• Sitka Local Foods Network, other groups make free dirt available for Sitka gardens


Get FREE Dirt to start a gardenFor the second straight year, free dirt is now available to the people of Sitka for their gardening needs.

Your Sitka Local Foods Network (SLFN) worked with and formalized an agreement with the City and Borough of Sitka, Sitka School District, and the Blatchley Community Gardens to provide free dirt to individuals, families, and non-commercial entities for developing fruit, vegetable, and flower gardens and beds.

The free community dirt pile is located at Blatchley Community Gardens, behind Blatchley Middle School. The pile is to the right (north) of the community garden and only dirt between the signs should be removed. People can remove dirt at any time, although avoiding school hours when school is in session is preferred.

“This is raw dirt, mostly from land development in forest and muskeg lots around Sitka,” SLFN Board Member Michelle Putz said. “It is NOT top soil, but it is a good starting point for gardens when mixed with locally purchased lime and sand, and locally purchased or produced compost, manure, and other organic materials.” The Sitka Local Foods Network asks that gardeners not remove sand, rocks, live kelp or live creatures from local beaches to build their soil.

People taking dirt should bring their own shovels and containers for dirt, and some sifting of tree roots and other debris may be required. To make sure there is enough for everyone, SLFN asks Sitkans to take as much as you need but please do not use it for commercial use or developing a lot. People who are coming for dirt need to respect the gardens, gardeners, compost, equipment and other materials at the Blatchley Community Garden site by only taking dirt from the pile and not removing or using anything else at the site.

“One of the most asked questions SLFN gets is ‘where can I get dirt to start a garden?’ We recognize that dirt is scarce in Sitka, and we wanted to try to do something about it,” Putz said. “Making soil, the starting point of all gardens, more available to people really helps us to meet our mission of increasing the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans. We hope that people will take all the dirt they need to build new and larger vegetable, fruit, and flower beds, planters and gardens.”

Thanks to the local contractors, such as Tisher Construction in 2015 and Troy’s Excavating in 2014, who provided the dirt. The Sitka Local Foods Network hopes to continue to provide free dirt, as needed. However, compost will not be given away or created at this time.

Those with questions or wishing to help volunteer on this or other SLFN projects should call Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

• Check out the August 2015 edition of the Sitka Local Foods Network newsletter


The Sitka Local Foods Network just sent out the August 2015 edition of its newly launched monthly newsletter. Feel free to click this link to get a copy.

This edition of the newsletter has brief stories about the Sitka Sound Suppers fundraiser, celebrating National Farmers Market Week by going to the Sitka Farmers Market, an update on the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen and some canning classes, and information about a grant awarded to the Sitka Local Foods Network from the Alaska Community Foundation.. Each story has links to our website for more information.

You can sign up for future editions of our newsletter by clicking on the registration form image in the right column of our website and filling in the information. If you received a copy but didn’t want one, there is a link at the bottom of the newsletter so you can unsubscribe. Our intention is to get the word out about upcoming events and not to spam people. We will protect your privacy by not sharing our email list with others.

• Help kick off National Farmers Market Week by attending the Sitka Farmers Market on Saturday


Icon_NFMW-1-300x269National Farmers Market Week is Aug. 2-8 this year, so stop by the Sitka Farmers Market this Saturday to help kick off the celebration. The Sitka Farmers Market is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

The annual National Farmers Market Week celebration is the first full week of August, when growing season is peaking around the country. This year’s theme is “There’s More To Market,” which highlights the wider variety of products now found at farmers markets across the country. Click here to read this year’s National Farmers Market Week proclamation from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack.

SitkaFarmersMarketSignThe number of farmers markets in the country has tripled since 1998, growing from 2,746 markets in 1998 to 8,268 in 2014. There has been similar growth in Alaska, and now markets can be found in many Bush communities from Bethel to Thorne Bay. This growth has improved Alaska’s food security while also serving as an incubator for new businesses.

According to the Farmers Market Coalition, farmers markets…

  • Preserve America’s rural livelihoods and farmland. Farmers markets provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for beginning farmers, allowing them to start small, test the market, and grow their businesses.
  • Stimulate local economies. Growers selling locally create 13 full time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those that do not sell locally create three.
  • Increase access to fresh, nutritious food. Several  studies have found lower prices for conventional and organic produce at farmers markets than at supermarkets. Due to this and other factors, 52 percent more SNAP households shop at farmers markets and from direct marketing farmers today than in 2011.
  • Support healthy communities. Farmers market vendors educate their shoppers. Four out of five farmers selling at markets discuss farming practices with their customers, and three in five discuss nutrition and how to prepare food.
  • Promote sustainability. Three out of every four farmers selling at farmers markets say they use practices consistent with organic standards.

