• Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service writes about discovering treasures from the CES catalog

Dr. Sonja Koukel, PhD, of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

Dr. Sonja Koukel, PhD, of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

Discover Treasures from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

By Dr. Sonja Koukel, PhD
Health, Home & Family Development Program
UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Juneau Office


When was the last time you visited the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service (UAF CES) website? Perhaps it’s been awhile, or perhaps you’ve never taken the time to surf the site and take stock of all the treasures available in hard copy, electronic media, and on the Internet.

Every year the CES Communications Department provides a “Publications & Media” catalog listing research-based publications in the major program areas: Agriculture & Horticulture; Community Resource & Economic Development; Energy Education & Housing; and Health, Home & Family Development. Some publications are free and may be downloaded from the website. Those with a small fee can be ordered using the online form (http://www.uaf.edu/ces/pubs/), calling the toll-free number (1-877-520-5211), or contacting the local district office.

Let’s take a look at the treasure trove of information available through the Health, Home & Family Development (HHFD) program. For instance, there are a number of publications listed in the “Food, Nutrition and Health” category. Here, you will find information on storing vegetables and fruits, freezing vegetables, making fruit leather, making jerky, facts on botulism, and a variety of recipes including sourdough, rhubarb, zucchini, and wild berries. Several vegetable fact sheets provide nutrition and health guidelines (such as vitamin, mineral, and fiber content), harvesting, storage, and preparation with sample recipes included. Selected vegetables include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, squash, herbs, and chard. Bonus — all these fact sheets are free!

In my view, the most exciting new developments are the educational modules made possible through a USDA grant. Titled, “Preserving Alaska’s Bounty,” the web-based modules and DVDs were created and developed as a team effort involving HHFD faculty, program assistants, and the communications staff. The series focuses on home preservation of Alaska Native foods. Client feedback on the media, gathered from an online satisfaction survey, has been very positive.

The primary purpose for developing the modules was to provide research-based information for rural communities and areas that do not have extension faculty members on-site. The web modules are developed in a sequential manner so that each step is clearly defined and explained. There are hyperlinks within the modules that link the user to additional information. Topics are grouped into three main categories: Canning Basics, Canning Products & Methods (i.e., canning fish, meat, jams/jellies), and Meat Products & Methods (i.e., sausage, jerky). These modules are free. Locate them at (http://www.uaf.edu/ces/preservingalaskasbounty/index.html)

For those who learn best by watching demonstrations, the DVDs bring the extension experts into your home. Health, Home & Family Development program area faculty from all seven Alaska districts serve as the educators. To date, seven DVDs have been released on the following topics: Canning Basics, Canning Meat and Fish in Jars, Canning Meat and Fish in Cans, Pickling, Drying Foods, Sausage and Jerky, and the just-released, Jams and Jellies. More titles will be available in the very near future, these include: Root Cellars, Fireweed, Processing Reindeer (game meats), and Harvesting Alaska Seaweeds. The DVDs are available at a nominal fee of $5.

The Alaska Native foods preservation series is the culmination of a five-year process. It is a topic that figures into all the HHFD program areas: nutrition, food budgeting, eating locally, and energy conservation. Recently, the CES HHFD team received recognition for their work, “A Multimedia Approach to Preserving Alaska’s Bounty,” from the National Extension Honorary Society of Epsilon Sigma Phi.

In the new year, take a moment to visit the UAF Cooperative Extension Service website and discover all the treasures that await you. Contact: sdkoukel@alaska.edu or 907-796-6221.

Julie Cascio of UAF Cooperative Extension Service's Health, Home and Family Development program in the Palmer/Mat-Su district demonstrates how to dry apples

Julie Cascio of UAF Cooperative Extension Service's Health, Home and Family Development program in the Palmer/Mat-Su district demonstrates how to dry apples

• Wanton waste of deer meat, a record high herring quota and other local foods stories in the news

Over the past couple of weeks, at least 10 Sitka black tail deer corpses have been found in Sitka with lots of edible meat still on the bone but the prime cuts missing. According to the Anchorage Daily News, state wildlife officials are searching for the hunters, and wanton waste charges may be coming for those involved. There were six deer found off Green Lake Road, then four deer were found near Harbor Mountain Road five days later.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages the responsible and sustainable harvesting of traditional subsistence foods, such as deer, but we must respect the resource and use the entire animal. Not only is leaving edible meat in the field wasteful, but the last couple of years have been down years for deer survival and the actions of these wasteful hunters may mean fewer hunting opportunities next year for hunters who need the deer to feed their families. Anyone with information about the cases is asked to call Alaska Wildlife Troopers at 747-3254 or, to remain anonymous, Wildlife Safeguard at 1-800-478-3377.

