Sitka Local Foods Network seeks volunteer instructors for spring garden education classes

Are you an experienced Sitka gardener who wants to share your knowledge with the community? The Sitka Local Foods Network is looking for a few volunteer instructors to teach garden education classes this spring.

Classes typically last about 1 1/2 to two hours, and they can cover a variety of Sitka garden topics. In past years we’ve had people teach classes such as Sitka Gardening 101, How to Extend Your Garden Season, How to Grow Potatoes, How to Grow Rhubarb, How to Grow Fruit Trees, How to Grow Garlic (this class was in the fall), How to Raise Chickens, How to Container Garden, How to Compost, and more. Last year we even had a class on Cottage Food Business Basics (with the help of the Juneau office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service) to help vendors prepare for the Sitka Farmers Markets.

Most of the classes tend to be low-key, and the class sizes have ranged from 2-35 depending on the topic. Some classes have been hands-on (with students planting starts in trays), while others have been lectures or group conversations. It depends on the instructor and class. A few classes have been taught at people’s home gardens, but we also have hosted others at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (Thursday nights work best for this venue). Most of our classes are offered for free, except for a couple that had a small supply fee. If you need help preparing a lesson plan, the UAF Cooperative Extension Service provides a variety of free and low-cost publications on Alaska gardening topics that can be downloaded from the Publications part of its website.

If you are available to teach a course or two, please contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com so we can build a schedule.

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Sitka UAF student Trevor Schoening earns award to study statewide food production in Alaska

Trevor Schoening (Photo courtesy of Trevor Schoening)

University of Alaska Fairbanks natural resources management student Trevor Schoening of Sitka, a junior, recently received a 2018 Spring Project Award from URSA, the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity program.

The program awards up to $2,500 to students planning to conduct research or pursue creative projects during the spring semester. Twenty UAF students will receive awards this spring.

Schoening said he’s still developing his project and doesn’t want to build up too many expectations, especially since he’s unsure of his outcomes. But he plans to present his findings on April 10 at the UAF Research Day.

According to a UAF School of Natural Resources and Extension (SNRE) press release, Schoening said he hopes to get a better understanding of where food production is taking place around Alaska. He plans to use the directory provided on the Alaska Grown website to find farmers markets and will ask for a list of vendors to contact for production information.

“In short, my principal goal for this project is to gain a deeper spatial understanding of where food is being grown around Alaska, particularly with regard to distribution through farmers markets,” Schoening wrote in an email. “I hope to contact as many producers around the state as possible in order to obtain a sample representative of the state’s food production, and gather information on the physical location in Alaska where the food is produced, what type(s) of food the producer grows, and roughly how much food is grown by the producer annually. Ultimately the goal for the final project is to develop spatial maps (specific maps for different regions of the state) through GIS that display the geographic locations around Alaska where food is being produced for commercial sale at some scale.”

Food producers wanting to contact Schoening about how much food they grew and distributed can contact him by email at tschoening2@alaska.edu.

Scenes from the Seasonal Cooking: Cooking With Hank Moore class at the Sitka Kitch

Students learned how to make blackcod with black-eyed peas, rice and collard greens during the Cooking With Hank Moore class on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. This was the first class of an upcoming Seasonal Cooking class series

The rest of the Seasonal Cooking classes are still being finalized, but they should be announced soon and will be posted on our Facebook page once they’re available. Interested individuals can register at https://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com/ (click on the event title to register). Please pre-pay online using credit/debit cards or PayPal. If you want to pre-pay using cash or check, please contact Chandler, Claire or Clarice at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange payment. We need at least eight students registered for each class to guarantee they happen.

Class size is limited, so register early. The usual class cost is $27.50 per class, plus a food/supply fee that will be divided among registered participants. The registration deadline is late on the second night before each class. For more information about the class series, call Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440.

A slideshow of photos from Tuesday’s Cooking With Hank Moore class is posted below.

SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital patients now have traditional food options

A bowl from venison stew served at the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital cafeteria (Photos courtesy of SEARHC)

As part of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital’s (MEH) overarching goal to provide the best care possible to individuals receiving medical care at MEH, the Hospital Nutrition staff, in partnership with food service contractor NMS, recently began making traditional food options available to inpatients.

NMS Chef Manager Lexie Smith holds deer hind quarters before preparing them for Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital patients as part of the hospital’s new traditional food options

Providing care means more than traditional medicine, it means comforting those that are not feeling well. One way Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital Nutrition staff thought they could provide additional comfort that was to add traditional foods such as local game, seafood, plants, and berries to the inpatient menu that feel like comfort food. However, adding traditional foods to the hospital’s menu required coordination with more than one Alaska State agency, including the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Fish and Game.

