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Are you interested in earning an Alaska Master Gardener certification? The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service is offering a statewide spring online Master Gardener class from Feb. 17 through May 18.

The Alaska Master Gardener online course is an intensive, sustainable gardening class specific to Alaska growing conditions. This is a non-credit, self-paced, online course offered through UAF eLearning using Blackboard Learn. The course fee is $375. Register here for the Spring 2015 Alaska Master Gardener online course (Course Number: CEPD F001-UX1).

This curriculum for this online course includes lessons on botany, starting plants, soil, composting, season extension, greenhouses, landscaping, house plants, entomology, pest management, plant disease diagnostics and sustainable gardening. The course also covers growing vegetables, fruits, berries and flowers. The text for the course is Sustainable Gardening: Alaska Master Gardener Manual, which can be purchased for $50 a copy from this link.

Students complete 12 self-paced lessons and quizzes, a book report, participate in ongoing discussions, and complete a final exam. On average, the course takes students approximately three hours per week to complete. The course is pass/fail and the spring course is not for credit.

In addition to the coursework, students also pledge to volunteer at least 40 hours teaching what they’ve learned in their communities. Examples of how students can volunteer include helping with local school garden programs or 4H clubs, working with local foods groups, writing gardening blogs, and more.

The classroom-based Alaska Master Gardener course hasn’t been offered in Sitka for nearly two years, so the statewide online course is the only way Sitka gardeners can obtain the training until a new Cooperative Extension Service agent is hired in Sitka. Gardeners from Sitka can contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service (jdshaw2@alaska.edu or 747-9440) to see if there will be a local classroom at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus for the online course.

For more information about the statewide online Alaska Master Gardener course, contact instructor Heidi Rader or teaching assistant Glenna Gannon in Fairbanks at 907-452-8251, Ext. 3281, or by email at master.gardener@alaska.edu

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At the Sitka Local Foods Network, we know people are busy and they don’t have time to check our website or Facebook page every day to see what’s happening. So we will be launching a monthly newsletter to give folks another way to stay up to date.

The monthly newsletter will feature some brief updates on the top stories from our website, along with information about upcoming classes, the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm garden parties, garden advice, volunteer opportunities, and more. There also will be information about local foods programs offered by other groups, such as classes from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service or events from the Sitka Seafood Festival, that Sitkans might find interesting. We’ll try to keep things fairly short, with links in the newsletter to the longer stories on our website for those who want more info.

You can sign up for the newsletter by clicking this link and following the prompts on the sign-up form (you also can click on the newsletter image in the right column of our website to register). You should receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription, which will open a link where you can let us know more about your interests. To keep from flooding your email account, we will try to limit the newsletters to just once a month (unless there’s a major news item).

At the bottom of each newsletter is a link that allows you to unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time. We don’t want to spam anybody. Also, we won’t share our email list with outside groups because we know you value your privacy.

Sign up soon, because the January 2015 newsletter will be sent out later this week.

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The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its annual meeting and potluck dinner from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine St., parking off of Spruce Street).

Participants are encouraged to bring a dish featuring local foods to share, and please bring your own utensils (note, this is a non-alcoholic event). This event is a good event to attend for people who want to learn more about the Sitka Local Foods Network and what we do around town.

“Attendees will hear about project updates, plus the current board will vote on by-law changes,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart said. “We will introduce our new board members for 2015, and we will elect officers.”

Individuals interested in learning more about the Sitka Local Foods Network can email sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com to learn about our projects and volunteer opportunities. For more information, call Lisa at 747-5985.

Specialty Foods Workshop Feb. 2015

SpecialtyFoodBusinessHave you ever wanted to sell your homemade breads, jams and jellies, syrups, smoked salmon, or other specialty food product? Sitka will be one of the host locations this February for a five-session distance-delivery class on starting and operating a specialty food business.

The class, which is hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, takes place from 5:30-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Feb. 3, 5, 10, 12, and 17, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, Room 110. Besides Sitka, the class also will be available by videoconference in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Kodiak. There is a class fee of $50.

Students will learn about business plans and marketing, financing and accounting, permitting and feasibility assessments, promoting and pricing your products, and ways to enter the market, such as farmers markets, food trucks, wholesaling, and supermarkets. The instructors are seafood marketing specialist Quentin S.W. Fong of the Alaska Marine Advisory Program, and Kate Idzorek of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, plus several special guests.

To learn more about the class and to register, click this link or contact Kate Idzorek at (907) 474-5391 or the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at (877) 520-5211.

