About a dozen people joined Sitka Local Foods Network president Kerry MacLane for a PowerPoint presentation about the proposed Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center on Wednesday, May 12, at the SEARHC At Kaník Hít Community Health Services Building first-floor conference room. Kerry showed his presentation (attached) and provided a status update for the project. He also took feedback from the participants, seeking ideas for the next steps needed to complete the project.
The Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center is a project of the Sitka Local Foods Network to address one of the top local health priorities identified at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit. Sitka residents said they wanted a community greenhouse in order to make more locally grown fruits and vegetables available in town, and a community greenhouse is seen as a way to grow fruits and veggies all year. In addition to local food being healthier for you, local food also provides food security in case of a disaster or other event that keeps the barges or airplanes from delivering (it’s estimated that 95 percent of the food eaten in Alaska is shipped in from the Lower 48 or overseas).
Currently, the Sitka Local Foods Network is in negotiations with the State of Alaska to lease an unused piece of Mt. Edgecumbe High School-owned land on Japonski Island near Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. If the lease goes through, the community greenhouse will help Sitka grow more fruits and vegetables locally while extending our short growing season. The greenhouse can provide educational opportunities for Mt. Edgecumbe High School and University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus students, as well as for other school, church and community groups who want to learn more about growing their own food. The community greenhouse also can provide horticultural therapy for medical and behavioral health patients.
Kerry said the model for the Sitka Community Garden and Education Center is the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens in Cheyenne, Wyo. Kerry used to work at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens several years ago, and he has been given pointers by Cheyenne Botanic Gardens director/founder Shane Smith. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens started out as a small-scale community greenhouse in 1977 that now features more than nine acres of extensive gardens, a solarium, arboretum and other features. It combines educational opportunities with production gardening and horticultural therapy (see fact sheet linked below).
Kerry said he is seeking letters of support from individuals and groups in Sitka who support the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center, and a sample letter is attached below. For more information, contact Kerry at 966-8839 or 752-0654.