• Food preservation classes to be offered in conjunction with Sitka Seafood Festival

Sitka food preservation classes

ssflogo2Leslie Shallcross from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service‘s Anchorage District Office will be in Sitka to offer a series of food preservation classes on Aug. 6-8 as part of the Sitka Seafood Festival.

The classes on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 6-7, will take place at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen (inside First Presbyterian Church, 505 Sawmill Creek Road), while the Saturday, Aug. 8, classes will be at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. Each of the classes will cost $15, but jars and other materials will be provided by the Sitka Seafood Festival.

The class schedule is:

  • Thursday, Aug. 6, 2-4:30 p.m., at Sitka Kitch — Low-sugar jams and jellies — Learn how to use a boiling water bath canner for preserving fruit by making low-sugar jams and jellies.
  • Thursday, Aug. 6, 6-8 p.m., at Sitka Kitch — Local garden greens — Learn how to cook with and preserve your garden greens.
  • Friday, Aug. 7, 10 a.m. to noon, at Sitka Kitch — Kelp pickles and sauerkraut — Learn how to make kelp pickles. You will “start” some sauerkraut as well as learn some of the science of fermentation.
  • Friday, Aug. 7, 3-5 p.m., at Sitka Kitch — Canning salmon — Learn how to use a pressure canner for preserving fresh, frozen or smoked fish.
  • Saturday, Aug. 8, 10 a.m. to noon, at Sweetland Hall — Canning salmon — Learn how to use a pressure canner for preserving fresh, frozen or smoked fish.
  • Saturday, Aug. 8, 1-2:30 p.m., at Sweetland Hall — Process of smoking salmon — Learn the steps in smoking fish.

kitch_logo_mainFor those who might miss the classes but still want to learn more about home canning, the UAF Cooperative Extension Service has a series of online tutorials on its website called “Preserving Alaska’s Bounty.” Also, don’t forget to make sure your pressure canner gauge is tested at least once a year. Jasmine Shaw from the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service has a tester in her office and you can call her at 747-9440 to schedule a test.

To register for the classes, please contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440 or jdshaw2@alaska.edu.


• Sitka Local Foods Network receives Strengthening Organizations grant from the Alaska Community Foundation


Alaska CF headerThe Sitka Local Foods Network is one of 15 nonprofits in Alaska — two from Sitka — to earn a “Strengthening Organizations Program” grant from the Alaska Community Foundation.

The 15 grants totaled $75,353, with both Sitka organizations winning $4,600. The Island Institute, which partnered with the Sitka Local Foods Network to produce the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report in 2014, is the other Sitka organization to be awarded a grant.

The grant-winners “were recognized for their initiative in building internal structures to enhance capacity. Grant proposals ranged from requests for leadership development support, funding for staff to attend conferences, financial management training, digitizing collections for website purposes, and much more,” according to an Alaska Community Foundation press release.

The Sitka Local Foods Network applied for the grant to take a step toward the next level as a growing organization. It plans to use the grant to create a formal fundraising and business plan, with the intent to start putting money aside to hire a part-time staff person to take over some of the group’s day-to-day duties from the volunteer board of directors. Other than a few select positions which are contracted out, such as the Sitka Farmers Market manager and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener, the organization is entirely operated by volunteers.

“That is not sustainable in the long run,” Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart told the Daily Sitka Sentinel. “We have to start thinking about staffing in the long run, and that requires capital. We’re moving in that direction.” She also said the grant will help the network become “more strategic in how we use precious volunteer energy.”

The Sitka Local Foods Network will work with consultants from the Foraker Group, an organization that provides support and training to Alaska nonprofit organizations, to develop the fundraising and business plan. The grant was written by Matthew Jackson, the board vice-president.

The Alaska Community Foundation’s Strengthening Organizations Program is unique in the funding it makes available to nonprofits, as it focuses on internal capacity building, rather than programs or outreach. This program awards capacity building grants up to $10,000, with typical awards ranging from $3,000-$5,000, to 501(c)(3) nonprofits or equivalent organizations, which may include tribes, schools, churches and local government agencies and programs.

