A to-do list of chores at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden
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 a garden party from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.
St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln 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 2, July 16, July 30, Aug. 13, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, and Sept. 10, 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.
In the cold winter of 1994, Anchorage Daily News (now called the Alaska Dispatch News) garden columnist and former Garden Writers Association of America President Jeff Lowenfels was returning to his hotel after a Washington, D.C., event when he was approached by a homeless person who asked for some money to buy food. Lowenfels said Washington, D.C., had signs saying, “Don’t give money to panhandlers,” so he shook his head and kept on walking. But the man’s reply, “I really am homeless and I really am hungry. You can come with me and watch me eat,” stayed with Lowenfels for the rest of his trip.
The encounter continued to bother Lowenfels, even as he was flying back to Anchorage. During the flight, Lowenfels came up with an idea when he started writing his weekly garden column (the longest continuously running garden column in the country, with no missed weeks since it started on Nov. 13, 1976). He asked his readers to plant one extra row in their gardens to grow food to donate to Bean’s Café, an Anchorage soup kitchen. The idea took off.
When Anchorage hosted the Garden Writers Association of America convention in 1995, Lowenfels took the GWAA members to Bean’s Café to learn about the Plant A Row For Bean’s Café program. The Garden Writers Association of America liked the idea, and it became the national Plant A Row For The Hungry campaign (also known as Plant A Row or PAR). In 2002, the Garden Writers Association Foundation was created as a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit to manage the Plant A Row For The Hungry program.
“I am not surprised by the growth of PAR,” Lowenfels wrote in an e-mail to the Sitka Local Foods Network. “It is now in all 50 states and across Canada and there are thousands of variations of the original program — from prison gardens for the hungry to botanical gardens donating their produce from public display gardens. This is because gardeners always share information and extra food, so the idea was a natural.”
It took five years for the program to reach its first million pounds of donated food, but the second million only took two years and the next eight years saw a million pounds of donated food (or more) each year. Since 1995, more than 14 million pounds of food have been donated. Not only that, the program is getting ready to expand overseas to Australia, England and other countries with avid gardeners.
“We have supplied something in the vicinity of enough food for 50 million meals,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail. “Gardeners can solve this hunger problem without the government. And we don’t need a tea party to do it! Or chemicals, I might add, as author of a book on organic gardening!” Lowenfels is the author of Teaming With Microbes, written with Wayne Lewis. He recently released a second book, Teaming With Nutrients, which is a follow-up to his first book.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one out of every eight U.S. households experiences hunger or the risk of hunger. Many people skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going an entire day or more without food. About 33 million Americans, including 13 million children, have substandard diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they can’t always afford to buy the food they need. In recent years, the demand for hunger assistance has increased 70 percent, and research shows that hundreds of children and adults are turned away from food banks each year because of lack of resources.
According to the 2014 Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report, about one in six people in Sitka is food insecure. In 2013, there were 1,410 Sitkans (out of a population of about 9,000) and 766 families receiving food assistance (SNAP, aka food stamps). There also were 229 individuals who received food pantry assistance from the Salvation Army and 7,243 meals served through its lunch soup kitchen in 2013, and that number has grown substantially since then.
While many people credit Lowenfels for creating the Plant A Row For The Hungry program, Lowenfels says the real heroes are the gardeners growing the extra food and donating it to local soup kitchens, senior programs, schools, homeless shelters and neighbors. You can hear him pass along the credit to all gardeners at the end of this 2009 interview with an Oklahoma television station (video also embedded below).
“One row. That’s all it takes. No rules other than the food goes to the hungry. You pick the drop-off spot or just give it to a needy friend or neighbor. Nothing slips between the lip and the cup, I say,” Lowenfels wrote in his e-mail.
For people wanting to Plant A Row For The Hungry in Sitka, there are several places that would love to help distribute some fresh locally grown veggies or berries to those who are less fortunate, such as the Salvation Army, Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV), local churches, Sitka Tribe of Alaska and other organizations. The food the Sitka Local Foods Network grows at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden goes to the Sitka Farmers Market, school lunches and other programs.
