Scenes from the third Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer

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SitkaFarmersMarketSignAfter a week of rain, we lucked out with no rain when we held the third of the seven Sitka Farmers Markets of the 2016 summer on Saturday, July 30, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

PeoplCheckOut4HFairWe had several new vendors at this market, and the Sitka Spruce Tips 4H club sponsored by the UAF Cooperative Extension Service and Sitka Conservation Society hosted the first 4H Fair at this market, with lots of exhibits by the 4H kids.

We always welcome new vendors who want to sell produce they’ve grown, fish they’ve caught, and local cottage food products they’ve made. To learn more about how to be a vendor, contact Matthew Jackson at (907) 821-1412 or jackson.mw08@gmail.com.

RachelMorenoWithFrybreadThe next Sitka Farmers Market will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, at the ANB Founders Hall. National Farmers Market Week is Aug. 7-13, so celebrate by coming to the market on Aug. 13.

The other markets this summer are on Saturdays, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, and Sept. 10. The Sitka Farmers Markets receive sponsorship funding from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). Don’t forget to vote for the Sitka Farmers Market in the American Farmland Trust’s eighth annual Farmers Market Celebration.

A slideshow of scenes from the third Sitka Farmers Market of the 2016 summer is below.

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Building a Local Food System: Dave Nuetzel and Blatchley Community Gardens

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Dave Nuetzel, right, helps build a memorial garden bed for longtime Blatchley Community Gardens supporter Kathy Swanberg.

(Editor’s Note: The Sitka Local Foods Network’s Bulldog on Baranof intern this summer, Claire Chang, is writing the Building a Local Food System series of articles about Sitkans working to improve food security. This is the third article of the series.)

BlatchleyCommunityGardenSignDave Nuetzel has held the role of lead gardener at Blatchley Community Gardens since 2007. Nuetzel grew up outside of Cleveland, and he toured around the country on a two-year road trip after he graduated from college. At the end of the trip, he wound up in Anchorage. In 2005, he followed his partner, who came to Sitka to work at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, and he has lived here ever since. With a background in special education, he originally worked for the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), and he now works for Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL).

The Blatchley Community Gardens, located behind Sitka’s middle school on what used to be a gravel terrace, started in 2000 as a project of Sitka Community Schools. When Sitka Community Schools lacked the staff to run the garden, Nuetzel took on his role as lead gardener. This year the garden has transitioned from Sitka Community Schools to become a program of Blatchley Middle School. The community garden consists of about fifty garden plots, approximately 6-by-12-feet each. It is personal-use garden, although it does contain a few communal plots of plants such as mint, rhubarb, and flowers. Gardeners pay for the square footage of a plot, and Nuetzel explained that the community garden particularly appeals to people who live in apartments, on boats, or in houses with yards that receive little sunlight.

MiddleOfBlatchleyCommunityGardenAs someone who “has always liked to fix things and learn new skills,” Nuetzel had small gardens when he was growing up, as well as in college. In addition to his personal plots at the Blatchley Community Gardens, Neutzel says that he has “basically cultivated his whole yard.” Any areas around his house where he is not growing vegetables or flowers contain salmonberry, blueberry, or raspberry plants. Gardening appeals to Nuetzel’s desire to strive for self-sufficiency; he also fishes and forages for beach asparagus for subsistence.

LeaveProduceAloneSignBlatchleyCommunityGardenNuetzel explained that, as lead gardener of Blatchley Community Gardens, maintaining a unified vision for the garden has posed a challenge. At the community garden, each plot represents the gardener’s individual approach to cultivation. Some gardeners devote themselves to experimentation, and they use their plots as a space for attempting to grow one type of vegetable that they have never succeeded in cultivating before. Others are committed to growing a wide variety of plants that they know will yield an ample harvest. Furthermore, gardeners choose to amend the soil in unique ways; while one might opt for buried salmon carcasses, kelp, and ground-up shells, another might rely more heavily on compost and coffee grounds.

An even larger challenge that Nuetzel has faced in his role is coordinating the management of common plots. Dividing up the responsibility of caring for a plot of chard, for example, becomes difficult when gardeners travel schedules and family obligations interfere. Furthermore, trying to ensure that everyone has equal to the resources of common plots, such as the apples from a communal apple tree, can be tricky.

