• Sitka Local Foods Network seeks host family for our summer Bulldogs on Baranof intern

McLane Ritzel, the Sitka Local Foods Network's 2014 summer Bulldogs on Baranof intern, hosts a fermentation demonstration during the Sitka Farmers Market.

McLane Ritzel, the Sitka Local Foods Network’s 2014 summer Bulldogs on Baranof intern, hosts a fermentation demonstration during the Sitka Farmers Market.

Over the past couple of years, the Sitka Local Foods Network has hosted a Bulldogs on Baranof summer intern.

Our interns have been a big help during the summer, pitching in with the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, lead education events, and even writing website articles about local farmers market vendors. The Bulldogs on Baranof program started out bringing Yale University students to Sitka for the summer to help out with local nonprofit organizations, but recently expanded to include students from other colleges.

Usually, a local couple hosts these interns for the 2-3 months they’re in Sitka for the summer. But this year, our usual hosts have family coming to town and won’t be able to offer housing.

We are hoping to find a host family for this summer who can host our intern (our first male intern this year) from mid-June through mid-August or early September. This involves providing a spare bedroom, some meals and kitchen access, and occasional rides around town (we try to provide a bike).

If you can help, please contact Sitka Local Foods Network board president Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. Thanks.

• It’s time to … plant your potatoes with two free workshops on May 3 and May 6

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The Sitka Local Foods Network reminds you that it’s time to get out in the garden and plant your potatoes.

Potatoes are some of the most productive and easy-to-grow vegetables in Sitka. Michelle Putz will present two free, hands-on potato-planting workshops at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 3, and at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6, at 131 Shelikof Way. Parking space is limited, so please consider walking, riding your bike or carpooling. More information is available by calling Michelle at 747-2708.

Also, the Sitka Local Foods Network education committee welcomes local gardeners who want to teach classes to join our list of educators. Just give us a topic, best date and time, and we can help you find a venue. These classes can be somewhat informal, where you plan to plant a certain type of veggie and you welcome new gardeners to come to your garden to help and learn more (please give us enough time, at least a couple of days, to post the info on our website).

For more information about Sitka Local Foods Network education classes, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520 or 1-850-491-2666 (cell), or Michelle Putz at 747-2708. This is one of the many free classes being offered this year by the Sitka Local Foods Network education committee.

• Sitka Local Foods Network seeks assistant manager for 2015 Sitka Farmers Markets (deadline extended)

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The Sitka Local Foods Network has extended the application deadline as it looks for an assistant manager to help coordinate the 2015 Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. This is a contract position, and the assistant manager (who reports to the manager) receives a small compensation depending on experience for his or her work helping to organize and operate the six scheduled farmers markets this summer. The assistant manager must be available for all six markets and have a valid driver’s license and access to a vehicle. This position is open until filled.

SLFNGroupwLindaThis is the eighth year of operation for the Sitka Farmers Market, which features six markets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every other Saturday from July through September at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (this year’s market dates are July 4, 18, Aug. 1, 15, 29, and Sept. 12). The farmers markets feature booths from local farmers/gardeners, local fishermen, and artisans and craftspeople. These events are great Sitka gathering places, and we promote local foods and other local goods at the markets.

A detailed description of the assistant manager duties can be found at the link below. For more information or to submit applications, contact Maybelle Filler at 738-1982 or mocampo25@hotmail.com, or you can email the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com (please put “Sitka Farmers Market Assistant Manager” in the subject line). Applications should include a cover letter, resume, three recommendations, and the position is open until filled. The assistant manager of the Sitka Farmers Market reports to the market manager, who reports to the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors.

• Description of duties for assistant manager of the Sitka Farmers Market Manager (2015)

• The Garden Show returns to KCAW-Raven Radio spring programming lineup

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For more than 20 years, Mollie Kabler and Kitty LaBounty have taken to the airwaves during the spring months for The Garden Show on KCAW-Raven Radio.

The show returned to the programming lineup earlier this month and airs from 5:30-6 p.m. on Saturdays from April through June, or longer into the summer if work schedules permit. Topics include timely tasks for gardening in Southeast Alaska, taking on-air questions, and themes around basic and more advanced gardening of vegetables, flowers, fruit, etc.

Mollie and Kitty both have been gardening in Sitka for more than 25 years, and they also have gardening experience from their childhoods in Wisconsin (Mollie) and Oregon (Kitty). They both have passed the Master Gardener classes offered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

To call the show with gardening questions, call 747-5877 between 5:30-6 p.m. on Saturday.

• Gardening work party set for Earth Week at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

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A group of kids harvests garlic during an Aug. 12, 2011, work party at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm.

A group of kids harvests garlic during an Aug. 12, 2011, work party at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

Are you interested in meeting other Sitka gardeners and learning about how to grow food in Sitka’s rainy climate? Then join us for an Earth Week garden party from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 25, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Katlian Street (the brown church with the steeple above Crescent Harbor). It is a communal garden that grows food to be sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets, at a table when Chelan Produce is in town, and used for various school lunch and hunger programs around town. This year’s Sitka Farmers Markets are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, July 4, July 18, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Aug. 29, and Sept. 12, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian St.).

“We will be putting starts in the ground, weeding and prepping beds for planting,” St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt said.

The garden work parties are kid-friendly, so feel free to bring the munchkins to help.