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and the next deadline is Sept. 1. The Alaska Community Foundation program staff strongly encourages interested applicants to submit drafts for review a minimum of two weeks before the deadline. For more information or to apply, visit The Alaska Community Foundation at http://alaskacf.org/grants or call (907) 274-6705.

• Scenes from a series of home canning and cottage foods classes July 16-18 at Sitka Kitch

SarahLewisPlacesLidOnAllAmericanCanner kitch_logo_mainOn July 16-18, the Sitka Kitch project hosted Sarah Lewis of the Juneau District Office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service to host four classes in Sitka on the cottage food industry and home canning. These classes were free and paid for by a grant from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program. In addition, Sarah had a table at the Sitka Farmers Market on July 18 where she tested pressure canner gauges.

For those who missed the classes and want to learn more about home canning, the UAF Cooperative Extension Service has a series of online tutorials on its website called “Preserving Alaska’s Bounty.” In addition, Leslie Shallcross from the Anchorage District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service will be in town during the Sitka Seafood Festival to teach canning classes on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 6-7, at Sitka Kitch, and on Saturday, Aug. 8, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. Watch for a class schedule to be posted soon (note, these classes will cost $15 each).

A reminder, pressure canner gauges should be tested at least once a year to make sure they are hitting the right pressures for safe food preservation. For those who couldn’t get to the July 18 Sitka Farmers Market for pressure canner gauge testing, the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service has a tester in its office and you can call Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440 to set up an appointment for testing. The office also has a variety of resources — many of them free — on home canning, gardening and other topics.

Sitka Kitch is a community wellness project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit designed to improve food security in Sitka. The different parts of the project include creating a community kitchen Sitka residents can rent to prepare food for their small businesses or to preserve their family harvest of fish, game, or garden veggies; expanding Sitka’s emergency food storage capacity; and providing education about preserving food and building family emergency food pantries.

For more information about the Sitka Kitch project, go to the Sitka Kitch website or Facebook page. For rental information, contact Kristy Miller at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org. Click this link to take a quick tour of the facility.

Slideshows featuring scenes from Friday’s class on canning salmon and berries and Saturday’s class on canning soups and sauces are below. Also, KCAW-Raven Radio attended the pickling and fermenting class and filed this story (which also includes a slideshow at the bottom). The Alaska Dispatch News recently posted this link on how to can salmon.

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Slideshow from the Friday, July 17, class about canning salmon and berries (above).


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Slideshow from the Saturday, July 18, class about canning soups and sauces (above).

• A quick tour of the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen

Sitka Kitch Advisory Team Members, from left, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Kristy Miller, Sarah Lewis, and Dorrie Farrell go through the orientation packet before a recent series of canning and cottage foods classes taught by Lewis.

Sitka Kitch Advisory Team Members, from left, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Kristy Miller, Sarah Lewis, and Dorrie Farrell go through the orientation packet before a recent series of canning and cottage foods classes taught by Lewis.

kitch_logo_mainDid you know Sitka has a community rental commercial kitchen?

The Sitka Kitch, located inside First Presbyterian Church at 505 Sawmill Creek Road, officially opened in March and is available for cottage food businesses needing a commercial kitchen, people wanting to put up their own harvest, cooking and canning classes, and even groups who want to cook a dinner for friends and family that’s too large to hold in someone’s home.

The Sitka Kitch is a rental community commercial kitchen project coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the Sitka Local Foods Network, located inside the First Presbyterian Church. The Sitka Kitch was a project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit designed to improve food security in Sitka while also providing a space for people wanting to get into the cottage food business or wanting to preserve their harvest for storage in the home pantry. Sitka Kitch (Facebook page) officially opened after a series of renovations to make the church kitchen pass Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation commercial kitchen food safety standards.

The Sitka Food Co-op and Everything Organic Sitka regularly use the facility for deliveries and distribution.

Kristy Miller, the facilities manager for First Presbyterian Church, serves as the manager of Sitka Kitch and helps with scheduling and communal supplies. If you are interested in learning more about how to rent the Sitka Kitch, please go to this website, http://www.sitkawild.org/sitka_kitch, and the best way to schedule a rental is by email at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org.

The slideshow below provides a quick tour of the facility.

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