn more, watch this site for updates. A slideshow with scenes from the second market is below.

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IMG_6075Free dirt is now available to the people of Sitka for their gardening needs. On a trial basis, your Sitka Local Foods Network (SLFN) worked with and formalized an agreement with the City and Borough of Sitka, Sitka School District, and the Blatchley Community Gardens to provide free dirt to individuals, families, and non-commercial entities for developing fruit, vegetable, and flower gardens and beds.

The free community dirt pile is located at Blatchley Community Gardens, behind Blatchley Middle School. The pile is to the right (north) of the community garden and only dirt between the signs should be removed. People can remove dirt at any time, though avoiding school hours when school is in session is preferred.

“This is raw dirt, mostly from land development in forest and muskeg lots around Sitka. It is NOT top soil, but it is a good starting point for gardens when mixed with locally purchased lime and sand, and locally purchased or produced compost, manure, and other organic materials,” said Michelle Putz, SLFN vice-president. The Sitka Local Foods Network asks that gardeners not remove sand, rocks, live kelp or live creatures from local beaches to build their soil.

People taking dirt should bring their own shovels and containers for dirt. To make sure there is enough for everyone, SLFN asks Sitkans to take as much as you need but please do not use it for commercial use or developing a lot. People who are coming for dirt need to respect the gardens, gardeners, compost, equipment and other materials at the site by only taking dirt from the pile and not removing or using anything else at the site.

“One of the most asked questions SLFN gets is ‘where can I get dirt to start a garden?’ We recognize that dirt is scarce in Sitka, and we wanted to try to do something about it,” Putz said. “Making soil, the starting point of all gardens, more available to people really helps us to meet our mission of increasing the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. We hope that people will take all the dirt they need to build new and larger vegetable, fruit, and flower beds, planters and gardens.”

Local contractors, like Troy’s Excavation, are providing the dirt. If this trial goes well, the Sitka Local Foods Network hopes to continue to provide free dirt. Compost will not be given away or created at this time.

Those with questions or wishing to help volunteer on this or other SLFN projects should call Michelle at 747-2708.


Your Sitka Local Foods Network reminds Sitkans that now is a great time to think about scaling up vegetable garden production with local soil amendments. Large scale production in your garden takes some forethought and requires good, productive, healthy soil. Local amendments such as seaweed, fish parts, chicken and duck manure, and other materials can help boost the production in your garden.

Lori Adams, owner and manager of Down-to-Earth U-Pick Garden, will host two discussions and hands-on workshops on large-scale garden production using local amendments at her u-pick garden at 2103 Sawmill Creek Road (across from the Mormon church). Classes will be held from 3-4 p.m. on Sunday, July 27, or at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 28.  All are welcome to come and attend these free classes.

Other topics that may be discussed include using ducks in the garden, organizing and simplifying techniques to keep costs down, and proven seed varieties for success.

Lori grew up on a farm in Oregon, and has gardened in Sitka for 20 years. Her u-pick garden has been in production for about six years. In 2012, Lori wrote a series of garden columns for the Daily Sitka Sentinel (and reprinted on the Sitka Local Foods Network website), and in 2013 she produced a book of those columns, “How to Grow Vegetables in Sitka, Alaska,” which she sells for $20 a copy at her Sitka Farmers Market booth. For information or directions to the garden, call Lori at 747-6108 or 738-2241.

The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee has been hosting a series of “It’s time to …” workshops this spring and summer designed to help local residents learn about various aspects of vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Many of these classes will be informal get-togethers at various gardens around town. Please watch our website, Facebook pageFacebook group, and local news media for information about upcoming classes. If you have an “It’s time to …” workshop you’d like to teach, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

The SLFN education committee is still looking to expand our network of local volunteers who can teach classes (formal and informal) this year about growing food, please email Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com with info about what topics you can teach, your gardening experience, and contact information so we can add you to our database of instructors.

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ssflogo2The fifth annual Sitka Seafood Festival is finalizing its schedule for July 31-Aug. 2 at various locations around Sitka, but tickets have gone on sale for its three main events — the VIP cocktail hour on Friday night, the five-course banquet on Friday night, and the headline entertainment concert by the Yup’ik soul group Pamyua on Saturday night (link to Pamyua’s Facebook page).