To learn more, call St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt at 738-7009 or 623-7003, or contact Sitka Local Foods Network board president Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• Alaskans Own community-supported fisheries program announces 2015 season subscription prices

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Sitka-based Alaskans Own seafood recently announced its subscription prices for its 2015 community-supported fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka, Juneau, Anchorage, and, new this year, Seattle.

Alaskans Own was the first CSF program in the state, modeling its program after the successful community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs that let customers deal directly with harvesters so they can buy subscription shares to the year’s crop/catch. In addition to the CSF program, Alaskans Own usually has a table at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer.

AO flier no tagsThis is the sixth year of the Alaskans Own CSF program, and there are four-month and six-month subscriptions available starting in May. The six-month subscriptions allow people to keep receiving freshly caught seafood through October instead of August, when the traditional four-month subscriptions end. Half-subscriptions also are available. Subscriptions include a mix of locally caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and miscellaneous rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season and prices.

According to newly hired director Caroline Lester, this year’s price for a six-month full subscription (about 60 pounds, or 10 pounds a month) in Sitka is $886.16 (includes sales tax) and $446.40 for a half subscription (about 30 pounds). The price for a four-month full subscription (about 40 pounds) is $606.32 and $326.46 for a half subscription (about 20 pounds). Prices are slightly higher for the other communities participating in the program. People can use the Alaskans Own online store site to purchase their CSF shares. Deliveries in Sitka will be either the last or second-to-last Thursday of the month at the old mill building next to the Sitka Sound Science Center.

The Alaskans Own program is associated with the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust. The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust’s mission is to strengthen Alaskan fishing communities and marine resources through scientific research, education, and economic opportunity.

For more information, contact Caroline Lester at info@alaskansown.com or 738-2275.

• In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city

The 1900 potato harvest in the Sitka garden of Gov. John G. Brady. (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

The 1900 harvest of potatoes and other vegetables from the Sitka garden of Gov. John G. Brady. (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

Sitka cattle on the beach in 1887 (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

Sitka cattle on the beach in 1887 (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

Even though Sitka doesn’t have much in the way of commercial agriculture and gardening these days, at one point in the 19th Century and early 20th Century Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city.

Sitka has a unique history that includes the Tlingít, Russian and American cultures. Even before the first Russians arrived in the 1700s and made Sitka (or New Archangel, as the Russians called it) the capital of Russian America in 1803, the Tlingíts had simple gardens for potatoes and other crops they’d received from Spanish and other explorers. The Tlingíts would plant potatoes and other root vegetables before they headed out to their fish camps, then they’d harvest the gardens as they made their way to their hunting and winter camps. In addition, the Tlingíts in Shee Atiká (Sitka) were constantly gathering roots, berries, and other food and medicinal plants that grew in the area. The Tlingíts also created an early form of mariculture, creating clam gardens by creating rock-walled beach terraces at low tide to keep clams and other shellfish in certain areas for easy growth and harvest.

produceWhen the Russians arrived in Sitka, they were fur trappers and not colonists. However, the Russian czar required all land patents to have gardens, and that established the first formal vegetable and fruit production in Sitka. The Russians (along with the Finns and Swedes who served as indentured servants to the Russians) maintained several large gardens until 1867, when Russian America was sold to the United States.

Among the first Americans to arrive in Alaska were missionaries, including Dr. Sheldon Jackson who established a school for Native Americans in Sitka that eventually became Sheldon Jackson College and also served as Alaska’s Superintendent for Indian Education with the U.S. Department of Interior. In 1891, Dr. Jackson lobbied Congress to create a U.S. Department of Agriculture experimental farm in Sitka to see if agriculture had any potential in Alaska. It wasn’t until 1897, when Congress acted, passing a bill that in 1898 created USDA experimental farms in Sitka and Kodiak. Over the next few years, more USDA experimental farms would be established in Kenai, Rampart, Fairbanks, Copper Center, and Matanuska (Palmer).

ccg2Many details about the USDA experimental farm in Sitka can be found in an article in the Spring 1998 issue of Agroborealis (Pages 7-11), celebrating 100 years of agriculture research in Alaska. The article includes information about some of the experiments run by lead horticulturist Charles Christian Georgeson, who later moved to the Fairbanks experimental station and now has a botanical garden named for him at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. One of Georgeson’s first experiments involved growing potatoes, and he noted how well the local seaweed worked as a fertilizer. He also developed the Sitka hybrid strawberry in 1905, combining a wild beach strawberry from Yakutat with a commercial variety of unknown origin (see Pages 30-32).

Ph 2824Unfortunately, many of the experimental farms were closed, except the two in Fairbanks and Palmer. The Sitka experimental station closed in 1931, and much of the land was converted to other uses. Until he retired in 2014, Bob Gorman, a longtime University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service employee, maintained a few small garden plots on the former Sitka experimental farm site where he conducted a few experiments (including growing corn in a high tunnel). Some of the fruit trees planted by Georgeson more than 100 years ago still produce fruit.

A photo gallery of historic Sitka gardening photos is below, followed by a photo gallery of more recent photos of the former Sitka experimental farm taken during a September 2013 tour for the International Master Gardeners Conference Cruise when it visited town. The historical photos were provided to the Sitka Local Foods network in 2008 by then-Sitka Historical Society and Museum curator Ashley Kircher (now Ashley Oliphant) and intern Amy Thompson.

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