In other local foods news, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game established a record sac roe herring quota for the 2010 season, a quota of more than 18,000 tons (more than 4,000 tons higher than last year’s then-record quota). The commercial herring fleet is very happy with the higher quota, but KCAW-Raven Radio reports local subsistence gatherers worry that the record quota will harm their ability to gather herring eggs on hemlock branches, a popular subsistence and barter food for local Tlingít and Haida residents. They also worry two straight years of record quotas will hurt the resource, since herring also serves as a key forage food for salmon, halibut, whales, sea lions and other species in the region.

The Juneau Empire reported that the State of Alaska asked for an extension to reply to an inquiry on subsistence management from the federal government. The federal government took over some management of subsistence in Alaska more than a decade ago because state laws weren’t in compliance with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which calls for a rural preference on subsistence in times of shortage, and the federal government may be expanding its role in subsistence management.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on Alaska pork being ready for the freezer at A.D. Farms, and that pork will be sold at the indoor farmers market at Anchorage’s Northway Mall. The story included a wrap-up of other local foods available at the market, and it had a recipe for crock-pot cod.

Laine Welch’s Alaska fishing column was about how more local fish is appearing in school lunch menus.

The Anchorage Daily News Alaska Newsreader feature reported on several Arctic travelers getting trichinosis from eating undercooked bear meat. The National Post of Canada also had a story on travelers eating undercooked bear meat, while the New York Times had an article about how trichinosis is common in bear meat that isn’t cooked properly.

The Anchorage Daily News had an article about how Alaska’s rhubarb probably first came from Russia.

Miller-McCune magazine had an article about how Alaska’s complex salmon politics can serve as a model for sustainable fisheries elsewhere in the world.

The Alaska Public Radio Network reported on a woman from Aniak, Dee Matter, who has taken freezing her food to a new level. The story also was on APRN’s Alaska News Nightly show.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had a feature article about Kotzebue hunter and trapper Ross Schafer and the “Eskimo” way of life.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had an article about a conflict between farmers and hunters over the future of the Delta bison herd.

The Juneau Empire ran a story about glaciers providing an important food source.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels wrote about magazine gifts for gardeners.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an Associated Press article about Monsanto’s role in the business of agriculture, especially the way it squeezes out competitors in the seed industry.

Finally, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences blog featured an article about a new study about food security challenges in Alaska.

• Two associated with Sitka Local Foods Network win awards at Alaska Health Summit

Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein, center, of Frankenstein Productions, greets fans after the Sitka premiere of her film "Eating Alaska" in October 2008

Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein, center, of Frankenstein Productions, greets fans after the Sitka premiere of her film "Eating Alaska" in October 2008

The Alaska Public Health Association (ALPHA) honored two programs with ties to the Sitka Local Foods Network during the Alaska Health Summit banquet on Dec. 9. Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein (and her Frankenstein Productions company) and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program both won the Alaska Community Service Award. According to ALPHA, the Alaska Community Service Award “recognizes an organization, business or group making a significant contribution to improving the health of Alaskans. It is ALPHA’s intent that nominees outside the public health tradition be considered for this award. A nominee does not need to be an ALPHA member.”

Frankenstein has produced several documentary films over the years, including “Eating Alaska,” which focuses on how we choose the food we eat. Eating Alaska debuted in the fall of 2008, and Frankenstein has taken it to film festivals all over the state and country. “Eating Alaska” received funding support from the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program and other funders, plus technical support was provided by SEARHC health educators, physicians and dietitians. Some of Frankenstein’s other films include “No Loitering,” “Carved from the Heart,” “A Matter of Respect,” and “Miles from the Border.” She currently is working on a documentary film project with Haida weaver Dolores Churchill.