BlatchleyCommunityGardenPicnicTableAndBedsNevertheless, Nuetzel appreciates Blatchley Community Gardens as a space where he and others can experience the tangible results of physical labor. Regular visits to the garden allow him to appreciate how well one can grow food for oneself when one puts in the effort. Nuetzel believes that gardening has grown more popular in Sitka in recent years. He has seen new gardens emerge in yard, and in the future, he would like to see new community gardens established in town. As gardening in the community becomes more popular, he wishes that more people would view gardening as a basic need, not just a hobby.

CherryBlossomsBlatchleyCommunityGarden“At one time, producing food was a requirement for life,” Nuetzel said. “Now, people think that gardening is only something you do if you have lots of ‘extra’ time. But if you provide people with a little bit of guidance and get them invested in the process of gardening, they will value it and treat it like something that is necessary.”

To learn more about Blatchley Community Gardens, go to the Facebook page or contact Dave Nuetzel at community.garden@hotmail.com.

Sitka chef Colette Nelson to represent Alaska in Great American Seafood Cook-Off

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Ludvig’s Bistro owner and executive chef Colette Nelson garnishes rabbit thighs with beach asparagus for a special local foods dinner she prepared as a February 2015 fundraiser for The Sawmill Farm.

Next week, Sitka chef Colette Nelson will carry a special cargo in a violin case when she heads to New Orleans to represent Alaska in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off.

Nelson, the owner and executive chef of Ludvig’s Bistro, will be carrying a frozen white king salmon in her violin case, the fish she plans to cook for the annual contest. The white king salmon was caught July 4 by troller Lou Barr of Auke Bay (who Nelson used to commercial fish with) and flash-frozen earlier this month. Nelson doesn’t plan to let the fish out of her control as she travels to New Orleans.

“I’m going to hold that fish with me. I’m not going to let somebody put it under the plane because that’s our gold,” Nelson told the Juneau Empire in a July 25 article.

On Aug. 6, Nelson will compete against chefs from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. The Great American Seafood Cook-Off is sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, and focuses on domestic, sustainable seafood and local ingredients.

Nelson, who will compete with her sous chef Josh Miller, hopes to become the second straight Alaska chef to win the Best Seafood Chef title, joining Beau Schooler and Travis Hotch of The Rookery Café in Juneau who won last year with a sockeye salmon dish. Nelson was nominated for this year’s contest by Gov. Bill Walker.

Nelson hasn’t said exactly how she plans to cook her white king salmon, but did hint that it will have a Spanish theme in keeping with her restaurant’s use of Mediterranean flavors.

“For me this experience is not only about representing Alaska, but it’s about what Alaska has given to me,” Nelson told the Empire. “I came here to fish in college so that I could study abroad in Spain. I did that and had a great time fishing. I fished for three seasons, then went to Spain and fell in love with the cuisine and with Mediterranean food as a whole. So to go to this competition 25 years later — after being in both the seafood industry and the restaurant business — it feels complete to go there with Spanish ideas.”

The dish will feature a pan-seared fillet of the fish that includes the belly meat.

“For anybody that knows king salmon, the belly meat is where the best flavor is,” Nelson said. “We like it just perfectly cooked so it just starts to separate, when the flakes come off. You can feel the oil, get it on your lips and really taste it.”

Nelson opened Ludvig’s Bistro in 2002, and has been a big supporter of local foods in Sitka (including using her restaurant to host fundraisers for the Sitka Local Foods Network and developing recipes and lesson plans for Sitka’s Fish To Schools lunch program coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society). She grew up in Oregon and attended the University of Washington, where she trained under Seattle restauranteur Susan Kaufman, who also had a food cart and restaurants in Juneau. She moved to Alaska in 1998, working as chef for Kingfisher Charters & Lodge in Sitka before opening her restaurant.

During the competition, Nelson and sous chef Josh Miller will have an hour to prepare six plates for the judges and one for photos. Nelson and Miller have been practicing, and now feel they’re ready.

“We do this all the time. We cook under pressure,” Nelson said. “When we were practicing (Sunday) I said, ‘Look, we’re just having a dinner party for seven guests and let’s just make it in an hour. We got this.’”

Building a Local Food System: Florence Welsh of Welsh Family Forget Me Not Gardens

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Florence Welsh and her Welsh Family Forget Me Not Gardens occasionally host a booth at the Sitka Farmers Market.

(Editor’s Note: The Sitka Local Foods Network’s Bulldog on Baranof intern this summer, Claire Chang, is writing the Building a Local Food System series of articles about Sitkans working to improve food security. This is the second article of the series.)

