U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska harvest Tlingít potato garden for community

The community is invited to help harvest the U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tlingít potato garden at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4. This workday and educational opportunity will be at the Sitka Ranger District office, located at 2108 Halibut Point Road. Staff will provide information on how to care for Tlingít potatoes, their biology, history, and cultural aspects.

Volunteers from the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program, the gardening class from Pacific High School, and others from the community planted the potatoes in April in the sunny plot of land the Sitka Ranger District provides to serve as the shared potato garden. School and tribe volunteers assist in the harvest, but community involvement is also needed.

Participants should come prepared for the weather as all activities will occur outdoors. Attendees are asked to wear boots and gardening gloves, and bring hand trowels and buckets of kelp to incorporate into the soil after harvesting.

Potatoes will be dried and prepared for storage. Many of the potatoes harvested will be saved as next year’s seed potatoes. The rest of the harvest will be shared among the volunteers and through the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program and Social Services Department.

For the third year in a row, the potato garden will help support food security in Sitka and be an ambassador for heirloom varieties of vegetables throughout Southeast Alaska.

“This year, we shared Maria’s ‘Tlingít’ seed potatoes with Supanika Ordonez and Timothy James Ackerman and their children. Timothy’s grandmother was Maria Ackerman Miller, whom the potatoes were named after,” says Michelle Putz, project coordinator and lead gardener for the Sitka Ranger District. “It’s exciting that our potato project has allowed this historic and delicious food to end up back in the hands —and the dirt—of the ancestors who brought it forward to scientists. Because of Forest Service and Sitka Tribe’s efforts to cultivate and share this potato and information about it, this unassuming potato has gone full circle.”

Supanika and her children (shown in the photos) were thrilled to grow Maria’s potatoes.

“We recently bought a house in Juneau and we were hoping to grow some of Maria’s potatoes with our sons. Last year, we had gotten some [seed potatoes] from Maria’s daughter in Bellingham (Wash.), but they had been cross-bred with a purple potato variety. We had hoped that some were Tlingít potatoes, but the crop was all purple,” Supanika said. “This spring, the Forest Service gave us some Maria’s seed potatoes from the Forest Service/Sitka Tribe potato garden. As they started to pop out of the ground, our 3-year-old would say ‘great-grandma’s potatoes’ every time we walked by. The boys had fun harvesting this week. We got quite a crop, so we have enough to save and plant next year too.”

Sitka District Ranger Perry Edwards, adds, “We could not be happier than to bring this potato back to the family that brought it to us in the first place.”

Tlingít potatoes (sometimes called Maria’s potatoes) have been present in Tlingít gardens for more than 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile* and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800’s.

All are invited to learn and assist in this workday. For more information, contact Michelle Putz at 907-747-2708 or michelle.putz@usda.gov.

*Zhang, Linhai with Charles R. Brown, David Culley, Barbara Baker, Elizabeth Kunibe, Hazel Denney, Cassandra Smith, Neuee Ward, Tia Beavert, Julie Coburn, J. J. Pavek, Nora Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer. Inferred origin of several Native American potatoes from the Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska using SSR markers. Euphytica 174:15-29


The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 30 percent of the nation’s surface drinking water to cities and rural communities and approximately 66 million Americans rely on drinking water that originated from the National Forest System. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 900 million forested acres within the U.S., of which over 130 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

Sitka wins top market in Alaska honors for third straight year in American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration

The Sitka Farmers Market was the top market in Alaska and ninth in the Pacific region during the American Farmland Trust‘s Farmers Market Celebration voting that ended earlier this week. This was the 11th year of the contest.

This is the third straight year the Sitka Farmers Market has been the top market in Alaska, and fifth time in six years. The contest uses online voting, but each email address is only allowed to vote once so people can’t stuff the ballot box. Voting opened in June and ended earlier this week.

“We have a small market compared to others around the country, but I’m happy the people who visit our market think enough of it to recommend it in this contest,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network which sponsors the Sitka Farmers Market. “We thank everybody who came to one of our markets this summer and supported more local food in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.”

The Sitka Farmers Market also was listed on the Guide To Exceptional Markets from the Certified Naturally Grown program this summer.

