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.

Advertisements

Tenth annual Sitka Health Summit planning day to take place Friday, Oct. 21, at UAS Sitka Campus

Sitka Health Summit Poster FINAL

newsitkahealthsummitlogoDo you have any good community wellness ideas for Sitka? It’s time 10th annual Sitka Health Summit planning day, which takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, in Room 229 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

The Sitka Health Summit got its start in 2007 when then-Sitka Community Hospital CEO Moe Chaudry and then-SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Vice President of Hospital Services Frank Sutton decided they needed to bridge the gaps between Sitka’s largest two health services. They launched the Sitka Health Summit, with the help of other supporters in Sitka, as a way to improve community wellness, honor local wellness champions, and more.

One of the highlights of the Sitka Health Summit has been the annual community wellness planning day. During planning day, Sitka residents get together to discuss the health needs of the community and create community wellness projects to address these needs.

Over the years there have been a variety of Sitka Health Summit projects — create a local market for local fish and produce, build a Sitka community greenhouse, become a Bicycle Friendly Community, become a Walk Friendly Community, encourage more kids and families to get outdoors for recreation, support a community health and wellness center (Hames), plant fruit trees around town, get more local fish into school lunches, build a Choose Respect mural, Revitalize Sitka, the Sick-a-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food AssessmentPark PrescriptionsTogether for a Meth-Free Sitka, the Sitka Kitch (a project to create a community rental kitchen and improve Sitka’s emergency food storage capacity), Celebrate Katlian Street: A Vibrant Community, and the Southeast Youth Resource Guide.

The 2015 Sitka Health Summit projects were to develop an American Disabilities Act-compliant Sitka Community Playground near Crescent Harbor, build a community garden plot behind the Island Institute (this started off as a project to build a community greenhouse on top of the Sitka cold storage plant, but it morphed into a different project), and to create a way to honor and support the well-being of elders in Sitka.

This year, Sitka residents are invited to submit community wellness project ideas before the Sitka Health Summit. They can do this by going to the Sitka Health Summit website, http://www.sitkahealthsummit.org/, and clicking on the Submit Ideas link at the top of the gateway page (link opens a short SurveyMonkey survey). You also can submit ideas to Doug Osborne at 747-0373 or dosborne@sitkahospital.org. The top two projects this year will receive $2,000 in seed money to get the projects started.

To register for the Sitka Heath Summit planning day, call Zachary Desmond at 747-4600 or email him at zachary@braveheartvolunteers.org. In your email, please include your name, email address, phone number, organization (you can list self if you’re not representing an organization), and any food restrictions. A free lunch with locally sourced seafood (in honor of the Fish To Schools project from 2010) will be provided.

Do you need to test your soil for a better garden? Sometimes you do

simple-plant-deficiency-guideHave you ever planted your garden and even though you’ve had plenty of sunny weather it just doesn’t seem to be growing the way it should? You might need to test your soil to see if you need to replenish some nutrients.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has several publications and a video that can help you decide if you need to test your soil, and if yes, teach you how. Many gardeners test their soil at the end of the season, so they can amend their soil as needed to prepare for the next spring’s planting. But sometimes you might need to test during the growing season, which is what Sitka Local Foods Network Garden Mentor Program Coordinator Michelle Putz did last year when one of her student’s gardens wasn’t doing very well.

Soil testing is not always necessary,” Michelle said. “If you have several hours of direct sun and your garden is growing beautifully, then you may not need to test your soil. If you have sun but your garden is not doing so well, or if you have brand new soil, it might be worth testing the soil.

“One of our Garden Mentor families in 2015 grew beautiful but tiny plants that were struggling to get bigger, she added. “A simple soil test showed that their soil was low in nitrogen and needed a little acid. Once we added coffee grounds (for acid) and blood meal (for nitrogen), the plants grew substantially. Had we realized that our starting soil was so basic (not acidic enough) and nutrient poor, we could have made adjustments before the growing season and had a much more productive garden.”

In Southeast Alaska, our rain tends to wash a lot of the nutrients out of the soil. This is why it’s almost a requirement for gardeners to amend their soil with seaweed, compost, coffee grounds and other items to replenish the missing nutrients. It also helps to rotate your crops from one garden plot to the next, since different plants draw different nutrients as they grow (for example, potatoes use a lot of nitrogen while tomatoes use a lot of potassium).