“As someone who fills in the occupation blank on forms with ‘filmmaker/artist,’ this award represents the fact that labels and lines don’t matter when it comes to social change and to making our lives healthier,” Frankenstein wrote from Austin, Texas, where she was attending a screening of Eating Alaska. “It not only validates my work, but represents your open-mindedness to the potential of working collaboratively and creatively with kids and adults, using art, media and storytelling to influence well-being and healthy communities.”

Frankenstein also sent this note to her e-mail group:

We just got the news the project has been awarded The Alaska Public Health Association’s 2009 Community Service Award for Health. In the process of making this film and in its use we’ve worked with nutritionists, health educators, medical and public health practitioners to add to the conversation about what we can do to make our homes, workplaces, schools and communities healthier and more sustainable. We appreciate the help everyone has given to the project to help us “contribute to improving the health of Alaskans” and others far beyond.

The SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program, which closes this month, was honored for the work it did over the life of its five-year grant (the national Steps to a Healthier US grant has ended, so that means all of the local grants that were part of the national grant also are ending). The Steps program funded 77 projects worth just over $1.1 million in 12 Southeast Alaska communities. Steps was one of the major funders and organizers of the Sitka Health Summit, which is where the Sitka Local Foods Network originated.

The Steps program’s goals were to increase opportunities for physical activity, improve nutrition and reduce the impact of tobacco in Southeast Alaska. The program also worked to reduce diabetes, obesity and asthma in Southeast communities. To accomplish its goals, Steps developed partnerships with schools, worksites, tribes and other community groups so they could change social norms and policies, and make evidence-based and culturally relevant interventions. In addition to the projects, Steps also hosted conferences and workshops to help programs learn how to work in collaboration.

The Steps program used the socio-ecological model, which emphasizes that an individual’s health status is influenced not only by his or her attitudes and practices, but also by personal relationships and community and societal factors. Nearly half of the 77 Steps grants (37) went to community projects, with the others geared toward schools and worksites. More than three-quarters of the grants (60) focused on improving nutrition and/or increasing physical activity. Together, the projects reached 128,000 people (with many people reached by multiple projects) in the communities of Angoon, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Juneau, Kake, Kasaan, Klawock, Klukwan, Sitka and Wrangell.

“Overall, the Steps initiative helped build capacity within communities, worksites and schools to work collaboratively, to plan evidence-based programs, and to monitor and evaluate program success,” said Grace Brooks, Steps Grant Manager. “Steps also contributed to an overall increased understanding of the importance of policy in supporting community, school and workplace health.”

In other local foods news from around the state this past week, the Alaska Dispatch ran an article about an indoors farmers market this winter at Anchorage’s Northway Mall.

Capital City Weekly featured a story by Carla Petersen about how the search for elusive cranberries is worth the challenge.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced last week that it is encouraging the use of catch shares to preserve the remaining stocks of halibut (the article features a photo from Sitka).

The Anchorage Daily News featured a story about Gov. Sean Parnell proposing to spend $1.3 million to research declining Yukon River salmon runs.

The Juneau Empire had a story about how an arts advocacy group in Juneau, Arts for Kids, has teamed up with Sitka-based Theobroma Chocolate Co. to offer SmART bars as a fundraiser for art scholarships for graduating seniors in Juneau.

The publicity poster for the movie Eating Alaska

• ‘Encounters with Richard Nelson’ radio show features episodes on venison and salmon

For the past four years, Sitka resident Richard Nelson has hosted a radio show called “Encounters,” which airs on KCAW-Raven Radio and other public radio stations around the state.

His Nov. 23 show was about venison. The show’s description — “Look over the shoulder of host Richard Nelson as he butchers a freshly killed deer. He tells stories of his learning to hunt from his Inupiaq teachers and we learn how knowing more about the food we eat can make us feel closer to the environment.”

His Aug. 10 show was about salmon. The show’s description — “Instead of heading uptown, head upstream this week with Richard Nelson as he gets into a salmon stream to experience the amazing annual life cycle event of wild Alaskan salmon.”

The rest of his shows are about life in Alaska and other spots in the arctic, and they range from bear safety to mosquitoes. Some of his episodes also deal with Nelson’s time spent in Australia.