Scenes from the Sitka Kitch Indian cooking class with Mohan Arul

Students learned how to cook chicken biriyani during the Sitka Kitch’s Cooking Around The World class Indian Cooking With Mohan Raj Arul on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at the new Sitka Kitch location in the Sitka Lutheran Church. This class was originally scheduled for Jan. 15, but was postponed after Mohan had to return to India after a death in the family.

Biriyani — which Mohan said is the spelling in southern India, while biryani is the spelling in northern India and Pakistan — is a popular dish featuring chicken, lamb or vegetables mixed with spices and basmati rice.

The Sitka Kitch has a few upcoming events on its schedule. They include (clicking on the date takes you to the registration pages for the classes, clicking the other link takes you to the story on this website):

A slideshow of images from the Indian cooking class is posted below.

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White E awards Sitka Local Foods Network 2019 grant to match SNAP/WIC produce sales

Charles Bingham of the Sitka Local Foods Network, left, and Donna Donohoe and Jessica Christianson of Friends of Sitka Circus Arts, right, pose with White Elephant Shop (White E) volunteer Cheryl Call, second from left, after receiving 2019 grant checks from the White E.

The Sitka White Elephant Shop (aka, the White E thrift shop) awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network with a $1,500 grant during its 2019 grant cycle. In 2018, the White E awarded the Sitka Local Foods Network $1,000.

The grant will be used to provide matching funds for SNAP and WIC beneficiaries who purchase produce at the Sitka Farmers Market and other events where the SLFN sells produce, such as at the Running of the Boots. The Sitka Local Foods Network began providing SNAP matching dollars for the first $20 of produce purchases at the markets a few years ago when there was a state grant, but in 2017 those grant funds ran out and we used our Sitka Local Foods Network general fund to match the produce purchases. We also started matching the $5 WIC farmers market produce coupons in 2017, using our general fund. We grow most of the produce at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden, and our satellite gardens around town.

“Our mission is to increase the amount of locally produced and harvested food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, but buying local produce can be difficult for people on food assistance programs,” Sitka Local Foods Network board president Charles Bingham said. “Our matching funds help get more healthy local produce into the diets of lower-income residents of Sitka. A lot of people don’t realize how much income inequality there is in Sitka, and according to the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report released in 2014, there were 1,410 people and 766 families receiving SNAP benefits in Sitka during 2013. That’s about one out of six Sitka residents who need extra access to this healthy local produce.”

The White E made several grants during the 2019 grant cycle, but a complete list wasn’t available. The Sitka Local Foods Network thanks the White E for its support.

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch potluck dinner and silent auction fundraiser on Feb. 17

The Sitka Kitch hosted a potluck dinner and silent auction fundraiser on Sunday, Feb. 17, at the new location of the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen (inside Sitka Lutheran Church).

The event served two purposes — it was an introduction to the new space, and it provided a meal to people staying over from the just-concluded Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit. In addition to a variety of potluck food, the event featured a silent auction and a Sitka Kitch trivia contest with the winners getting chocolate-covered strawberries.

The Sitka Kitch has a few upcoming events on its schedule. They include (clicking on the date takes you to the registration pages for the classes, clicking the other link takes you to the story on this website):

A slideshow of images from the fundraiser is posted below.

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Scenes from the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit held Feb. 15-17

Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit event organizer Jennifer Nu (Juneau), far right, introduces the members of the planning committee after the final session on Sunday. From left are Colin Peacock (Juneau), Lori Adams (Sitka), Joe Orsi (Juneau), Bo Varsano (Petersburg), Marja Smets (Petersburg), Andrea Fraga (Sitka) and Laura Schmidt (Sitka).

The 2019 Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit came to Sitka last week, with events Feb. 15-17 at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp’s Sweetland Hall and downtown at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Started in 2015 in Petersburg as a way to bring the farmers and commercial food and flower growers in Southeast Alaska together, the Summit provides them with a forum to discuss what works and doesn’t work in their communities. The Summit takes place every other year, and in 2017 it was in Haines.

A variety of small farms around the region made presentations about how they grow food. There also was a vendor showcase and educational talks by farmers from outside the region.

The event was organized by Jennifer Nu and Colin Peacock of the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition out of Juneau, with support from the Sitka Local Foods Network, Sitka Kitch, Sitka Food Co-Op, and other groups.

A slideshow of scenes from the Summit is posted below.

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Moby the Mobile Greenhouse to spend rest of year at Pacific High School in Sitka

Pacific High School gardening class teacher Maggie Gallin, center right facing camera, shows Moby the Mobile Greenhouse to her students during Friday’s class.

