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Archive for March, 2010

Salmon ready for canning in jars (Photo courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service)

Salmon ready for canning in jars (Photo courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service)

The Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee will meet at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 1, at the Sitka Economic Development Association (SEDA)/Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce office on the second floor of the Troutte Center Building on Lincoln Street (above Seasons card store).

The meeting agenda will finalize the event’s mission statement and the vision for the festival, set committee members and leads, and take care of other business related to creating a new festival of this nature. The Sitka Seafood Festival tentatively is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, Aug. 6-8, at various locations in Sitka.

Notes from the March 24 meeting and an initial breakdown of committees are attached as PDF documents. For more information about the festival, contact Alicia Peavey at alaska_al33@hotmail.com or 1-928-607-4845. (Editor’s note: The next meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 5, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.)

Notes from March 24, 2010, Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee meeting and vision session

Sitka Seafood Festival committees

Kerry MacLane grills black cod for the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association booth at the Sitka Farmers Market

Kerry MacLane grills black cod for the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association booth at the Sitka Farmers Market

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Sitka Local Foods Network President Kerry MacLane was one of the featured guests for the Alaska Public Radio Network’s “Talk of Alaska” statewide call-in show hosted by Steve Heimel on Tuesday, March 30.

The topic of Tuesday’s hour-long show was “Local Food Production.” If you weren’t able to hear the show, you can listen to it by clicking this link and then looking for the arrow above the comments box. In addition to Kerry, the other featured guest was Tim Meyers of Meyers Farm in Bethel. Some of the topics on this show included community supported agriculture (CSA) farms, spring planting, the Sitka Farmers Market, the Sitka Seafood Festival, the new Alaska Food Policy Council, sac roe herring, composting, soil conditions and other issues.

Some of the clips from Tuesday’s Talk of Alaska show were reorganized into a news feature story that ran on Wednesday’s “Alaska News Nightly” half-hour newscast on APRN. The news feature used some of Kerry MacLane’s comments about the Sitka Local Foods Network, but there were several minor errors in the story about what’s going on in Sitka.

By the way, this isn’t the first time local food has been featured on Talk of Alaska this year. In October 2009, Talk of Alaska did a show “Our Food Supply” as a preview for the Bioneers of Alaska annual conference.

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In response to concerns by Alaskans about food security, health and job creation, the Alaska Food Policy Council is being formed and it will host a meeting on May 18-19 at a location TBA in Anchorage.

“This will be a chance for Alaskans to come together and develop a plan to produce more food for our communities,” said Danny Consenstein, the Executive Director of the USDA Alaska Farm Service Agency in Palmer.

The Alaska Food Policy Council wants your help in examining how our food system relates to our economy, our security and our health. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the wide variety of food system stakeholders to connect, so they can begin to develop comprehensive solutions toward building a stronger Alaska food system.

The first face-to-face meeting takes place from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 18, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, May 19, at a location TBA in Anchorage. Mark Winne of the Community Food Security Coalition will facilitate the meeting. The goal will be to learn about food policy councils (which exist in many states and local communities), consult with experts to establish the lay of the land in Alaska, and to begin to set the direction for the Alaska Food Policy Council to take. Sitka Local Foods Network President Kerry MacLane has been asked to represent our group on this council, and he said he plans to attend the May meeting.

Seating is limited for this meeting, so please contact Public Health Specialist Diane Peck, MPH, RD, with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services by May 1 to RSVP or request more information. Diane can be reached at 269-8447 (Anchorage) or diane.peck@alaska.gov. The Alaska Center for the Environment’s local food project page has more information about the creation of the Alaska Food Policy Council.

Alaska Food Policy Council meeting flier for May 18-19 in Anchorage

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Black cod (aka sablefish) on the grill from the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association booth at the Sitka Farmers Market

Black cod (aka sablefish) on the grill from the Alaska Longline Fisherman's Association booth at the Sitka Farmers Market

A group in Sitka will meet at 6 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, March 24, at the Sitka Economic Development Association’s conference room (second floor of the Troutte Center building on Lincoln Street, the Sitka Chamber of Commerce office above Seasons card store) to plan the inaugural Sitka Seafood Festival.