FlorenceWelshGoing on a tour of Florence Welsh’s Welsh Family Forget Me Not Garden is a magical experience. Raspberry bushes teem with succulent, red berries. Flowers of many shapes, sizes, and colors draw the eye in all directions. Sea kale yields abundant, hearty leaves, and the squash plants have begun to fruit. A cascade of pink roses hangs over the fence that surrounds fennel and artichoke beds. Rubbing one’s hand through the copious lemon balm or mint is a wonderful, sensory experience. The branches of elegant trees near the border of the garden abound with small, round apples. With a dehydrator, pressure cooker stand, and freezers literally overflowing with frozen berries, her garage indicates that her household makes use of the growing season’s bounty throughout the year

Raised in Weymouth, Mass., Welsh grew up exploring the seashore, swamp, and woods with her large family. She came to Sitka in 1965 and immediately fell in love with the unspoiled nature that she could experience here. For many years, she worked for the Sitka School District as a guidance counselor and as an administrator. During her summers off, she and her family hunted, fished, foraged, and spent lots of time in the garden. Welsh explained that though her family did not have a garden when she was growing up, she has “felt compelled to have at least a little bit of a vegetable garden” wherever she has lived since college.

Florence Welsh with copies of her Sitka gardening book

Florence Welsh with copies of the first edition of her Sitka gardening book

The prolific space that is now Florence Welsh’s garden did not emerge overnight. Her success as a gardener required years of trial and error. Gardening, Welsh explained, “is always place-specific, and the maritime Northwest is rainier and cooler than elsewhere.” Even compared to conditions in Seattle, gardeners in Sitka must adapt to a cooler, wetter climate. As she honed her gardening skills over the years, Welsh developed her place-specific gardening knowledge. For example, she came to understand how to improve soil fertility with seaweed and herring eggs and when to start and transplant various plants.

Forget-Me-Not-Gardens_Page_01Welsh’s desire to share her gardening knowledge inspired her to try to write a book for children and others in the Sitka community. She quickly realized, however, that the highly visual nature of gardening made it difficult for her to share her knowledge in a book. About a year and a half ago, Welsh decided to start a blog, SitkaVores, which allows her to incorporate photographs and format the gardening and foraging information. At sitkavores.blogspot.com, one can read about growing a wide variety of vegetables and flowers here in Sitka, as well as about foraged items like beach asparagus and berries. The blog also includes photos at various stages of the gardening process and recipe ideas. Welsh hopes to continue to add to the blog so she can share as much of her knowledge as she can. “I don’t want people to have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to gardening here,” she says.

SitkaVoresBlogScreenshotAs much as she enjoys working in the garden, what Welsh really loves is “getting out there” and experiencing the surroundings. She fondly remembers her and her family’s many hunting, scuba diving, fishing, and snorkeling adventures. The weather in Sitka, especially in fall and winter, can make it difficult to “get out there”, but Welsh explained that creativity helps people get through the periods spent indoors. In addition to working on her blog, Welsh personally enjoys reading and making artwork, such as drawings on bracket fungus, also called bear bread.

FlorenceWelshNow that she is getting older, Welsh explained that she is in the process of downsizing her garden. She will grow more perennial plants and cultivate fewer beds of vegetables. When her kids lived at home, they both helped out in the garden and ate a lot of the produce. Now, they are all grown, and Welsh “does not have the energy or endurance that she once had.” Still, her years of hard work have most certainly paid off. Not only does Florence Welsh have a beautiful, productive garden, but she has also helped many other gardeners get started her in Sitka. Without her commitment to sharing her hard-earned knowledge, many local gardeners would not have achieved the success that they have.

To learn more about Florence Welsh and the Welsh Family Forget Me Not Gardens, go to http://sitkavores.blogspot.com/.

Sitka Spruce Tips 4H club to host 4H Fair at July 30 Sitka Farmers Market

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SitkaFarmersMarketSignThe Sitka Spruce Tips 4H club will host its inaugural 4H Fair at the Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall (235 Katlian Street).

The Sitka Spruce Tips 4H club is co-sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and the Sitka Conservation Society. It provides a variety of programming promoting the Alaska Way of Life for youth and their families.