The Sitka Local Foods Network also takes donations of local produce to sell at the Sitka Farmers Markets, and all proceeds are used to help pay for SLFN projects geared toward helping more people in Sitka grow and harvest local food. For more information, contact the Sitka Local Foods Network board members at email@example.com.
Rebecca Kubacki and her family after planting their garden bed in 2015.
Breezy and her family after planting their garden bed in 2015.
The first two classes for the 2016 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program have been set for our two participating first-year families and our three returning second-year families. The classes will be similar at each location, and they are open to the public. (Note: This post has been updated with our second first-year family and a new time on one of the other classes.)
For our first-year families, the first class will focus on site selection, garden preparation, building planter beds, simple vegetables and soil preparation. The second class will be about simple vegetables and planting. Our first-year gardener families (Erin Mathes and Fran Baratki), learn how to grow four hardy crops for Sitka — kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb.
Our three returning families (A.J. Bastian, Rebecca Kubacki and Breezy) will be planting carrots, chard, green onions and peas this year.These four crops are slightly more difficult crops to grow that our first-year plantings of kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. Even though the crops for our second-year students are more difficult to grow, many gardeners in Sitka still have good results with these vegetables. These classes are essentially the same, so feel free to attend the Class 1 and Class 2 that best fits your schedule.
The class schedule and location for the one first-year and three second-year families is:
Erin Matthes (first-year family), 716 Etolin Street — CLASS 1: 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27; CLASS 2: 3 p.m. on Monday, May 9.
Fran Baratki (first-year family), 180 Price Street, No. 6 (purple trailer) — CLASS 1: Done; CLASS 2: 4:30 p.m. on Monday, May 9.
A.J. Bastian, 207 Brady St. — CLASS 1: Done; CLASS 2: 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 28.
Rebecca Kubacki, 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — CLASS 1: Done; CLASS 2: 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 2.
Breezy, 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — CLASS 1: 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 28; CLASS 2: 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 5.
This is the third year of the garden mentor program, which provides one-to-one mentoring to families who are trying to garden for the first time. In order to reach more people, our participating families allow the classes to be made public. By teaching families the basics of gardening, we are helping them improve their family nutrition, extend their family food budget, and increase food security in Sitka.
Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program. For more information, please contact Michelle at 747-2708.
Students made a pear chutney, a chili barbecue sauce and a tomato soup with black beans during the April 18 Cooking From Scratch series class Soups, Sauces and Dressings at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, located inside the First Presbyterian Church (505 Sawmill Creek Road). This class was a make-up of a postponed class from February.
This class was taught by Kathy Jones, the executive chef at the Westmark Hotel and Totem Square Inn, with assistance from her sous chef Barbara Palacios. It was focused on preparing homemade sauces and dressings to help you lower your food costs and increase the flavor of items you cook.
The 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors. Front row, from left, Alli Gabbert, Lisa Sadleir-Hart, and Jennifer Carter. Middle row, from left, Maybelle Filler and Michelle Putz. Back row, from left, Charles Bingham, Brandie Cheatham, Matthew Jackson, and Beth Kindig. Our 2016 board of directors (no picture available) is President Michelle Putz, Vice President Matthew Jackson, Treasurer Kathy Jones, Secretary Brandie Cheatham, Charles Bingham, Jennifer Carter, Edith Johnson, Chris Todd, and Wendy Lawrence.
Are you concerned about increasing access to local food for all Sitka residents? Are you worried about rising food prices in Sitka, or do you want to advocate for more community gardens in Sitka?
Due to the unforeseen upcoming loss of two board members this summer, please consider joining the board of directors for the Sitka Local Foods Network to help us finish out the 2016 calendar year. We also are trying to build up a pool of possible replacements for this winter when we have three of our nine board spots up for reapplication.
Board members help direct the Sitka Local Foods Network, a non-profit that promotes the harvest and use of local food in Sitka. In addition to setting the focus of the group during our monthly meetings, board members also serve on at least one committee supporting at our three main projects of the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and garden education and mentoring. In addition, some board members have supported other local foods projects in Sitka, such as the Sitka Kitch, Blatchley Community Garden, Let’s Grow Sitka, the Sick-A-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food Assessment project, Sitka Fish-To-Schools, other school education projects and more.
