• More classes set in 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

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DasallaAndPutzThe fourth classes for the 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program have been set for our four participating first-year families, and the classes will be open to the public. The classes will be similar at each location, except one where we will be planting a container garden instead of our usual raised garden beds.

The fourth class of the six-class series is about early harvesting and learning about which crops are ready to be picked and which should be left in the garden to grow some more. For our first-year gardener families, we teach them how to grow four hardy crops for Sitka — kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. These classes are essentially the same, so feel free to attend the class that best fits your schedule.

The class schedule and location for these first-year families is:

  • Josephine Dasalla, 1709 Halibut Point Rd., No. 31 (green trailer) — 4:30 p.m., Monday, June 8.
  • A.J. Bastian, 207 Brady St. — 4 p.m., Thursday, June 11.
  • Rebecca Kubacki, 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — 7 p.m., Tuesday, June 16.
  • Breezy, 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 1 (Note: this class was postponed from its original date of June 24).

Please note the classes at the Dasalla residence involve container gardens instead of building raised garden beds like we’ve done for our other families.

In addition, the third class for one of our other first-year students (Breezy) and second classes for our second-year students also have been set. These will be garden maintenance classes (slug and pest control, thinning, watering, garden care, etc.).

The two second-year families (Anna Bradley and Tami O’Neill) participated in the inaugural year of the program last summer, and now they’re back for more. Our two returning families will be planting carrots, chard, green onions and peas this year, which are slightly more difficult to grow than our chosen crops for first-year students. Even though this year’s crops are more difficult to grow, many gardeners in Sitka still have good results with these vegetables.
Again, the classes at each location will be similar, and they are free and open to the public. The schedule is:
  • Breezy, 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 4.
  • Anna Bradley, 4764 Halibut Point Road, 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 6.
  • Tami O’Neill, 2309 Merganser Drive, 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 17.

BastianPutzAndSpiveyWithBigCheckMichelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans, after the Sitka Local Foods Network received a community development grant from First Bank. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program.

For more information about the garden mentor program, please contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

• USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offers funding support program for high tunnels

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The deadline is coming up for the next round of applications for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCA) cost-sharing program. This program enables qualifying landowners who produce food to build high tunnels with financial assistance from the USDA.

The next NRCA Alaska program deadline is June 15. However, the program usually sets two applications deadlines a year so applications can be batched and ranked. Applications that miss the June 15 deadline will be held for the next deadline (usually Sept. 15, but it hasn’t yet been posted online).

High tunnels, also known as hoop houses or temporary greenhouses, extend the growing season so more food is produced before and after the traditional weather dates for growing stuff outdoors. They also can help with irrigation and drainage, and with pest control.

High tunnels are different than greenhouses in that they are passively heated by the sun, so they have lower energy costs than greenhouses. High tunnels are at least six-feet tall, so people can walk upright in them. Low tunnels, which usually involve some PVC pipe bent over a garden bed and covered with row cover, aren’t eligible in this program. Food in high tunnels is planted either directly into the ground or in raised beds. To learn more about the USDA’s high tunnel program, click here, and click here to get information about the application procedure. This link has frequently asked questions and answers about seasonal high tunnel systems for crops.

Picture10This program started a couple of years ago as a pilot program, but now is a permanent part of of the NRCS EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Programs). The program recently was revamped, and one major change is there now is no size restriction on the structures NRCS provides cost-sharing funds (previously it was limited to up to 2,178 square feet, or 5 percent of one acre). Also, geodesic domes are now eligible. Both the land owner and land must meet certain eligibility requirements.

Funding is provided on a reimbursable status once the high tunnel is installed and certified to meet NRCS standards. In 2012 there was just one high tunnel in Sitka, but in 2013 there were six. Other areas of the state, such as Homer, have built dozens of high tunnels through the program.

For information regarding the NRCS technical service or program participation in Southeast Alaska, please contact Samia Savell or Will Murray at the Juneau field office at (907) 586-7220 or 586-7208, or send email to samia.savell@ak.usda.gov or william.murray@ak.usda.gov. The June 15 deadline is the first deadline for the Fiscal Year 2016 funding cycle. Click here for a link to the Alaska NRCS page. Click here for an interview with Samia Savell on KRBD-FM (Ketchikan) about the program.

• High Tunnel In Alaska Fact Sheet (March 2014)

• Flier about Southeast Alaska cost-sharing program for FY2016 (March 2015)