The major events for the Sitka Seafood Festival will take place on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 1-2, but there are some additional events set for July 31 (a wine bottle-signing and a garden tour). A full festival schedule is available here.

On Friday, Aug. 1, the VIP cocktail hour takes place from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Harrigan Centennial Hall Exhibit Room, and the cost is $35 per person. The five-course seafood banquet prepared by guest chefs starts at 7 p.m. at Harrigan Centennial Hall (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). The banquet costs $65 per person, or you can buy a whole table for $600 (10 seats per table). There are Friend of the Festival tables available for $800.

The tentative menu for Friday’s banquet features (according to an email from event founder Alicia Haseltine):

  • Amuse Bouche — herring roe, finger lime, baby fennel, cucumber, bulls blood
  • First Course — ricotta gnocchi, sea asparagus (pesto), foraged mushroom xo, tat soi oil, brown butter
  • Second Course — scallops, pistachio crumble, fromage blanc, yellow squash puree, snap pea coulis, pancetta
  • Third Course — rockfish, spruce tip nage, lemon ash marshmallow, arugula, whole barley, carrot
  • Fourth Course — salmon, tomato jam, scallion potato puree, black garlic aioli, leeks charred
  • Fifth Course — cocoa praline rocks, chocolate soil, sudachi curd, huckleberry, merlot caramel, bergamot cloud mascarpone and cream base

On Saturday, Aug. 2, the day opens with tote races at 11 a.m. at Crescent Harbor, followed by the parade at 11:30 a.m. from Crescent Harbor Shelter to the Sitka Fine Arts Camp/Sheldon Jackson Campus, and the marketplace from noon until 7 p.m. There will be a variety of entertainment from noon until 4 p.m., and the Scottish Highland Games are from noon to 6 p.m., both at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp/Sheldon Jackson Campus. The headline entertainment concert by Pamyua starts at 7 p.m. at Allen Hall at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp/Sheldon Jackson Campus, and tickets are $20 per person.

Volunteers are needed all week for the festival, which includes event set up and tear down. To learn more, contact Sitka Seafood Festival Director Carolyn Kinneen at (907) 222-8422 or email sitkaseafoodfestival@gmail.com. Parade participants should contact Linda Olson at 747-6985. Scottish Highland Games participants are welcome to practice at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sundays at the Moller Field Track



RhubarbWine1Rhubarb is one of the easiest plants to grow in Sitka. So what do you do with all the extra rhubarb, after you’ve already made as many pies and jams and other rhubarb recipes as you can handle? You can make rhubarb wine.

Perry Edwards and Michelle Putz, who are members of the Sitka Global Warming Group, will teach their annual homemade wine-making class at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 18, at their home (address and directions will be given to people who register for the class). This fun and informative beginner’s class will teach people how to use locally grown fruit, such as rhubarb, apples or berries, to make wine. This class will offer simple wine-making tips, techniques, tools, and will feature Perry and Michelle’s award-winning rhubarb wine recipe.

This class is free and open to all adults age 21 or older. Space is very limited and this class fills up fast. Please pre-register to assure your spot in the class. For more information, or to register for the class, please call Michelle at 747-2708. This wine-making class is sponsored by the Sitka Global Warming Group.


Picture10Want to learn how to extend your growing season with high tunnels and find out how Sitka growers can receive help from the USDA to purchase a high tunnel? Samia Savell of the Juneau office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will give a presentation from 5-6 p.m. on Thursday, July 10, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

In recent years, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has offered a cost-sharing program that enables qualifying landowners who produce food to build high tunnels. Samia has overseen that program for Southeast Alaska, and several gardeners in Sitka have taken advantage of the program.

High tunnels, also known as hoop houses or temporary greenhouses, extend the growing season so more food is produced before and after the traditional dates for growing stuff outdoors. High tunnels are different than greenhouses in that they are passively heated by the sun, so they have lower energy costs than greenhouses. High tunnels are at least six-feet tall, and low tunnels aren’t eligible in this program. Food in high tunnels is planted either directly into the ground or in raised beds.

For more information about the presentation, contact Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985. To learn more about the USDA NRCS high tunnel program, contact Samia Savella at the Juneau field office at (907) 586-7220 or samia.savell@ak.usda.gov.



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