To apply for a spot on the board, please fill out the application linked below and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please email us. Please note this is a working board, and our group is evolving and maturing as we try to raise funds to hire staff. Board terms are for three years, with three seats up for reapplication each winter.
We also are looking to increase our pool of volunteers who will help out during the various projects hosted by the network each year (no formal application needed, just send us your name/contact info and what types of projects you enjoy). We need volunteers to help with the upcoming Sitka Farmers Market, helping our lead gardener at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and helping us teach gardening classes or working with our garden mentor program families.
The next Sitka Local Foods Network board meeting is at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10 (Note: this is a change from our usual meeting date), at the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church (611 Lincoln St.). The board usually meets from 6:30-8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, with a short finance committee meeting at 6 p.m. on alternate months. Please note, we may be changing our meeting dates in the near future.
Click here for a copy of the Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors job description. Click here for a copy of the board application.
Chef Kathy Jones, left, and student Pat Hughes, watch pots boil during a recent Basic Culinary Skills class series during March 2016 at the Sitka Kitch.
The Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen will host a rescheduled class on cooking soups, sauces and dressings from 6-8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 18, at the Sitka Kitch, which is located at the First Presbyterian Church (505 Sawmill Creek Road). This class originally was part of the Cooking From Scratch series in February, but had to be postponed.
This class will be taught by Kathy Jones, the executive chef at the Westmark Hotel and Totem Square Inn, with assistance from her sous chef Barbara Palacios. It is focused on preparing homemade sauces and dressings to help you lower your food costs and increase flavor.
The cost of the class is $20, plus a food fee shared among the registered participants. Registration closes at noon on Saturday, April 16, so the instructor can purchase supplies. Please register online through our EventSmart website, but you will pay at the class with cash. For more information, email email@example.com.
(Photo by Jeff Fay for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service) Meriam Karlsson provides a tour of the greenhouse and hydroponic system near Pike’s Waterfront Lodge.
A total of nine lessons will be offered by webinar and teleconference from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, June 8 to Aug. 10. Those interested should register for CEPD F001 UX1 Alaska Growers School (CRN 51871). The cost of the course is $50, however tuition waivers are available. To apply for a waiver, first you must register, then you can complete the waiver (the link is available on the registration page).
This training is non-credit and will be taught by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service experts as well as experts from Arizona and Washington who are knowledgeable about Native American farming and ranching policies. This training is intended for Alaska Native tribes, Alaska Native corporations, or Alaska Natives who are currently or hope to start farming or ranching. Representatives or employees of Alaska Native owned corporations (regional or village) are also welcome to participate in the course. The course will address opportunities available to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
There are lots of reasons to think about starting a farm or ranch. With persistent, low oil prices, agriculture could be a diversification strategy. Starting a farm in a remote village could provide fresher, healthier food for a community as well as improved food security. It also could improve local economies by providing job opportunities and keeping more money in a particular community.
This class will provide the nuts and bolts of getting started farming or ranching in Alaska and will specifically address opportunities available to Alaska Native-owned farms and ranches who are considered socially disadvantaged by the USDA. We will showcase successful Alaska Native- and Native American-owned farms and discuss some of the most promising enterprises for Alaska, such as Rhodiola and peonies.
In the Summer 2016 Alaska Growers School, you will:
Learn about important considerations for starting or expanding a farm or ranch.
Consider opportunities to improve food security in remote Alaska Native villages
Learn about business mapping and how to choose a business structure
Establish your vision, goals, values, and strengths.
Assess your resources, skills, and motivations for farming.
Understand and learn how to manage the risks of starting or expanding a farm in remote Alaska.
Learn about other training opportunities, technical assistance, and resources.
Connect and learn with other Alaska Native and Native American growers.
This material is based upon work supported by the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award # 59-2501-15-045. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Alaska Master Gardener online course is an intensive, sustainable gardening class specific to Alaska growing conditions. This is a non-credit, self-paced, online course offered through UAF eLearning using Blackboard Learn. The course fee is $375. Register here for the Summer 2016 Alaska Master Gardener online course — Course Number: ED F595P (50942) or NRM F595P (51014), choose either one when registering.
