For a third straight year (2015-16), the Sitka Local Foods Network (SLFN) education committee wants to help families in Sitka learn how easy it can be to grow some of their own food. We are looking for up to three families who would like to learn about and try vegetable gardening in their own backyard through our Family Garden Mentor project.
Through a series of six workshops to be held at the families’ homes, Sitka Local Foods Network education committee volunteers will help the families:
- Choose a location for a vegetable bed (learning about sun, drainage, etc.),
- Build (or find) a planter/container or raised bed, and acquire soil and soil amendments,
- Learn about soil and prepare the soil for planting,
- Plant 2-4 easy-to-grow plants — specifically potatoes, lettuce, kale, and maybe a perennial edible such as rhubarb or fruit bushes,
- Learn to take care of their plants over the summer — teaching how to care for and pick the vegetables (without killing the plant),
- Harvest potatoes, and
- Cook a meal using the vegetables they have grown.
The Sitka Local Foods Network will provide all materials — soil, lumber, seeds, etc. — free to the participating families. Families will be expected to provide the labor, enthusiasm for gardening, and healthy appetites to eat the vegetables they grow.
The requirement to own your property or home was dropped in 2015, and people who rent now are participating through container gardening. Interested families must meet only three requirements:
- They must be first-time vegetable gardeners (this project is meant to help people who are just starting to garden, not people with previous experience, even if it was not in Alaska),
- They must want to try vegetable gardening and be committed to participating throughout the summer, and
- They must agree to let others come and attend classes at their property.
Other criteria, such as availability and interest in a second year of mentoring, will also be used to help select the final three families. Families that are not selected will be placed on a waiting list in the hope of future continuation and expansion of this project.
The Sitka Local Foods Network has expanded the program this year to include more families and to include at least two households living in rental housing that will garden in portable containers or planters appropriately sized for their space (in case moving is necessary). We also will offer a second year of mentoring to previous participants, so families can expand their knowledge and try growing more “difficult” vegetables, such as carrots, green onions, chard and peas.
Workshops may start as early as this fall or winter with selecting the garden site, ramp up in the spring of 2016 and run through September’s late harvest. First-year classes will focus on the easiest-to-grow vegetables (and fruit) in Sitka — potatoes, lettuce, kale, and rhubarb.
Families interested in participating in the 2016 program should contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708 before Jan. 15, and provide a name, address, and contact phone number.
A slideshow of scenes from our first two years of the family garden mentoring program is posted below.