To learn more about soil-testing, watch the video at the top of this story and read the three attached files below. The attached files and video will show you how to take a soil sample and how to send it to a lab for testing.

• Soil and Fertilizer Management for Healthy Gardens (UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication, HGA-0338)

• Factors to Consider in Selecting a Soil-Testing Laboratory (UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication, FGV-00045)

• Soil Sampling (UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication, FGV-00044)

Second Annual Food Security Awareness Week includes free showing of ‘Just Eat It’ movie

Food Security Week Flyer(FINAL)

11x17-Just-EatIt-posterThe Second Annual Food Security Awareness Week is March 21-25, and Sitka is joining other Alaska communities to provide a free showing of the movie, “Just Eat It,” that week to discuss the need to reduce food waste in Alaska.

The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). The Sitka Local Foods Network is coordinating the showing of the movie in Sitka. The movie also is being shown in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau during the week.

In Alaska, roughly one in seven people (105,000 people) live in food insecure households. About one in six people in Sitka (1,500 of 9,000) are on food assistance programs, such as SNAP (food stamps) or WIC. The Food Bank of Alaska is able to recover and distribute about 5 million pounds of food that might otherwise be wasted each year, but the need is growing and that isn’t enough food to take care of Alaska’s hungry. Even food that’s gone bad can be recycled into compost for school gardens.

Statewide, the Second Annual Food Security Awareness Week is sponsored by Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) and Rep. Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) in support of HCR 18, sponsored by Rep. Tarr, which will encourages schools and businesses to reduce, recover and recycle food waste in Alaska. In addition, Rep. Tarr, Rep. Kawasaki, and Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) co-sponsored HB 92, requiring labeling of genetically modified food (including salmon).

A trailer for the movie is posted below.

• HCR 18 regarding the reduction of food waste in Alaska

• HB 92 regarding labeling of genetically modified food (including salmon) in Alaska

Did you file for your PFD yet? Add a Pick.Click.Give. donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network

PCGTestemonialJenniferCarter2016

It’s mid-March, which means the deadline is rapidly approaching to file for Alaskans to apply for their 2016 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends. As usual, Alaskans can share their wealth with a variety of Alaska nonprofits, including the Sitka Local Foods Network, through the PFD’s Pick.Click.Give. charitable giving program.

PCGTestemonialLisaAndMurielSadleirHart2016This is the third year the Sitka Local Foods Network is participating in the Pick.Click.Give. program, which allows people to donate in $25 increments to their favorite statewide and local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations when they file their PFD applications from Jan. 1 through March 31. We thank the 64 donors who pledged $3,350 to the Sitka Local Foods Network in 2015, and we appreciate your support again in 2016.

When you choose to donate part of your PFD to the Sitka Local Foods Network, you support the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, education programs about growing and preserving food, the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen, Blatchley Community Gardens, the sustainable use of traditional foods, the Sitka Community Food Assessment, the Sitka Food Summit, and a variety of other projects designed to increase access to healthy local foods in Sitka.

PCGTestemonialEllenFrankenstein2016In 2015 a record 33,421 Alaskans made 53,851 pledges of $3,329,575 to their favorite nonprofit organizations, up from $545,000 donated by 5,175 people in the program’s first year of 2009. Some Alaskans choose to donate to just one group, while others may spread several donations around to many groups. There now are more than 500 total 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in Pick.Click.Give. for 2016 (including multi-location nonprofits), including 24 from Sitka.

PCGTestemonialLindaWilson2016To encourage more Alaskans to donate through the Pick.Click.Give. program, this will be the second year of the Double Your Dividend contest. Anybody who makes a non-anonymous Pick.Click.Give. donation to at least one of the registered nonprofits will be entered into a contest where 10 lucky Alaskans will win a second PFD check. The winners will be announced in October, about the time the PFDs start hitting bank accounts.