This curriculum for this online course includes lessons on botany, starting plants, soil, composting, season extension, greenhouses, landscaping, house plants, entomology, pest management, plant disease diagnostics and sustainable gardening. The course also covers growing vegetables, fruits, berries and flowers. The text for the course is Sustainable Gardening: Alaska Master Gardener Manual, which can be purchased for $50 a copy from this link. The text is optional for the course, but it is a good resource for any Alaska gardener even if you’re not taking the course.
Students complete 12 self-paced lessons and quizzes, a book report, participate in ongoing discussions, and complete a final exam. On average, the course takes students approximately three hours per week to complete. The course is pass/fail and the summer course is not for credit.
In addition to the coursework, students also pledge to volunteer at least 40 hours teaching what they’ve learned in their communities. Examples of how students can volunteer include helping with local school garden programs or 4H clubs, working with local foods groups, writing gardening blogs, and more.
The classroom-based Alaska Master Gardener course hasn’t been offered in Sitka for about three years, so the statewide online course is the only way Sitka gardeners can obtain the training until a new Cooperative Extension Service agent is hired in Sitka. Gardeners from Sitka can contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service (firstname.lastname@example.org or 747-9440) to see if there will be a local classroom at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus for the online course, otherwise they will need to take it from home.
For more information about the statewide online Alaska Master Gardener course, contact instructor Heidi Rader in Fairbanks at 907-452-8251, Ext. 3477, or by email at email@example.com
The Sitka Local Foods Network is looking to contract with two Sitka residents to coordinate our garden mentoring education program. This year we’re splitting up the duties, so one of the coordinators will work with our returning families and the other will work with our new families (and be paid slightly more).
These contracts run from spring through fall 2016, and the coordinators will be in charge of developing curricula, teaching classes, obtaining supplies, and providing evaluation of the program. A full list of job duties and expectations can be found in the linked document at the bottom of this article.
Applicants should have at least 3-5 years of varied vegetable gardening experience, preferably in Southeast Alaska. They also should have 3-5 years of project coordination experience, as well as demonstrated communication, organizational, and teaching/mentoring skills.
The garden mentoring project began in 2014 when two families of first-time gardeners were chosen to receive help planning and building a simple garden to grow four relatively easy plants for Sitka (kale, rhubarb, potatoes, lettuce). In 2015, the program was expanded to provide mentoring service to four new first-time gardening families, plus the two families from 2014 will receive a second year of mentoring as they learn to grow plants that are a bit more difficult for Sitka (carrots, peas, chard, green onions).
There are six classes with each family, and they usually are open to the public. In 2016, we expect three returning families and three new families (one of our first-year families from last year asked to repeat as a first-year family this year).
Applicants should submit a letter of interest and resume by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 8, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Garden Mentor Coordinator” in your email subject line. The contracts pay in three installments over the summer. Questions about the contracts can be directed to email@example.com.
Registration for the 2016 Sitka Farmers Markets is open, and vendors looking to sell local food, arts and crafts, and other items at the markets can find all the vendor forms, information sheets, rules and regulations for this year by going to the Documents page on this site, or look at the bottom of this post for the documents. The forms include information about how to register your table for this year’s markets.
The 2016 Sitka Farmers Market manager will be hired soon, and he/she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 738-8683 during the market season. The tentative dates for our 2016 Sitka Farmers Markets will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on seven Saturdays — July 2, July 16, July 30, Aug. 13, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, and Sept. 10 — at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall at 235 Katlian Street.
The Sitka Local Foods Network already held two pre-market meetings to discuss market changes for potential vendors, and we may hold additional meetings as we get closer to the market season. Most of the info about changes is in the 2016 Vendor Rules and Responsibilities document. This document also includes information about commercial kitchens in Sitka and other helpful hints to make your booth more successful, plus it has your registration form for this year.
Sitka Local Foods Network board liaison Matthew Jackson is available to answer questions and to make suggestions that will help new and returning vendors adjust to any food regulation changes from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, updates to the Alaska Quest electronic benefits program, etc.
There are several changes to the 2016 rules and responsibilities, so please read them carefully. For more information, contact Sitka Farmers Market board liaison Matthew Jackson at (907) 821-1412 or email@example.com, or you can email the Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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