This year the People’s Choice Award (the only national award this year) went to the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market of Troy, N.Y. Finishing second in the People’s Choice competition was the Coventry Farmers Market (Conn.), followed by the West Windsor Community Farmers Market (N.J.) in third place, the Charlottesville City Market (Va.) in fourth, and the Williamsburg Farmers Market (Va.) in fifth place.

The top market in the Pacific region was the Kaka’ako Farmers Market of Honolulu, Hawai’i. In second place was the Kailua Town Farmers Market of Kailua, Hawai’i, followed by the Moscow Farmers Market (Idaho) in third, the Olympia Farmers Market (Wash.) in fourth, and the Albany Farmers Market (Ore.).

Sitka was the top Alaska market in ninth place. The other Alaska markets to make the top 50 in the Pacific region were the Homer Farmers Market in 18th place and the Soldotna Saturday Farmers Market in 45th place.

The other regional winners were the Flint (Mich.) Farmers Market in the Midwest, the Troy (N.Y.) Waterfront Farmers Market in the Northeast, the Charlottesville (Va.) City Market in the Southeast, and the City of Dripping Springs (Texas) Farmers Market in the Southwest.

The last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer was on Saturday, Sept. 21, but the Sitka Local Foods Network will have a SLFN farm stand with fresh produce from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm at the 25th annual Running of the Boots costumed fun run fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Totem Square park. Registration opens at 10:30 a.m., the costume contest is about 11, and the race starts at 11:30 a.m. The entry fee is $10 for individuals, $30 for families. This event benefits the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka.

Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association hosts annual Alaska Day smoked seafood competition

Do you have a favorite smoked seafood recipe? Bring a small sample of your smoked seafood to the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) Open House and Smoked Seafood Contest.
Please drop off your smoked seafood contest entry at 9:30 a.m. on Alaska Day (Friday, Oct. 18) and be entered to win one of three prizes. All are welcome from 10 a.m. to noon at the new ALFA office at 304 Baranof Street (the old Island Institute building near Market Center). Start your Alaska Day Celebration with music, door prizes, black cod tips and other treats.
Contact Willow Moore with any questions at 747-3400.

Scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer

TABLE OF THE DAY: Sitka Farmers Market volunteer Hannah Green, right, presents the Table of the Day award to Brittany Dumag, left, and Kathy Dumag, center, of Castaway during the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the 2019 summer season, held Sept. 21, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. Brittany and Kathy sold Cubano pork sandwiches with salad and banana chips and pozole pork and hominy soup. They received a certificate, a Sitka Farmers Market tote bag, a Redoubt Rhubarb sweatshirt, a Redoubt Rhubarb t-shirt, some carrots, beets and apples from St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, a jar of Evie’s Brinery fermented food, a bag of Chugach Chocolates birched hot chocolate, and some Barnacle Foods kelp salsa. The Sitka Farmers Market recently was listed on the Exceptional Markets list by the Certified Naturally Grown program. This was the last Sitka Farmers Market of the summer, but there will be a Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand at the Running of the Boots event on Sept. 28 at Totem Square park. For more information, go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org, or like our Sitka Local Foods Network page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaLocalFoodsNetwork, and our Sitka Farmers Market page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaFarmersMarket.

Even though it was raining, there was a big crowd for the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of the season on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall.

Even though this is the latest in the summer we’ve hosted a Sitka Farmers Market we still had lots of produce, and this time we had some extra produce left at the end of the market that was donated to the Salvation Army soup kitchen. Our vendors had a wide range of other products for sale, too. We had vendors selling Indian tacos and frybread; home-baked bread; jarred smoked seafood; homemade caramels; garlic, lettuce, carrots and other produce; packaged seaweed; arts and crafts; and more. And this year we introduced a couple of new Alaska Grown product lines at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s farm stand.

Mark Saturday, Sept. 28, on your calendar for the 25th annual Running of the Boots fundraiser (and farm stand) at Totem Square Park. This is a costumed fun run fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network and Youth Advocates of Sitka. Registration opens at 10:30 a.m., with costume judging about 11 a.m. and the race at 11:30 a.m. The entry fee is $10 for individuals, $30 for families. In addition, we will have the last Sitka Local Foods Network farm stand of the summer, and the Smoothie Truck should be there. There will be door prizes and live music. This event is part of the Greater Chamber of Commerce’s End-Of-Season Celebration, with hamburgers and hot dogs for a small donation and closed-off streets downtown.