The group first met on Saturday afternoon, March 20, to brainstorm ideas for the event. The group discussed the event’s mission, name, slogan location, music, the scope of the event (just salmon or multi species, very local or grander scale, etc.), committees, funding, event partners and other organizational aspects. Suggestions from the first meeting included having local and/or regional chefs provide cooking demonstrations, honoring the life cycle of the salmon (or featured species of the year), etc. The tentative dates for the first Sitka Seafood Festival are Aug. 6-8, 2010.

If you have any questions about the Sitka Seafood Festival, contact Alicia Peavey at alaska_al33@yahoo.com. (Editor’s note: The next Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 1, at the Sitka Economic Development Association office in the Troutte Center building on Lincoln Street.)

Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee meeting notes from March 20, 2010

Sitka Seafood Festival steering committee meeting agenda, March 24, 2010

Chohla Moll grabs some sockeye salmon out of the brine mixture so she can hang it in the smoker.

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Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

One of the latest trends in farming is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which enables people to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. Renee and Brian Pierce, who own the locally made kelp products and wild berry jelly shop Simple Pleasures of Alaska, are working with Sitka growers to start a small CSA venture with local produce during the summer growing season.

Renee Pierce said that instead of the CSA being a true farmers’ cooperative, she will buy produce from several local growers — including Florence Welsh of the Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals, Judy Johnstone of Sprucecot Gardens, Evening Star and Fabian Grutter of Eve’s Farm, and Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens. The CSA also will include produce from the Pierce Family’s Simple Pleasures garden.

The Sitka CSA will start small, with membership slots for just 25 families the first year. Renee Pierce said of those 25 slots, only about 10 memberships are left. CSA members will commit to paying $50 plus tax every other week, which will give the member families a selection of produce that includes some organic produce purchased from Organically Grown Company of Portland, Ore. During the months when Sitka growers aren’t producing many vegetables, there will be more produce purchased from Organically Grown Company. There also will be an option to buy bread at $6 a loaf beyond the price of the produce box.

The produce selection includes many crops that can be grown in Sitka — such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, radishes, zucchini, green beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, tomatoes, etc. But with the Organically Grown Company providing some of the produce, CSA members also can choose items that aren’t regular Sitka crops — such as bananas, lemons, limes, pineapples, oranges, etc.

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce said she has worked with Organically Grown Company for about four years, purchasing organic produce for the Pierce family and several friends and other Sitka residents who heard about the venture (at one point she had about 60-70 families buying from her). She said she orders produce by the case, and it is available for pick-up from 3-6 p.m. every other Monday afternoon at the Simple Pleasures store next to Kettleson Memorial Library. The first pick-up day for the Sitka CSA is March 29 (which will be for the 15 or so families that already have reserved a spot in the CSA), and the next pick-up day is April 12. CSA members are encouraged to bring their own bags and/or boxes on pick-up days.

The pick-up days are slated to be during the weeks between the every-other-week Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, which will give local growers and buyers the opportunity to buy and sell local produce for both. Renee said there will be some produce extras for families that want to adjust their allotments, but everybody’s allotted produce value will be $50. If you add from the extras you will need to pay the difference, and if you give up some produce you don’t want so your value dips below $50 there are no refunds. She said the CSA is being done as a community service and it’s meant to just break even so the bills get paid.

To learn more about the Sitka CSA, contact Renee Pierce at 738-0044 (cell) or 747-3814 (home). You also can e-mail her at mpierce@ptialaska.net.

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Click here to read the current Sitka Local Foods Network e-newsletter courtesy of Linda Wilson. Don’t forget, you can sign up for the e-newsletter by typing your e-mail address in the “Join Our Mailing List” box on bottom of the left side of the page.

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Information about a March 28 open house at the Garden Ventures booth during the 2010 Let's Grow Sitka! garden show

Information about a March 28 open house at the Garden Ventures booth during the 2010 Let's Grow Sitka! garden show

Penny Brown of Garden Ventures is inviting Sitka gardeners to her plant nursery for a spring open house from 3-9 p.m. on Sunday, March 28. Garden Ventures is located at 4103 Halibut Point Road and it also will be open its regular Sunday hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 28.

