• Sitka gardeners extend growing seasons with government pilot study on high tunnels

Several Sitka gardeners will be extending their growing seasons this year thanks to a government soil conservation program designed to study the effectiveness of “high tunnels” or “hoop houses” when it comes to growing more local food in a conservation-minded way. To qualify you need to have grown $1,000 worth of produce for two of the past five years, even if just for your family and friends.

The Sitka participants will be constructing the greenhouse-like structures this year, which will enable them to grow more local food. For participating in the study, the government will reimburse them for the cost of the materials. This project is part of a nationwide effort to improve our community food security called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.” As part of the project, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will conduct a three-year, 38-state study on high tunnels to see if they help reduce pesticide use, extend the growing season, keep vital nutrients in the soil, etc. This YouTube video has more information about the pilot study and shows several smaller family garden-sized high tunnels being placed in the White House garden.

“There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of healthy, locally-grown crops — a win for producers and consumers,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. “This pilot project is going to give us real-world information that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add high tunnels to their operations. We know that these fixtures can help producers extend their growing season and hopefully add to their bottom line.”

If you meet the requirement, feel free to participate by contacting our local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) agent for Southeast Alaska, Samia Savell in Juneau at 586-7220, or go to http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/. NRCS will fund one high tunnel per qualifying farm, and a high tunnel can cover as much as 5 percent of one acre.

High tunnels have been used successfully in Alaska, including up in Fairbanks where temperatures drop to minus-50. Last September, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences reported on a two-year project where 39 varieties of apples had been grown in high tunnels at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm. The UAF Cooperative Extension Service also reported on the project (with short videos), and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner also reported on the story.

• Sitka Local Foods Network contracting for 2010 St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener

Darby Osborne, Doug Osborne, Kerry MacLane and Maybelle Filler pick radishes at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm before the first Sitka Farmers Market in 2008

Darby Osborne, Doug Osborne, Kerry MacLane and Maybelle Filler pick radishes at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm before the first Sitka Farmers Market in 2008

The Sitka Local Foods Network is contracting for a lead gardener to help manage our activities at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm community garden this summer. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (SPFF) is growing, and we’re adding new garden beds so we can grow more crops. The vegetables grown at SPFF are sold at the Sitka Farmers Market to help support the efforts of the Sitka Local Foods Network, with some crops also going to local church and charity groups. Here is the lead gardener contract description.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm 2010 Lead Gardener Contract Description

Work Experience: 2-3 years of varied vegetable gardening experience, preferably with at least one year in Southeast Alaska. This includes planning, cultivating, harvesting, composting and preparing vegetables for sale or preservation, as well as putting the garden to rest for the season.

Contract Requirements:

  • Develop a garden plan that includes succession planting in conjunction with the SPFF tri-coordinators (board members Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Doug Osborne and Maybelle Filler)
  • Conduct soil testing and amend the soil to improve soil quality using available resources (i.e., seaweed, bone meal, etc) in conjunction with the SPFF tri-coordinators and volunteer work parties
  • Cultivate plant starts using seeds provided by the SLFN and make recommendations for SPFF seed start kits to be distributed at the Let’s Grow Sitka event on March 14, 2010
  • Use organic gardening practices
  • Host 3 initial planting parties (from 2-4:30 p.m. on three Saturdays, May 15, May 22 and May 29) i.e., coordinate with the SPFF tri-coordinators to plan and direct work
  • Direct 75 percent of the garden work parties, i.e., these are tentatively scheduled for Wednesdays 4:30-6 p.m. and Saturdays 2-3:30 p.m. (on non-Sitka Farmers Market Saturdays) during the months of June, July and August, plus the first half of September, but can be negotiated.
  • Plan and oversee the harvest of the garden for the first five 2010 Sitka Farmers Markets (harvest usually takes place early on market-day mornings, July 17, July 31, August 14, August 28 and September 4)
  • Develop a method for quantifying the amount of vegetables harvested from SPFF and implement it
  • Maintain the composting and watering systems
  • Direct any questions or concerns to the SPFF tri-coordinators

Compensation: A total of $1,500 paid in three installments (May 15, July 15 and September 15) plus 5 percent of the SPFF harvest – this compensation schedule is open for negotiation.

If interested in the SPFF lead gardener contract, e-mail a resume that includes two local references that can speak to your gardening ability and a letter of interest by February 20th to 3akharts@acsalaska.net. Direct questions to Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or Doug Osborne at 747-3752.

• Sitka Local Foods Network board meetings

Just a reminder that the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors meets for lunch, from noon to 1 p.m., on the first Monday of each month (except the summer months of June, July and August). The meetings now take place at the See House, located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street. This also is where the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm community garden is located. The Sitka Local Foods Network board meetings are open to the public and we welcome new volunteers who want to help with our projects.

• Today’s Sitka Local Foods Network board meeting moved to new location

Just a quick note that the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors meeting at noon on Monday, Feb. 1, will be at the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church instead of the Bayview Restaurant.