According to event organizer Jasmine Shaw of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District Office, the 4H members are going to be submitting projects in six different divisions:

  • Division 1 — Food Preservation (jams, jellies, preserves, canned goods, smoked fish, jerky)
  • Division 2 — Baked Goods (pies, cakes, cookies, donuts/frybread, breads)
  • Division 3 — Produce (fruits and vegetables) and Flowers
  • Division 4 — Arts and Crafts (knitting, basketry, natural products, recycled crafts, woodworking, sewing)
  • Division 5 — Art (photography, drawings, paintings)
  • Division 6 — Presentations (posters, reports, displays)
Only one entry per individual per category is allowed, so we are asking members to choose your best item. Other items can be displayed but not entered for judging.
“This is a chance for community members to see what 4H has been up to all year and become involved if they want,” Shaw said. “(We will have registration forms).
“Some members will have items for sale alongside the fair display,” Shaw added. “I’m not sure all of what will be for sale yet, but I do some of our members in our natural product series will be making lotion and lip balm.”

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s first Preserving the Harvest class — Simple Pickles and Sauerkraut

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kitch_logo_mainStudents learned how to make pickles from squash and small-batch sauerkraut at the first Preserving the Harvest series class of the summer on Monday, July 18, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

The Simple Pickles and Sauerkraut class was taught by Lisa Sadleir-Hart, with assistance from Jasmine Shaw. It is one of six classes in the Preserving the Harvest class series, which will teach people how to safely preserve the summer’s bounty so it can be eaten in the summer.

Other classes in the series will include low-sugar jams and jellies, canning salmon, chutneys and salsas, apple and fruit butters, and a community kale celebration. More details can be found at this link.

JarsPackedWithSquashThe Sitka Kitch was a project of the 2013 Sitka Health Summit, and the project is coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society in partnership with the Sitka Local Foods Network. The Sitka Kitch can be rented to teach cooking and food preservation classes, by local cottage food industry entrepreneurs who need a commercial kitchen to make their products, and for large groups needing a large kitchen for a community dinner. To learn more about how to rent the Sitka Kitch, please go to the website at http://www.sitkawild.org/sitka_kitch.

To register for classes, go to our online registration page at http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com/ and click on the class name. We now have a PayPal option so people can pay the registration fees before the class. There are food/supply fees for most of the classes, which are split between the students, and those are paid by cash or check (made out to the Sitka Conservation Society) at the class. Other than for the Kale Celebration event, each class has a limited number of spots available, so register early. Registration for each class closes at 11:55 p.m. on the Friday before the class.

If you have any questions about the class series, please email sitkakitch@sitkawild.org. A slideshow of images from the simple pickles and sauerkraut class is posted below.

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Alaska Native Sisterhood Culinary Academy graduates first class of students

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The first graduating class of the ANS Culinary Academy. Back row: Paulette Moreno, Jenna Martin, Dorothy Gordon, Jessie Natkong, Joy Wood, Marie Lawson, Amy Sutton, Teresa Moses. Front row: Jaiden Martin, Duane Lindoff, Mykle Potter, Zackery Loewen, Chad Titell, Andrew Roberts, Russell James (with Camden). Floor level: Lydia May, Gary May. Not pictured: Adam Geiger, David Thomas, Sarah Smith.

Seventeen students of the new Alaska Native Sisterhood Culinary Academy graduated from the program on Saturday, July 16, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

The graduates learned basic culinary skills, and also earned SafeServ and Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) certifications. The instructor was Gary May, the owner of New Creations Mobile Bistro and one of a handful of chefs in Alaska qualified to teach CFPM classes. The Alaska Native Sisterhood (ANS) Camp 4 in Sitka, the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) Camp 1 in Sitka, and Faith Mountain Ministries sponsored the classes.

“The vision of the ANS is to have a commercial kitchen at ANB Founders Hall to be here for our people, for koo.éex’ or holiday dinners,” ANS Camp 4 President Paulette Moreno said. “We also want it to be a place of training. The vision of our elders is to get our people in jobs where they can earn an income all year. We also have traditional foods we need people to know how to safely handle.”

Paulette said the ANS already has a waiting list for the next series of classes, which will probably take place this fall. Gary said the training was about 20 hours, and the students had to pass a couple of tests to earn their certifications, which will allow them to get jobs in just about any kitchen in the state..

The graduates were Paulette Moreno, Jenna Martin, Dorothy Gordon, Jessie Natkong, Joy Wood, Marie Lawson, Amy Sutton, Teresa Moses, Duane Lindoff, Mykle Potter, Zackery Loewen, Chad Titell, Andrew Roberts, and Russell James (Teresa’s and Russell’s month-old baby, Camden, received a special certificate for attending all of the classes with his parents). Adam Geiger, David Thomas, and Sarah Smith also graduated from the class but weren’t able to attend the ceremony.

A slideshow of scenes from the graduation ceremony is posted below.

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