Undaunted by the task and motivated by the inevitable outcome, the MEH Nutrition team set out to develop a policy that would satisfy the state and SEARHC. The Traditional Foods Policy they created took quite a while to finalize, but resulted in a system that now allows Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital to accept donations of locally harvested meat, seafood, vegetables, and berries to be used exclusively for inpatient meals.

“As a team, we truly believe that the food we serve, and the hospitality we provide aid in the healing process. NMS is proud to prepare traditional foods that bring comfort to Mt. Edgecumbe patients, and we are committed to doing so,” said Lexie Smith, NMS Chef Manager at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital. “The menu is meant to engage our guests, honor tradition, and respect the land. The venison stew, in particular, is a recipe calling for fresh vegetables, herbs, and Sitka venison (as supplies are available). The stew is a popular menu option that many guests relate to and feel comforted by. Our Traditional Foods Policy allows the public to make donations of indigenous foods as long as it has been properly handled,” she added.

“This program is a win-win, great for the health of patients and great for community members who want to donate and be part of systems that emphasize living sustainably off the land and sea,” SEARHC Health Promotion Director Martha Pearson said.

For now, every Friday the MEH “Chef Special” for patients is venison stew. Ideally, however, if MEH were to receive donations of other items like fish, herring eggs, beach asparagus, fiddleheads, berries, reindeer, moose, etc. the Nutrition staff could incorporate those into the menu as well. They could also employ traditional methods of preserving. The hospital nutrition staff would very much like to see items such as local jams and pickles, herring egg salad, bone broths, and smoked fish on the patient menu in the future.

“Patient-centered medical care is a critical component of the way we deliver healthcare at SEARHC. Our Traditional Foods policy is an example of that and an enhancement to our vision of promoting a healthy balance of mind, body, and spirit,” SEARHC President/CEO Charles Clement said. “We are excited to explore ways to demonstrate our appreciation of the area and the local flavor in these offerings and are of course proud to be part of the future of healthcare delivery in the region.”

Additional information regarding traditional foods that may be donated and which are prohibited can be found online at http://dec.alaska.gov/eh/fss/Food/Traditional_Foods.html and reviewing the links under the “Requirements” section near the top of the page.

Individuals that have questions about donating traditional foods to Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital can contact NMS Food Service and Catering General Manager David Alexander at (907) 966-8325 or david.alexander@nmsusa.com, or NMS Chef Manager Lexie Smith at (907) 966-8470 or lexie.smith@nmsusa.com.

Sitka Tribe/SEATOR join new Alaska Ocean Acidification Network tribal research working group

Esther Kennedy at the SEATOR lab in Sitka.

While most people don’t know much about ocean acidification, it has become a major concern of Alaska fishing communities. Higher rates of CO2 means the ocean is 30 percent more acidic than it was three centuries ago, and that has impacted everything from how shellfish build their shells to causing harmful algal blooms that result in paralytic shellfish poisoning and other issues.

In order to monitor ocean acidification and its impact in Alaska coastal communities, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) and its partners in the Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR) have joined the new Alaska Ocean Acidification Network (AOAN) tribal research working group.

Jeromy Grant, left, and Sean Williams of Hoonah Indian Association take water samples for SEATOR.

“Global warming increases the risk of shellfish toxins, while its partner ocean acidification directly threatens shellfish survival,” STA Environmental Specialist Esther Kennedy said. “We monitor ocean acidification and shellfish toxins at local beaches to ensure that shellfish remain a sustainable and safe wild food source despite ongoing environmental changes.”

The tribal working group was formed to coordinate ocean acidification research and monitoring activities, as well as local community outreach activities, between tribal organizations across Alaska. So far discussions have been on creating consistency in data collection, and expanding data collection to sites in the Arctic that are not currently adequately sampled.  This effort is about expanding tribal capacity for research and monitoring, and having tribes take the lead in some areas in Alaska which are under sampled by university and agency researchers, as well as partnering with those researchers to build local capacity.

In addition to Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA), other members of the AOAN tribal working group include Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward, Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak, the Native Village of Kotzebue, and Yakutat Tlingít Tribe. SEATOR includes 16 Southeast tribal partners, plus Sun’aq Tribe in Kodiak, with its lab located in Sitka. The Sitka Sound Science Center recently posted an online survey about ocean acidification for the AOAN.