Want to keep up with events and volunteer opportunities hosted by the Sitka Local Foods Network? Check out our new online calendar (look for it in the bar at the top of the page).

This calendar features events such as Sitka Local Foods Network board meetings, Sitka Farmers Markets, education classes, garden parties for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and other events sponsored by the Sitka Local Foods Network. It also features community events related our mission, such as UAF Cooperative Extension Service classes, Sitka Gardeners Club meetings, traditional foods classes, etc.

If you have any events you feel should be included on this calendar, please email the details to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com and charles@sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org.

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As 2014 winds to a close, many Alaskans already are thinking about applying for their 2015 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check in January. As usual, Alaskans can share their wealth with a variety of Alaska nonprofits, including the Sitka Local Foods Network, through the PFD’s Pick.Click.Give. program.

This is the second year the Sitka Local Foods Network will participate in the Pick.Click.Give. program, which allows people to donate in $25 increments to their favorite statewide and local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations when they file their PFD applications from Jan. 1 through March 31. We thank the 56 donors who pledged $2,900 to the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2014, and we appreciate your support again in 2015.

When you choose to donate part of your PFD to the Sitka Local Foods Network, you support the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, Blatchley Community Gardens, education programs about growing and preserving food, the sustainable use of traditional foods, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, the Sitka Food Summit, and a variety of other projects designed to increase access to healthy local foods in Sitka.

Lovalaska FB Square PhotoGrid Tag (1)In 2014 a record 26,773 Alaskans gave $2.77 million to their favorite nonprofit organizations, up from $545,000 donated by 5,175 people in the program’s first year of 2009. Some Alaskans choose to donate to just one group, while others may spread several donations around to many groups. There now are more than 500 total 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give. for 2015, including 22 from Sitka.

To encourage more Alaskans to donate through the Pick.Click.Give. program, this will be the second year of the Double Your Dividend contest. Anybody who makes a non-anonymous Pick.Click.Give. donation to at least one of the registered nonprofits will be entered into a contest where 10 lucky Alaskans will win a second PFD check. The winners will be announced in October, about the time the PFDs start hitting bank accounts.

So how do you make a donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network through the Pick.Click.Give. program? First, go to http://pfd.alaska.gov/ and fill out your PFD application. When you get to the section of the application asking if you want to participate in Pick.Click.Give. Charitable Contributions program, click on the PCG link and search for the Sitka Local Foods Network. You also can look for us by using the town search for Sitka.

The Pick.Click.Give. program is available only to people who file their PFD applications online, and not to those who file by mail. Even though you can’t file a new PFD application after March 31, you can go back into your application and update your Pick.Click.Give. donations through Aug. 31 each year.

You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network if you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2015 PFD. To donate, send your check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408D Marine St., Sitka, Alaska, 99835, or go to our page on Razoo.com, http://www.razoo.com/story/Sitka-Local-Foods-Network, and click the Donate button to make an online contribution. You also can send in a check or make an online donation if you are trying to make nonprofit donations before the end of the 2014 tax year. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. For more information about donating, you can send an email to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

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Shellfish lovers in Southeast Alaska have a lot to be thankful for this year, as the Sitka Tribe of Alaska hosted a regional training on how to detect paralytic shellfish poisoning and other marine biotoxins Nov. 20-21 in Sitka.

This workshop brought to town several technicians from seven different regional tribes for the first training since the Southeast Alaska Tribal Toxins (SEATT) partnership to study harmful algal blooms (HABs) was announced in October. SEATT partners include Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Klawock Cooperative Association, Craig Tribal Association, Yakutat Tlingít Tribe, Petersburg Indian Association, Organized Village of Kasaan, and the Central Council of Tlingít and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA). In addition to the grant to create the partnership, Sitka Tribe of Alaska also received a second grant to create a regional lab in Sitka to help monitor HABs in Southeast Alaska.

Harmful algal blooms, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), typically have not been monitored in Southeast Alaska for subsistence and recreational harvesters of clams, mussels, oysters, cockles, and other bivalves (commercial harvests are tested). Even though many people in Southeast Alaska love to harvest shellfish, eating it comes with some risks. There have been several PSP outbreaks in recent years that sent people to the hospital, and in 2010 two deaths were attributed to PSP and other HABs, such as Alexandrium, Pseudonitzchia and Dinophysis.

Being able to put trained monitors in several Southeast Alaska communities, the hope is the health risk can be reduced. Each technician will make weekly reports to the lab, which will help harvesters have better information as to the safety of their shellfish. To learn more about the training, check out this link from the Sitka Conservation Society website and this link from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Science website.

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