The open house will feature a presentation at 3 p.m. on new annuals and perennials for the 2010 season. There also will be a presentation at 5 p.m. about growing vegetables in Sitka. Class sizes are limited for both free presentations. To register for one or both classes, call Penny at 747-5329.

In addition to the two presentations, local artist Julie Stroemer will be on hand to display her watercolors of flowers grown locally here in Sitka. All who attend the open house are invited to explore Penny’s gardens filled with spring bulbs, perennials and flowering trees. Garden Ventures sells seeds, plant starts, bushes, shrubs and trees. Bare root fruit trees will arrive by the first week of April, and you can contact Penny for more details and varieties.

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Florence Welsh with copies of her Sitka gardening book

Florence Welsh with copies of her Sitka gardening book

One of Sitka’s best known gardeners is Florence Welsh, who heads up The Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens. The Welsh family has been gardening in Sitka since 1984, and the garden on Davidoff Street has been used to teach other gardeners what works in Sitka. Several years ago Florence wrote a guide to help other gardeners take advantage of her family’s experiences trying to grow edible and ornamental plants in Sitka using organic methods.

This past winter, Florence updated her book and during the “Let’s Grow Sitka!” garden show event on Sunday she released the new version of the guide.

The book includes information about how to prepare your garden for Sitka’s short growing season, including how to set up your home for plants you may need to start inside. She talks about using sand and seaweed in the garden to help with drainage and fertilizer. The guide also lists many of the plants, bushes and trees the Welsh family has grown in its garden, including the specific varieties that did best in Sitka. There also are several photos from the garden.

The Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens is one of Sitka’s most productive gardens when it comes to producing food, and Florence frequently has a booth at the Sitka Farmers Market to sell her produce. The garden grows berries, fruit trees, herbs/mints, and a wide variety of vegetables. She includes some instructions with the vegetables, and the guide also includes a timeline for seed starting so you know when to plant. The guide ends with information about invasive plants, insects and slugs, and a list of useful seed catalogs and Web sites.

The homemade booklet is available for $5 a copy, and people can order copies by contacting Florence at (907) 747-8705 or florence.welsh@acsalaska.net. There are several different cover photos, but the content is the same on all the guides.

A basket of Florence Welsh's books for sale at Let's Grow Sitka!

A basket of Florence Welsh's books for sale at Let's Grow Sitka!

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Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens shows off a basket of produce she was giving away

Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens shows off a basket of produce she was giving away

The Sitka Local Foods Network extends a big thank you to the more than 200 people who stopped by Sunday, March 14, for the “Let’s Grow Sitka!” garden show at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

If you stopped by, you were able to check out booths from local gardeners who sell their surplus veggies, learn about Sitka’s first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) venture, buy a new Sitka gardening handbook from Florence Welsh, pet some baby chicks, get your pressure canner gauge checked, start some seeds for the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, eat some Sisterhood Stew sold by the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp No. 4, register for a master gardener certification course, learn about composting and slug control, and buy seeds for your own garden. Over the next few weeks, more details will be posted about some of the individual projects.

For now, click here to see a photo gallery from Let’s Grow Sitka! (look for the album with the Let’s Grow Sitka name). Keep an eye open, because there may be video links posted later, depending on how things turned out.

Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service's Juneau office checks pressure gauges for Perry Edwards of Sitka

Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service's Juneau office checks pressure gauges for Perry Edwards of Sitka

Let's Grow Sitka booths are still busy after closing time

Let's Grow Sitka booths are still busy after closing time

Lina and her mom hold one of several baby chicks owned by Andrew Thoms

Lina and her mom hold one of several baby chicks owned by Andrew Thoms

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The Sitka Local Foods Network is mentioned in the article, “The Search for Food Sustainability in Alaska,” in the March/April 2010 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal, a magazine of modern homesteading.

The article is written by Cathy Lieser, who recently moved to Baranof Island after several years living on a homestead in the Alaska Range. She mentions the work being done by the Sitka Local Foods Network to promote local food security and local gardens. She also mentions the movie, “Eating Alaska,” by Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein.

This article is not one of the articles posted on the Countryside site, but the editors did give us permission to post the article as a PDF document. It is posted below.

The Search for Food Sustainability in Alaska

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