During the Pacific High School gardening class last Friday (Feb. 15), school social worker Maggie Gallin, who teaches the class, was showing the students around Moby the Mobile Greenhouse when she asked the students to visualize what they wanted to grow in the greenhouse this year. Moby arrived in Sitka earlier in the week, just in time for the Southeast Alaska Farmers Summit.

The students already have raised garden beds outside the school where they grow more traditional food crops for Sitka, such as lettuce, kale, potatoes, carrots, etc. So the students were a bit more daring in their choices.

George wants to try growing citrus. Hannah wants to grow peppers, Doug wants to grow bell peppers, while Karl and Jayvan want to try growing corn. These are crops that need a greenhouse to grow in Sitka, and they won’t grow well outside. Our climate isn’t hot enough.

“Our culinary program is really strong,” Gallin said. “But we have a garden program and a subsistence program that we want to get stronger. This will be a mini-learning lab for us on a small scale, and the students want to experiment.”

Pacific High School gardening class students discuss what crops they want to grow in the garden beds inside Moby the Mobile Greenhouse.

Pacific High School is Sitka’s alternative high school, which promotes different styles of learning and more personal attention. Principal Mandy Summer, who taught gardening classes before she became principal, said the school built its first raised garden bed in 2010 after Phil Burdick’s English class read the Paul Fleischman novel Whirligig, and the garden bed served as a place to put the whirligigs the class made where they could catch the wind. To supplement the novel, the class read articles about how to grow plants.

Over time the project grew into two classes, including one on how to build things such as more garden beds, a composter, a sifter and other items for the garden. There now are about a half-dozen raised garden beds behind the school.

The addition of Moby the Mobile Greenhouse will elevate the garden class project at Pacific High School. Moby the Mobile Greenhouse is a tiny house greenhouse project that travels to different schools in Southeast Alaska by Grow Southeast in partnership with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Spruce Root and the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition. It was built with support from the University of Alaska Southeast, the Juneau School District, the Nature Conservancy and the Sitka Conservation Society. Before coming to Sitka, Moby spent a year each in Kake, Hoonah and Yakutat.

“Our (Pacific High’s) theme this year is growth and legacy, and Moby fits our theme,” Gallin said. “The students will be leaving something behind, and they’ll be contributing something that’s individually fulfilling.”

Moby is the size of a tiny house, and it can be pulled behind a pick-up truck. There are six small garden beds inside about waist height (three on each side), plus there are places for hanging baskets. In addition, there are rain gutters to catch rainwater to use in the garden beds. The program’s link includes a handout about Moby and a downloadable curriculum for the teachers to use.

The Pacific High School garden program already has several student-built raised garden beds, a composter, a sifter, and a small older greenhouse (from a kit) behind the school.

“Part of having Moby here is for our partnership with Baranof Elementary School, where our kids can be mentors,” Summer said, adding that in time the school hopes to grow enough food for the school lunches at both Pacific High and Baranof Elementary. There is a plot of land behind the school where Summer, Gallin and others at the school are hoping to expand the garden program, and that includes having a greenhouse or high tunnel to extend the garden season. “The plan is to have a more permanent structure.”

“Moby the Mobile Greenhouse travels to a different rural Southeast Alaska community, each growing season to kickstart interest in growing local produce, especially among young people,” said Jennifer Nu, a local foods director for the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition and a community food sustainability catalyst for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. “We hope that the greenhouse inspires a new wave of vegetable gardeners, builders, local food system advocates in Sitka and beyond. Pacific High School was chosen for strong leadership, commitment to hands-on, place-based, project-centered learning that also has wellness and community at the heart of its mission. Students at Pacific High will share their learning experience with children at Baranof Elementary school and possibly students even younger. Moby will mobilize a longer-term vision as a local food system learning center for educators around the region.”

Pacific High School garden class students and class teacher Maggie Gallin (in stocking cap with back to camera) check out Moby the Mobile Greenhouse during their class on Friday, Feb. 15.

Pacific will have Moby through October, when the garden season ends. The students will still work through the summer, even though school won’t be in session. While Moby is in Sitka, the students discussed dressing up the mobile greenhouse with Native formline drawings.

“I’m excited for more fresh produce in lunch, and working with kids,” sophomore Melissa Gibson said.

“I want to grow stuff and take care of it,” sophomore George Stevenson added.

While in Sitka, Claire Sanchez of the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program will work with Gallin. There also will be other gardeners who might help with the class. The staff at Pacific hopes having Moby in Sitka will encourage more people in town to garden.