PCGTestemonialCharlesBingham2016So how do you make a donation to the Sitka Local Foods Network through the Pick.Click.Give. program? First, go fill out your Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application at http://pfd.alaska.gov/. When you get to the section of the application asking if you want to participate in Pick.Click.Give. Charitable Contributions program, click on the PCG link and search for the Sitka Local Foods Network. You also can look for us by using the town search for Sitka.

The Pick.Click.Give. program is available only to people who file their PFD applications online, and not to those who file by mail. Even though you can’t file a new PFD application after March 31, you can go back into your application and update your Pick.Click.Give. donations through Aug. 31 each year.

PCGTestemonialCathyLieser2016You still can donate to the Sitka Local Foods Network if you aren’t from Alaska or aren’t eligible for a 2016 PFD. To donate, send your check to the Sitka Local Foods Network, 408D Marine St., Sitka, Alaska, 99835. You also can donate online by going to our online fundraising page on Razoo.com, and clicking the Donate button to make an online contribution. Please let us know if you need a receipt for tax purposes. For more information about donating, you can send an email to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

Thank you for supporting our mission of promoting and encouraging the growing, harvesting and eating of local foods in Sitka and Southeast Alaska.

2016PickClickGiveFlier

• Sitka Health Summit chooses three 2015-16 community wellness projects

SitkaHealthSummitGroup

newsitkahealthsummitlogoSitka residents decided to find ways to honor and support our elders, build an accessible community playground near Crescent Harbor, and build a community greenhouse on the roof of the city cold storage building (or a similar-flat-roofed structure), choosing those as the three community wellness projects Sitka residents chose to pursue in 2015-16 at the ninth annual Sitka Health Summit planning day Friday, Oct. 9, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

VotingForBroadProjectsThese three projects (one broad topic, and two specific topic projects that tied as top vote-getters) each were awarded with $2,000 in Tier 1 seed money to help get them started. The three projects were picked after 57 Sitka residents brainstormed and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a wide variety of community wellness projects. In addition to the Tier 1 awards, the Sitka Health Summit also made applications available for Tier 2 grants of $10,000 for projects dealing with nutrition (applications are due Oct. 23, contact Lauren Hughey at lauren.hughey@searhc.org or go to http://www.sitkahealthsummitak.org/ for more information).

LynneBrandonAwardThe Sitka Health Summit also honored Lynne Brandon with a lifetime achievement award for her work promoting healthy lifestyles during her 13 years as Sitka’s Director of Parks and Recreation and now in her new position as executive director of Sitka Trail Works Inc.

Each of the three Tier 1 projects will host a kick-off event in the near future, and these events are open to the public and anybody who wants to help with the project. More information about the projects, their kick-off meetings, and contact people are listed below.

  • Design and build an ADA-accessible Sitka Community Playground, 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 26, Sitka Community Hospital classroom, contact Kealoha Harmon, 747-3500 — This project is to create an accessible, attractive, low maintenance and safe community playground that will meet the needs of both children and their families. Right now Sitka does not have any playgrounds that are compliant with the Americans with Disability Act. Building the community playground was selected as a Sitka Health Summit goal in 2011, and a lot of important work has been done. Now it’s time to move this community-supported project forward.
  • Build a Sitka Community Greenhouse on the roof of the city cold storage plant (or similar flat-roofed building), 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28, Sitka Pioneer’s Home Manager’s House (Brave Heart Volunteers building), contact Charles Bingham, 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com — This project’s goal is to increase local food production and food security by using greenhouses, including ones situated on rooftops, a practice growing in popularity around the world. Everyone needs the nutritional boost that only vegetables provide and the more we grow locally the better. There are so many benefits to growing food here; freshness, nutritional value, sustainability and the economic benefits that come from keeping dollars in Sitka. Rooftop greenhouses also can capture waste heat and provide a flat, slug-free growing environment that will help us with food security. Rooftop greenhouses can be a point of interest for visitors, a point of learning for students, and a point of community pride for everyone who believes in innovation and using space wisely.
  • Create a way to honor and support the well-being of elders in Sitka, 3 p.m., Friday, Nov. 6, Hames Athletic and Wellness Center, contact Caitlin Blaisdell, 747-5080 — One of the largest and fastest-growing populations in Sitka is its elders. The Elder Connection action group is focused on organizing systems to support the health and well-being of seniors living is Sitka. We want everyone’s Golden Years to be just that, and we know that we can do more to support this critical group of wisdom keepers.