“Over the past few years the Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) has become a leader in Alaska in monitoring for shellfish toxicity for communities,” said Davin Holen, who is coordinating the tribal working group for AOAN. “This includes working closely with communities throughout Southeast Alaska to monitor stocks important for subsistence harvests. This effort has lead to the establishment of the Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research (SEATOR), which is housed in the environmental department of STA. Recently the STA lab installed equipment to monitor for ocean acidification. STA worked collaboratively with the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward to set up monitoring protocols for ocean acidification. Using their existing SEATOR network for testing shellfish, STA is beginning to monitor ocean acidification levels throughout Southeast Alaska. Additional monitoring will occur in collaboration with the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak for Kodiak Archipelago communities, along with two sites under development in the Arctic. Tribal monitoring of environmental conditions in Southeast Alaska by STA through the SEATOR network has become a model for other areas of Alaska, making STA a vital partner for marine science in Alaska.”

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska continuously monitors the carbonate chemistry of Sitka Harbor and is beginning a discrete sample collection program modeled after the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery’s existing program. The Sitka Tribe coordinates discrete sample collection and analysis with the SEATOR partnership’s existing weekly phytoplankton and shellfish biotoxin monitoring programs, including with the Hoonah Indian Association and other Southeast Alaska tribal partners.

Kennedy said SEATOR’s participation in the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network tribal working group is a natural extension of its shellfish testing work.

“We installed a Burke-o-Lator (BoL) in early June, which is an instrument that can continuously monitor the chemistry of water pumped through it and can measure individual preserved water samples,” Kennedy said. “While we’re still working to fully calibrate the individual water sample analysis portion of the instrument, we have started shipping kits of bottles and preservative to our partners. Since our partners are already collecting a phytoplankton sample every week and shellfish samples every two weeks, our goal is for partners to add OA-sample collection to their phytoplankton sampling routine and to ship us preserved samples with their clams every two weeks. Ocean acidification’s specific effects on nearshore ecosystems are still not well known, so we’re hoping that by pairing OA samples with phytoplankton assemblages and shellfish toxins, we’ll get a clearer picture of each community’s vulnerability. We are also interested in seeing whether the chemistry in our OA samples helps us to predict phytoplankton toxins, as work in California has suggested that domoic acid production is higher in more acidic waters.”

Sitka Kitch to host Cooking With Hank Moore class on Tuesday, Jan. 16

Local cab driver, fisherman, teacher and musician Hank Moore will teach a class in the new Sitka Kitch Seasonal Cooking class series from 6-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. Hank said students will cook collard greens or mustard greens, black-eyed peas, brown rice, black cod, lemon water and caramelized onion.

Hank grew up in the south, so his dishes have a soul food base. But he’s been in Sitka for many years, so he’s Alaskanized this dish with black cod (sablefish).

Class space is limited, so register early. This class costs $27.50 per person, plus a food/supply fee split between the registered students. The registration deadline is 4 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15.

Register online at http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title) and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal. To pre-pay with cash or check, contact Chandler, Claire, or Clarice at 747-7509 to arrange payment.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers Certified Food Protection Manager class by videoconference Feb. 22 in Sitka

Thursday, Feb. 8, is the registration deadline for a certified food protection manager workshop being taught on Thursday, Feb. 22, by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. This is an all-day statewide class that will be offered by videoconferencing to Delta Junction, Fairbanks, Juneau, Palmer and Sitka.

A certified food protection manager (CFPM) is responsible for monitoring and managing all food establishment operations to ensure that the facility is operating in compliance with food establishment regulations.

A CFPM is knowledgeable about food safety practices and uses this knowledge to provide consumers with safe food, protect public health and prevent food-borne illnesses. Alaska regulations require food establishments to have at least one CFPM on staff.

This course takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (with a half-hour lunch), and participants will take a computer-based exam at the end of the class. The reason the deadline is two weeks before the class is to guarantee course materials reach all the students in time for the class. The cost is $200, and the course will be taught by Julie Cascio of Palmer. Students can register here.

The Sitka videoconference for the class will take place in Room 106 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. To learn more, contact Jasmine Shaw at the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440, or contact Julie Cascio at (907) 745-3677 (Palmer number) or jmcascio@alaska.edu, or Melissa Clampitt at (907) 745-3551 or mrclampitt@alaska.edu. Note, this class is taught in English but textbooks are available in Korean, Chinese and Spanish, just contact Julie or Melissa at least three weeks before the class.

Also, the ServSafe book ($70) and certification exam ($75) now are available online, if people want to order the book and study independently without taking the class. Just go to this website and purchase the book and exam items.