A slideshow of scenes from the seventh and final Sitka Farmers Market of 2019 is posted below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s class, ‘Bees, Pollinators, and Honey, Oh, My!’

Students at the free Sitka Kitch class, “Bees, Pollinators, and Honey, Oh, My!” on Friday, Sept. 20, learned about the importance of bees in pollinating local plants.

The class was taught by former Sitka resident Christi (Wuerker) Henthorn, who now lives in North Carolina and runs 20 or so bee hives as a side business. Christi also taught the students some basics about beekeeping and some of the challenges faced by bees from chemicals and urban growth. After the class the students had a chance to taste a wide variety of honey types from when the bees are near certain types of plants.

Adrienne Wilber, a Sitka resident who started beekeeping this year, attended the class, and Christi showed some of her bees in a jar and a honeycomb from one of Adrienne’s bee boxes.

Some scenes from the class are in a slideshow below. Also, click here for a link to her PowerPoint presentation (as a PDF document) is below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s ‘Cooking With Wild Mushrooms’ class on Sept. 13

Students learned how to identify, clean, and cook a variety of wild and cultivated mushrooms during the Sitka Kitch’s “Cooking With Wild Mushrooms” class on Friday, Sept. 13, at the new Sitka Kitch location in the Sitka Lutheran Church. This class was a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

This class was taught by Beak Restaurant owner/chef Renée Jakaitis Trafton and University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus assistant professor Kitty LaBounty, who teaches an annual mushroom identification class at the university in September. After a quick primer on how to identify and clean mushrooms from Kitty, Renée taught students a variety of recipes so they can use their foraged finds.

The next class at the Sitka Kitch is a special free class, “Bees, Pollinators, and Honey, Oh, My!,” from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, at the Sitka Kitch, which is located inside the Sitka Lutheran Church. This class will be taught by former Sitka resident Christi (Wuerker) Henthorn, who now lives in North Carolina where she keeps bees. Brinnen Carter of the Sitka National Historical Park will assist Christi.

The registration deadline for the bees and pollinators class is 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18, so register now since space is limited. Even though this class is free, we are asking for people to pre-register so we know how many people are coming.

Most Sitka Kitch classes now cost $40 per person, 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 Chandler O’Connell or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment.

For more information about this class and future classes, 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 Chandler at SCS for more details about the scholarship. These classes are fundraisers for the Sitka Kitch.

Students should enter the Sitka Lutheran Church through the back entrance (through the alley off Harbor Drive by the old Bev’s Flowers and Gifts location). 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.

A photo slideshow of scenes from the Cooking With Wild Mushrooms class is posted below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sitka Kitch to host free class, ‘Bees, Pollinators, and Honey, Oh, My!’, on Sept. 20

Learn the basics of bees, pollinators and honey in this special, free Sitka Kitch class, which takes place from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

Christi Henthorn

This class will be led by former Sitka resident Christi (Wuerker) Henthorn, with assistance from Brinnen Carter of Sitka National Historical Park. The class features a short PowerPoint, a Q&A, and some honey tasting. “I will NOT be focusing on discussing becoming a beekeeper, but will answer questions,” Christi said.

Christi lived in Sitka from 2008-2014, when she worked at SEARHC, and now resides in North Carolina, surrounded by BEES!  Although just a side gig, she currently manages 20-plus hives and is very active with the Granville County Beekeepers Association.  Christi is currently working on her Master Beekeeper Certificate through the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association and enjoys talking about bees and pollinators to pretty much anyone who will listen.

Even though this is a free class, we ask people to pre-register so we have an idea how many people plan to attend.

For those who haven’t been to the Sitka Kitch since we moved last year, we now are located in the Sitka Lutheran Church kitchen. Please enter through the back entrance, through the alley off Harbor Drive that runs next to the former location of Bev’s Flowers & Gifts. Please use public street parking and don’t use the small parking lot immediately behind the church.

For more details, contact Chandler O’Connell at 747-7509 or Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440.