“One of the stats Sustainable Southeast Partnership wants us to track is how many gardens are inspired by Moby,” Gallin said.

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Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association seeks applicants for crewmember apprenticeship program

Sophie Nethercut is one of about 25 greenhorns who has served a short stint as a crew member on Eric Jordan’s troller, the I Gotta, in recent years.

Eric Jordan, back center, poses with crew members (l-r) Alyssa Russell, Sarah Jordan (his wife) and Anya Grenier on his troller the I Gotta.

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA), a Sitka-based fishing group, is seeking applicants for its Crewmember Apprenticeship Program. Through a safe and well-guided entry level experience, the program aims to provide young people an opportunity to gain experience in, as well as an understanding of, commercial fishing and its importance to supporting coastal communities.

In late 2017, ALFA was awarded a $70,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to expand this program in Sitka and to support efforts to launch similar programs in other parts of the state. The grant, leveraged with support from the City of Sitka and ALFA members, was awarded as part of NFWF’s Fisheries Innovation Fund. According to NFWF, “the work funded by these grants will result in improved management that strengthens the welfare of fishermen and local communities, promoting healthy fish stocks and healthy fisheries.”

Cathryn Klusmeier, left, and Jacob Metzger are among the greenhorns who crewed on Eric Jordan’s troller, the I Gotta.

Last year, ALFA’s apprentice program received over 100 local, national, and international applicants, and ALFA placed 13 apprentices on commercial fishing boats over the 2018 fishing season. In 2019, ALFA plans to increase the number of participating apprentices, skippers, and fishing vessels and to enhance local employment opportunity. As Executive Director of ALFA, Linda Behnken explains, “With support from NFWF, we plan to expand the program to include more boats, crew, and communities. Our goal is to provide young people with a safe introduction to Alaska’s fisheries and to share the curriculum we have developed through our program with fishing groups in other parts of the State and country”.

Lea LeGardeur, a crewmember apprentice from last year, says of her experience in the program, “Beyond giving me an entry point into an industry that I otherwise would have had a harder getting into … the skippers in the program all wanted to teach, and sign up to take greenhorns so they could pass on what they know.”

ALFA is seeking applicants for the 2019 fishing season. Crewmember application period is currently open and will close Feb. 28. Applicants must be over 18 years of age. Application information can be found at http://www.alfafish.org/apprenticeship/.

Sitka Kitch to host National Nutrition Month Class Cooking the Mediterranean Diet with Dietitian Katie Carroll

March is National Nutrition Month, and SEARHC dietitian Katie Carroll will teach a class about Cooking the Mediterranean Diet, from 6-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen. The class takes place at the Sitka Kitch, located at the Sitka Lutheran Church, 224 Lincoln Street (enter through the back door, through the alley next to Bev’s Flowers & Gifts off Harbor Drive, and please park in regular street parking and not behind the church). This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch.

Katie grew up in Nashville, Tenn., and lived there until she moved to Knoxville to complete her undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee with a B.S. in Nutrition. She then worked for two years for East Tennessee (Women, Infant, Children) WIC as a nutrition educator and Certified Lactation Counselor. She completed her Dietetic Internship through Priority Nutrition Care out of Boston, Mass., where she focused on clinical dietetics and after completion became a registered dietitian.

“I believe in a lifestyle approach to health where no one size fits all,” Katie said. “Outside of work I enjoy hiking, dancing, reading and cooking.”

The Mediterranean diet pattern is one of the most well-researched diet patterns in the world. It has been shown to reduce risk for heart disease, preserve cognitive function, manage diabetes and even reduce risk of certain types of cancer. It is relatively easy to follow and is rich in produce, healthy fats and whole grains. Katie will teach students how to make lemon orzo pasta with veggies and garlic shrimp and a Mediterranean flatbread appetizer.

The registration deadline for the Mediterranean diet cooking class is 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 24 (deadline extended), so register now since space is limited. We need at least eight students to register and pre-pay to make this class happen. The class costs $40, which is part of our new all-inclusive fee system (you no longer have to pay a class fee to register, then a separate food/supply fee). You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on our EventSmart page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Claire Sanchez or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We do offer one potential scholarship spot per class for people with limited incomes, so long as we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Claire at SCS for more details about the scholarship. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch.

Students should enter the Sitka Lutheran Church through the back entrance (through the alley off Harbor Drive by Bev’s Flowers and Gifts). The door on the right should be open for students to enter. Please do not park in the church’s back parking lot. Please use the public parking lots off Harbor Drive.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $35). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.