NutritionGroupDiscussesProjectIdeasThe Sitka Health Summit is coordinated by a coalition of local groups that includes the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka Community Hospital, Brave Heart Volunteers, the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, and the State of Alaska Division of Public Health Nursing, with financial help from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco-Seattle Branch Community Development Division.

Over the years there have been a variety of Sitka Health Summit projects — create a local market for local fish and produce, build a Sitka community greenhouse, become a Bicycle Friendly Community, become a Walk Friendly Community, encourage more kids and families to get outdoors for recreation, support a community health and wellness center (Hames), plant fruit trees around town, get more local fish into school lunches, build a Choose Respect mural, Revitalize Sitka, the Sick-a-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food AssessmentPark PrescriptionsTogether for a Meth-Free Sitka, and Sitka Kitch (a project to create a community rental kitchen and improve Sitka’s emergency food storage capacity). The 2014 Sitka Health Summit projects were Celebrate Katlian Street: A Vibrant Community and the Southeast Youth Resource Guide (which evolved into Family Fun Days at the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center).

For more information about the Sitka Health Summit and its current and past projects, go to http://www.sitkahealthsummitak.org/.

• Final classes set for 2015 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

TamiONeillGarden 2015

Tammy O’Neill shows off her garden from the Sitka Local Foods Network’s garden mentoring program. After growing in just one garden bed last year, she added new garden beds this year for her second year of the program.

Tammy O'Neill with her first carrot

Tammy O’Neill with her first carrot.

The 2015 gardening season is coming to a close, and the Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program is scheduling its final classes of the season to teach novice gardeners how to harvest their produce and winterize their gardens so they are ready for next spring.

So far classes have been set for four of our six garden mentor program students, with the other two TBA. Our four first-year students (A.J. Bastian, Rebecca Kubacki, Breezy and Josephine Dasalla) have been growing lettuce, kale, potatoes and rhubarb, four crops that grow well here in Sitka without a lot of fuss. Our two second-year students (Tammy O’Neill and Anna Bradley) have grown carrots, chard, green onions and peas, four crops that can grow well in Sitka but need a bit more loving care.

In addition to having experienced gardeners mentor them, all six students agreed to allow the classes taught at their garden plots be open to the public. The classes scheduled so far are:

  • A.J. Bastian, 207 Brady St. — noon, Wednesday, Sept. 23.
  • Rebecca Kubacki, 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — noon, Tuesday, Sept. 29.
  • Anna Bradley, 4764 Halibut Point Road, 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
  • Tammy O’Neill, 2309 Merganser Drive, 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8.
DSCN0398

Rebecca Kubacki and her family with their garden.

Our two second-year students had never gardened for food before they started the program. They said they learned a lot and recommend the program to other new gardeners.

“I have so much more confidence and appreciate all the hands-on (help) I received,” O’Neill said, adding that her garden helped her save a lot of money on vegetables. “I don’t think I would have done it without the help and encouragement I had. I now have a network of people I can call to help with any questions or concerns I may have. I love eating local, fresh organic produce.”

After having a successful growing season last year, our returning students and a couple of the new ones had some soil problems this year. The gardens grew well in May and June, but in mid-July the plants seemed to stop growing even though the plants were well-formed. After some soil tests, it was discovered that some of the purchased compost was lower in nutrients than listed and the soil was more alkaline than normal (most soil in Sitka tends to be acidic).

DSCN0250

A.J. Bastian and her family with their newly planted garden.

“I learned that mostly the grade of the soil is important,” Bradley said. “We did a lot of work gathering the soil and beach herring, only to have maybe not enough fertilizer. The only thing we did different this year is not put in store bought soil. I look forward to gathering my potatoes and plan to read up more on gardening. Hopefully next year we will be more successful.”

Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans, after the Sitka Local Foods Network received a community development grant from First Bank. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program. Also, we have started to recruit for 2-3 participants to join next year’s first-year program.

For more information about the garden mentor program, please contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

IMG_0022

Garden mentor Linda Wilson with Anna Bradley and Anna’s daughter in 2014.